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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: juries

What did Thompson jurors see on TV?

An investigator with the U.S. Attorney's Office contacted Northwest Cable News last week to find out what five jurors could have seen if they were exposed to coverage of the Karl Thompson-Otto Zehm trial during breakfast at their Yakima hotel.

The news channel says the tickers than ran the morning of Nov. 2 read: “A federal grand jury in Yakima will continue deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a Spokane police officer. Officer Karl Thompson is accused of using excessive force against a suspect who died. If convicted of violating civil rights and lying to investigators, Thompson could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison,” according to court documents filed today.

Thompson's lawyers cited the possible exposure to news coverage as a reason for a new trial. They haven't filed a motion for a new trial yet, but they've asked U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle to allow jurors to be questioned regarding the topic. A hearing on that request is set for tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Get minute-by-minute updates from court here.

Today in court, Carl Oreskovich said the “cumulative” nature of testimony about Zehm's habits as a Zip Trip customer and the paycheck in his pocket could be another fact in the request for a new trial.

Meanwhile, Thompson is to be released from the Bonner County Jail, where he spent the weekend. Read more here.

Ohioan on 1st jury at old, new courthouses

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman called to jury duty on the first day at a new county courthouse this week also was on the first jury at the old court building when it opened in 1973.

Jury commissioner Gretchen Roberts in Columbus says 64-year-old Mary Evans beat odds that are “pretty astronomical.”

Registered voters are randomly picked by computer for jury service on given dates.

Evans, of suburban Grove City, tells The Columbus Dispatch that it was “kind of cool” that she inaugurated both Franklin County Common Pleas Courthouses.

She says each struck her as an impressive reflection of its time.

Evans was seated Monday on a jury for a domestic violence case when the new, $105 million courthouse opened. In 1973, she served on juries for rape and theft cases.

Bizarre jury verdict leads to mistrial

Wails from a victim’s daughter filled the courtroom just after the judge read what was presented as a unanimous acquittal. But seconds later, a juror said she didn’t agree with the verdict. Then five more said the same thing.  

The bizarre series of events, which several longtime Spokane County court officials said they’d never before seen, led to a mistrial Thursday in the vehicular homicide and assault trial of a Spokane stockbroker who broadsided a motorcycle in June 2009, killing the passenger, Lorri Keller, (right) and paralyzing the driver, her husband, Gary Keller.

A new trial for Jon A. Strine, 43, (above) is expected to begin in March.

The Keller family declined comment. Strine and his lawyer, premier private defense attorney Carl Oreskovich, also declined comment.

Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said she was “so surprised by what happened.”

But, she said, “This was a very tough case…Sometimes people just can’t agree.” 

The 12 jurors left without speaking to media.

“I know this has been extremely difficult for everyone,” Judge Tari Etizen (left) said in court.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

June 25, 2009: Driver sued over deadly wreck

June 4, 2009: School district on crash victim: 'Everybody just loved her'

High court throws out murder conviction

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's Supreme Court threw out a defendant's aggravated murder conviction Thursday because he wasn't present when his lawyers, prosecutors and judge agreed by e-mail to dismiss seven people from his jury pool.

In the 5-4 decision, the justices said criminal defendants have a right to be present at all critical trial stages — including the dismissal of jurors for hardship reasons. Terrance Irby was not there and was not consulted when his legal team agreed with a suggestion by Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer that certain potential jurors be sent home.

“Their alleged inability to serve was never tested by questioning in Irby's presence,” Justice Gerry Alexander wrote for the majority. “Indeed, they were not questioned at all.”

The ruling was the second time that unseated Justice Richard Sanders has been in a 5-4 majority overturning a defendant's conviction since his term expired Jan. 10. Sanders, a libertarian who has often sided with defendants who come before the court, was defeated in his re-election bid by Justice Charles Wiggins last fall.

The remaining members of the court have appointed Sanders as a temporary judge to rule on cases whose oral arguments he heard before his term expired.

Skagit County prosecutors, however, tried to have Sanders kicked off Irby's case this month. They argued that the state Constitution allows only judges who retire voluntarily — not those whose authority has been revoked by the voters — to be appointed as temporary judges. If the remaining eight justices who heard the oral arguments were deadlocked, the case should be reheard with Wiggins sitting, they wrote.

The court unanimously denied the motion in a one-page order.

Irby, then 48, was convicted in 2007 of beating and stabbing an acquaintance, James Rock, two years earlier. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Skagit County deputy prosecutor Erik Pedersen said the state might ask to court to reconsider its ruling, but failing that, prosecutors will retry Irby.

The jurors were dismissed after filling out questionnaires evaluating their qualifications for serving on a jury, but before the process known as “voir dire,” in which attorneys on each side question them about potential biases or other issues. Six were dismissed for hardship reasons, and one was dismissed after writing that one of his or her parents had been murdered.

The dissenting justices wrote that the hardship dismissals were administrative and well within the purview of the trial court; there was no reason Irby needed to be there for that. But the dismissal of the juror whose parent had been murdered was related to the substance of the case and therefore Irby should have been present, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote.

Nevertheless, she said, that error was harmless: Defendants do not have a right to have a specific juror on their case, and there's no evidence the jury he had was biased against him.

“We should recognize and give effect to this distinction so that the constitutional right of a defendant to be present at critical stages of the trial is protected while at the same time preserving the trial court's discretion to make administrative decisions,” Madsen wrote.

Justices Charles Johnson, James Johnson and Mary Fairhurst signed the dissent.

Justices Tom Chambers, Susan Owens and Debra Stephens joined Sanders and Alexander in the majority.

Irby's attorney, David Koch, called the decision extremely important.

“This reaffirms the right to be present for the selection of one's jury,” he said.

Jury clears Everett police officer of murder

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A Snohomish County jury cleared an Everett police officer Monday of criminal charges in the shooting death of a drunken-driving suspect in a restaurant parking lot. Officer Troy Meade was acquitted of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, The Herald newspaper of Everett reported. Jurors had been deliberating since Friday.

Meade, whose pictured above hugging his wife after the verdict, shot and killed Niles Meservey in his car outside the Chuckwagon Inn last June. He was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court after witnesses reported that the car, which had hit a chain-link fence, was blocked in and didn’t appear to be endangering anyone when Meade fired into the vehicle.

Seven shots hit Meservey (right), who was described as being drunk and uncooperative at the time.

Meade, 41 and an 11-year Everett police veteran, testified that he didn’t want to kill anyone, but he said he believed Meservey’s Chevrolet Corvette was about to back up and hit him or someone else.

The officer said Monday he felt for Meservey’s family.

“I want to put it behind me and go back to work,” he said.

Several off-duty police officers attended the trial, and the courtroom reacted with brief applause as well as tears when the verdict was read. Meservey’s family is also pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

“I am sorry the jury was unable to convict Officer Meade of a crime, but I understand how difficult it is to obtain a conviction where there is a presumption of innocence and a burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” his daughter, Tanda Louden, said in a written statement. “Nevertheless, I am confident that a jury in a civil case will find Officer Meade responsible and hold him fully accountable.”

Meade’s testimony during the trial often contradicted that of Everett police officer Steven Klocker, who testified that he didn’t believe that anyone was in danger that night.

Klocker testified that just before gunfire erupted Meade turned to him and said something to the effect of, “Enough is enough; time to end this.” Meade denied saying anything before he shot into the Corvette.

Everett police officer Richard Somerville was present when the verdict was read. He said he was relieved for Meade, who had to make a split-second decision as officers frequently must.

Somerville also said he felt for Klocker.

“I believe he was very honest and truthful of what he saw” from his vantage, Somerville said.

Robber shot in invasion faces life in prison

Thomas A. Butler’s home-invasion robbery last year didn’t just earn him two bullets to his belly - it earned him a permanent spot in prison.

A Spokane County jury today convicted Butler, 26, of six felonies. Under the state’s three strikes law, he faces life in prison without parole because of previous convictions, said Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell.

The case began when Butler forced his way into a home at 4113 E. 16th Ave., on March 20, 2009, where three Eastern Washington University seniors lived. One of the residents shot Butler.

Detectives believe Butler and accused accomplice Derick D. Taylor, 29, had an inflated impression of what they might find in the home.

A jury convicted Butler of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree assault. He was acquitted of two count of first-degree robbery. Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza presided over the trial.

Taylor, the co-defendant, is out of jail on $250,000 bond. His trial is set for June.

Past coverage:

Intruders hunting valuables, police say

Jury convicts gunman in neighbor dispute

A Stevens County man faces about 7 years in prison for a neighbor dispute that erupted in gunfire last May.

A jury recently convicted John Lewis Eberly, Jr., of assault and burglary after he fired a shot through his neighbor’s front door, then broke into the house and brawled with the woman. The woman suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

The May 15, 2009, incident stemmed from a dispute over a gate that had been installed on a nearby road.

Eberly confronted the victim outside her home, then fired his handgun through her door after she went inside and locked it. The victim ran to a nearby home to call police. She later discovered her phone line had been cut.

The jury convicted Eberly of second-degree assault and burglary but couldn’t reach a verdict on an attempted murder charge after deliberating for about 18 hours, according to Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen.

Eberly faces 84 to 94 months in prison with credit for about a year served in jail.

Rasmussen wrote about this case in his weekly column. He also mentioned it in a previous column while opining about neighbor disputes.

In one dispute, Rasmussen said, “As I reviewed the numerous reports of officer contacts with the parties, I was amazed at the trouble that can develop between folks who both say that they just want to be left alone.”

Read the columns by clicking the link below.

Fatal-crash defense: Blame the dead guy

A Ferry County man who was drunk during a highway crash last fall was not responsible for the death of the other driver, a jury recently decided.

John H. Clifford was acquitted of vehicular homicide but convicted of drunken driving for an Oct. 2 crash on Highway 21 about fives miles north of Malo.

The 9:20 p.m. crash killed Arthur M. Voges, 49, of Malo. Voges’s wife, Linda, suffered a cracked rib, according to a previous report.

Investigators said Clifford’s 1993 Isuzu Rodeo crossed the center line, but Clifford, who was 66 at the time of the crash, told jurors it was Voges who had crossed the center lane.

Clifford will be sentenced for drunken driving on Friday. He is represented by Republic lawyer Steve Graham.

Past coverage: Highway 21 crash kills Malo man

Jury orders child molester locked up

Child molester Ronald Reo Timm should be locked up indefinitely because he’s a predator who poses a danger to society, a Spokane jury decided today.

Assistant Attorney General Tricia Boerger gave the state’s final argument Tuesday before the jury, made up of nine men and three women, began deliberating the future of the 59-year-old sex offender.

Timm was convicted in 1989 of statutory rape and then again in 1996 for first-degree rape of a child. While in prison, Timm told a counselor that he molested 24 children, all ages between 3 and 7.

“He is a predator,” Boerger said of Timm. “He preys on young girls to satisfy his sexual desires.”

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

A molester with a method

Rapist likely to reoffend, state says

2 jurors dismissed from Boys’ Ranch case

Two jurors will be removed from deliberations in the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch sexual abuse case because of misconduct.

The two discussed the case outside of deliberations, which led Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor to dismiss them this morning. Two alternate jurors will be brought in.

The alternates were present for the lengthy trial but have not been taking part in deliberations, which began Tuesday.

Read coverage of the trial here.

Jury clears doctor in drug case

A jury cleared a former North Idaho doctor this week of allegations that he overprescribed drugs nearly a decade ago.

Chris Arthur Christensen was acquitted on three federal charges in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene after a week-long jury trial.

It was the second trial for the former Silverton, Idaho doctor, who was indicted in 2006 after a lengthy investigation by Idaho State Police.

The first jury acquitted Christensen on six counts in June but couldn’t reach a verdict on 12 counts.

Federal prosecutors retried Christensen on three counts of prescribing methadone, hydrocodone and/or alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, “outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose” for incidents between Dec. 28, 2000 and Jan. 12, 2001. Witnesses included an ISP detective who posed as a patient to visit Christensen.

Christensen always denied wrong doing, according to his defense lawyer, David E. DokkenÖ, of Lewiston.

“He was a thorough and competent doctor who passionately pursued his practice,” according to court documents prepared by Dokken.

Christensen originally was indicted on charges relating to the deaths of several patients.

In 1998, a state investigation found that Christensen prescribed painkillers and narcotics to seven patients without treating their underlying problems, according to previously published reports.

In 2001, Christensen agreed to voluntarily give up his license for two years and undergo at least a six-month pain management course after the Idaho State Board of Medicine accused him of prescribing drugs that resulted in a patient’s death.

He also agreed to pay the state $2,000 to cover its investigative costs.

Jurors deliberated for about 10 hours before acquitting Christensen on Wednesday.

Christensen had a practice in Victor, Mont, as of May 2009, but it’s unclear if it’s still open.

Verdict means life in prison for rapist

A child rapist faces life in prison after a Spokane County jury convicted him Friday of three crimes involving sexual assaults against prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, clenched his jaw and shook his head as Superior Court Judge Michael Price said a jury had convicted the registered sex offender of two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of unlawful imprisonment and one count of second-degree assault with sexual motivation.

He was acquitted of nearly 10 counts, including harassment, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

The jury of six men and six women deadlocked on two counts. One of the women who testified against West cried when she learned the jury acquitted him of raping her.

West qualifies for the state’s two-strikes, life-in-prison law for violent sexual offenders because of a previous conviction for third-degree rape of a child in 1988, said Deputy Prosecutor John Love.

Read the rest of my story: Sex offender convicted of rape, assault

Previous coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women

Jury convicts 24-time felon in 24 minutes

It took a Spokane jury as many minutes as the defendant has felonies to convict him this week of two more crimes.

Sean M. Maney, 45, was taken to jail Thursday after Judge Tari Eitzen read guilty verdicts on residential burglary and attempted theft of a motor vehicle.

“He seems like a nice enough fellow,” Eitizen said in court. But, she said, “his criminal history just takes your breath away.”

The jury had deliberated for 24 minutes. Not counting his recent convictions, Maney has 24 felonies dating back to 1978. (The jury, of course, knew nothing of his criminal history.)

Maney was arrested in June after witnesses said he kicked in a back door in the 5800 block of West Greenwood and tried to steal a motorcycle.

His newest convictions carry a standard prison sentence of 63 to 84 months, but Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens said he plans to seek an exceptional sentence because of Maney’s criminal history.

That could be as long as 180 months, Stevens  told the judge.

Maney’s convictions include city theft, third-degree theft, second-degree theft, possession of stolen property, forgery, burglary, second-degree escape, obstructing a police investigation, refusing to cooperate and driving on a suspended operator’s license, according to Crime Stoppers. He was released from prison in 2007 after being sentenced in March 2003.

He also was sentenced to 35 months in prison in January 2000 by Judge Eitzen for a variety of property crimes, news archives show. In 1995, he was arrested in a car theft ring police said was led by a 14-year-old girl, according to previously published reports.

Big day in Boys’ Ranch abuse trial

An unexpected witness may testify that former Morning Star Boys’ Ranch director Joseph Weitensteiner had him procure boys for sex and then gave him money to keep it quiet years later, according to a motion today in the first sex-abuse trial against the ranch.

The dramatic revelation in the sex-abuse lawsuit by Kenneth Putnam came outside the presence of the Superior Court jury Thursday morning when Judge Kathleen O’Connor demanded to know why Putnam’s attorney had called an unscheduled witness three weeks into proceedings.

Read the rest of Kevin Graman’s story here.

On Wednesday, the jury was told that Patrick O’Donnell – whose infamy as the abuser of as many as 66 children was inextricably linked to the scandal that bankrupted the Catholic Diocese of Spokane – also insinuated himself into Morning Star Boys Ranch.

Read that story  here.

O’Donnell is pictured left testifying at a trial in Seattle in May. (Read more on O’Donnell: Pedophile priest free to roam )

Jury convicts Spokane man of rape

A Spokane jury today convicted a 22-year-old man of raping a woman more than a year ago.

Brandon S. Coristine cried, sighed and buried his head in his hands after Judge Michael Price read the verdict this afternoon in Spokane County Superior Court.

The jury of five women and seven men found him guilty of second-degree rape after about two full days of deliberation and a four-day trial.

Coristine raped a woman who was passed out drunk at his home at 2304 W. Broadway on Dec. 7, 2008.

Charges were filed on Aug. 31, 2009, after the Washington State Patrol crime lab confirmed Coristine’s DNA, according to court documents. Coristine, who is in jail, will be sentenced March 3.

Sharon Hedlund prosecuted the case. Jeff Compton was Coristine’s public defender.

Trial this week for accused prostitute rapist

Jury selection is set to begin today for the second trial of a convicted sex offender accused of raping prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, was convicted of two counts of second-degree rape, three counts of unlawful imprisonment, three counts of felony harassment and two counts of second-degree assault after a trial in May.

Those convictions were overturned in July after a juror acknowledged she knew West but had claimed otherwise during the selection process.

Opening statements in West’s second trial are expected this week before Judge Michael Price.

West has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest in August 2007 on 15 felony counts after prostitutes claimed he’d terrorized them for years.

West acknowledged hiring prostitutes and enjoying rough sex, investigators said.

Past coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women

Claim filed after juror dies outside courthouse

When 84-year-old Kay Mita got a jury summons, he regarded it as a sign the government was acknowledging a six-decade-old injustice. His first day of jury service, however, turned out to be the last day of his life.

Now the widow and son of a juror who died of exposure overnight on the courthouse steps two years ago have filed a $5 million claim with Spokane County, a possible prelude to a federal lawsuit against the county and Guardsmark LLC, which provides courthouse security.

Steve Bartel, the county’s risk manager, said his office is reviewing the claim to determine whether the county has any liability in what he acknowledged is “a terrible event.”

Mita reported for jury duty the morning of Nov. 26, 2007, left the jury room for the lunch break, but didn’t return at the scheduled time. He apparently became confused and disoriented and was unable to find his car, parked less than a block away. He wandered around the courthouse and its grounds for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story here.

Jury convicts man in gas station kidnapping

A Spokane jury convicted a 33-year-old man Friday of kidnapping and robbing a woman after she bought him gas.

Jason P. Shepard forced 20-year-old Brittany C. Fields into her car just before 1 a.m. May 6 at the Albertson’s station at 6616 N. Nevada, then drove her to a residential area and stole her cell phone and debit card.

Fields had used the card to buy Shepard $10 in gas after he said he needed to drive to a hospital to see his sick baby.

Shepard, who is in Spokane County Jail, will be sentenced Feb. 16 for first-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery and second-degree theft.

The jury of seven men and five women also convicted him of victimizing a Good Samaritan, which increases his prison time.

His accomplice, Crystal L. Fuller, 26, was sentenced to 13 months in prison in October after pleading guilty to second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery.

Read past coverage here.

Victim testifies in kidnapping trial

A kidnapping and robbery suspect accused of victimizing a Good Samaritan will soon have his fate decided by a Spokane jury.

Jason P. Shepard, 33, is accused of conning a 20-year-old Spokane woman into thinking he needed gas to see his sick baby, then forcing her into her car and stealing her debit card and cell phone. Shepard was arrested shortly after the May incident.

Now a jury of 12 will decide whether to convict Shepard on charges of first-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery and second-degree theft in a trial that began today in Spokane County Superior Court.

The prosecution’s star witness, Brittany C. Fields, testified this morning.

Fields was gassing up her car at the Albertson’s station at 6616 N. Nevada about 12:50 a.m. May 6 when Shepard asked for $5 to gas up his car, according to a report by Spokane police Detective Mark Burbridge.

Read the rest of my story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review.

Crips gangster on trial in Spokane

A Spokane man police say has ties to the Rollin 60s Crips gang is on trial this week for an early-morning shooting outside a downtown night club more than a year ago.

Anthony D. Singh, 21, has been in jail since July 30, 2008, four days after a bullet struck Alex Tauala in his right shoe in a parking lot near Sprague and Stevens.

Police say Singh fired that bullet, which did not injure Tauala.

Now a jury will decide whether to convict Singh (pictured right in his MySpace photo) on charges of second-degree assault, drive-by shooting, conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, witness intimidation and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

His brother, 25-year-old Jamal Singh, pleaded guilty to riot last year and was given a year probation and credit for 24 days served in jail.

Police reports say the brothers were with two women, Jennifer Jacobs and Ashley Breesnee, when they were confronted by Tauula in the parking lot across the street from Jimmy’z bar.

They were then driven to a home at 1653 E. Ostrander in Breesnee’s Monte Carlo, where Jamal Singh retrieved a gun and put in the car’s trunk. They returned to the parking lot, where the Singhs got out of the car and confronted Tauala with the gun.

Anthony Singh is accused of taking Jacobs’ cell phone to prevent her from calling police. His ties to the violent Crips street gang is a factor in the prosecution’s case, which appears to paint the shooting as a gang war in the making.

According to a search warrant filed last week in Spokane County Superior Court, Jamal Singh called Breesnee a day after the shooting and said he didn’t believe the police were investigating.

“Jamal also told Breesnee that he beleive that ‘things were heating up and they wanted to be ready,’” the search warrant said.

“In the context of gang culture, respect is the center of the universe. A gang member acts either to gain or preserve respect or to tear down the respect garnered by a foe. Respect in gang culture is synonymous with fear and intimidation in mainstream culture as recognized by most American citizens,” Spokane police Detective Jeff Barrington wrote in the search warrnt, filed Dec. 8.

The warrant seeks access to Singh’s private MySpace page after his sister testified in court that they communicated through the wbe site prior to his arrest.

One witness in the case is cab driver Todd Hughes, who heard the gun shot and followed the Monte Carlo has it sped away. (In what appears to be an unrelated case, Hughes was assaulted at gunpoint last month in Spokane Valley.)

The trial will resume Tuesday morning before Judge Kathleen O’Connor. Larry Haskell is the prosecutor.

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