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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: jury trials

Alternate juror blasts case against Thompson

New documents released Thursday show that the only person who raised issues about juror misconduct in the trial that convicted former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was an alternate juror who was not privy to the final deliberations.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle called for the secret hearings in May after attorneys learned that the alternate juror told a court security officer that jurors improperly discussed the case prior to deliberations that resulted in the Nov. 2 conviction.

“I thought the government put up a terrible case. Horrible,” said the alternate juror, whose name was redacted. “I thought they got it wrong.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Juror: Thompson lawyers twisted words

The forewoman of the jury that convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of excessive force said in a letter to a federal judge that defense attorneys have twisted her words in their effort to force a new trial for the decorated officer.

The documents are contained in files previously sealed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Read the rest of my story here.

Woman gets 18 1/2 years for murder

The woman convicted of killing a Spokane man in December has been sentenced to 18 ½ years in prison.

Melinda R. Barrera, 32, was convicted last month of killing Robert A. Nelson following a bizarre altercation where Barrera was struck in the face with a cell phone and her boyfriend struck Nelson with a baseball bat.

The same jury acquitted 22-year-old David C. McLaughlin of killing or assaulting Nelson but found that Barrera was guilty of second-degree murder after she admitted firing the shot that killed Nelson.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced Barrera to a total of 224 months in prison with credit for 239 days already served in the Spokane County Jail.

McLaughlin was sentenced recently to a year in prison for felony drug possession.

Past coverage:

July 5: Couple convicted, aquitted in murder

June 22: Trial starts for couple in shooting death

May 8: Murder suspect now facing meth charges

Dec. 10: Shooting suspect recalls chaos

Jury: Man groped Moody bible student

A man who sexually assaulted a 19-year-old Moody Bible Institute student at Mission Park in March has been convicted of a sex offense.

A Spokane County jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Tuesday before convicting John L. Sanders of indecent liberties.

Sanders faces five years to life in prison when he's sentenced Sept. 11, said Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson. Intern Amanda Tufts served as co-counsel with Johnson.

Sanders, 41, will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Sanders, who was represented by public defender John Whaley, was arrested March 16 after a bible school student told police she'd walked to the park to relieve stress and saw someone trying to get her attention. She was not wearing glasses and “assumed it was someone from her acting class or her church,” according to court documents.

When she realized she didn't know the man, the woman said “she felt she might have an opportunity to minister” to him, according to documents.

Sanders then touched her breast and asked her to smoke marijuana with him, she told police. The woman tried to leave, but Sanders kissed her on the lips, grabbed her and made inappropriate comments and noises.

Two female officers arrested Sanders and say he repeatedly made kissing sounds at them and asked them have sex with him.

Police say Sanders was arrested for a similar incident in downtown Spokane in August 2011 for which he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault. Sanders also has three convictions for second-degree theft.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor presided over Sanders' trial this week.

Gun thief gets more time than murderer

A Stevens County judge on Tuesday sentenced a convicted gun thief to 125 years in prison — a term that’s about 100 years longer than the sentences handed down to three others for a murder committed using one of the stolen guns.

Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith sentenced convicted felon Christopher G. Nichols, 27, to 125 years in prison, despite the fact that he had no role in the 2011 killing of Colville resident Gordon Feist.

Nichols wept, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Spokane man convicted of $700k fraud

A federal jury convicted a Spokane man of 20 felonies Thursday for a scheme that cost a Coeur d'Alene woman her high-end riverside home.

Samuel Thomas Geren Jones, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison for each of 19 wire fraud counts when he's sentenced Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's allowed to stay out of jail until sentencing.

Jones was convicted of the wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises after a seven-day trial in U.S. District Court.

Jones' co-defendant, Travis “T.J.” Sneed, a former Washington legislative candidate and aide to Jim West, was sentenced last August to about five years in prison.

Sneed, (pictured) who had solicited fraudulent letters of support to present at his sentencing, also is to be on probation for three years, perform 320 hours of community service and pay about $732,000 in restitution. That’s the amount of money loaned to Sneed using victim Dawn Forest’s home as collateral.

“I’ll never see any of it,” Forest said at Sneed's sentencing.

Sneed, 29, is serving his 63-month sentence at a federal prison in Colordao. He testified at Jones' trial.

The scheme developed when Forest allowed Sneed and Jones, who were in a romantic relationship, to live in the basement of her home on South Canal Street along the Spokane River and take out a loan on her mortgage. Forest said she learned her home was being foreclosed by reading the newspaper. Sneed and Jones also bilked three people of about $165,000 by selling them products via the Internet that they never received.

Jones and Sneed were indicted in July 2010.

“This jury's verdict sends the strong message that those who bilk trusting investors will be caught and punished,” Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement.  “In these difficult economic times, fraud schemes pose an even greater threat to our communities.  I commend the hard and thorough work of FBI Special Agent Bryant Gunnerson, prosecutor Nancy Cook and the many others who brought these two men to justice.”

Accused killer pleads guilty in gun case

A Spokane man accused of murdering a gang rival 2 1/2 years ago has admitted to unlawfully possessing the murder weapon.

Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to felon in possession of a firearm, halting a scheduled trial.

Thomas, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms, faces up to 10 years in prison when he sentenced, which is scheduled for Oct. 11. The charge stems from a Ruger mini 30 rifle found in a Nissan Altima rental car near the body of John S. Williams, 38, who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010, outside a party at 5405 N. Crestline St.

The gun had Thomas' fingerprints on it. He was arrested in Los Angeles in September 2010 on a second-degree murder charge and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting trial. Spokane County prosecutors dismissed the murder charge but are expected to refile when the federal gun charge is resolved.

Federal prosecutors had asked a judge to allow jurors in Thomas' gun trial to know about his gang membership and the gun's link to the murder. Thomas' lawyer objected.

Jury convicts father of severe abuse

A Spokane father has been convicted of severely abusing his infant daughter.

Tyler L. Jamison, 20, has been in the Spokane County Jail since April 2010, when his 2-month-old daughter, SkyeLynn suffered what Spokane police initially feared would be fatal injuries but has since been adopted through a foster family.

A jury convicted Jamison of first-degree assault after a trial before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. The girl has been adopted.

Jamison is to be sentenced Sept. 28. He remains in jail without bail.

Past coverage:

April 12, 2010: Injured baby improving at Spokane hospital

April 8, 2010: Police: Baby brain dead after assault by father

Gun trial linked to murder, gang rivalry

Federal prosecutors want jurors in an upcoming gun trial to know about the suspect's gang membership and the gun's link to a 2010 murder in northeast Spokane.

Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for a Ruger mini 30 rifle found in a Nissan Altima rental car near the body of John S. Williams, 38, who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010, outside a party at 5405 N. Cresline St.

The gun had Thomas' fingerprints on it. He was arrested in Los Angeles in September 2010 on a second-degree murder charge and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting trial. Spokane County prosecutors dismissed the murder charge but will refile once Thomas' federal gun charge is resolved.

Trial on the gun charge is set to begin July 23 in U.S. District Court in downtown Spokane.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a motion asking that jurors be allowed to hear testimony about the shooting. Thomas' lawyer, Bryan Whitaker, has objected and points to the fact that Thomas hasn't even been convicted of murder.

“The logic here is flawless: since John Williams was shot with a firearm, Mr. Thomas could only have shot him while in possession of a firearm,” Whitaker wrote in a response to the motion. “The fallacy of this logic is that it relies completely on Mr. Thomas being the person who shot John Williams. The jury, therefore, would be invited to convict Mr. Thomas of Felon in Possession of  Firearm because the Government believes he shot John Williams.”

Thomas is accused of shooting Williams multiple times, including a final shot to his face. Police and prosecutors say the shooting stemmed from a gang rivalry, and prosecutors want to experts to tell jurors about Thomas' ties to the Atlantic Drive Compton Crips.

Police say Thomas acquired the firearm after a dispute with Jerome Danner, a member of the Grape Street Crips. The groups were at a birthday party for Ronald L. “Heavy” Shuler when a fight broke out. Williams, who was linked to Danner, punched out a window to a car in which Thomas was before he was shot by Thomas, police say.

But Whitaker said the relationship between Thomas and Danner was not based on gang member but on the fact that they each have a child with the same woman.

“The acrimonious relationship between gangs has no bearing on issues in this case. The theory here is that gang membership is the motive for possessing a firearm. That logic would permit the admission of gang-related testimony in EVERY case involving a gang member,” Whitaker wrote.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the motions.

Six other men were charged in connection with the homicide, including Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who was sentenced to five years in prison for driving Thomas from the murder. Police say Thomas went to Antonio Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day. Cook, who reportedly supplied the murder weapon, also has been charged.

Trial begins in horrible child abuse case

A jury trial began this week for a young man accused of brutally assaulting his infant daughter.

Tyler L. Jamison, 20, has been in the Spokane County Jail since April 2010, when his 2-month-old daughter, SkyeLynn suffered what Spokane police  initially feared would be fatal injuries but has since been adopted through a foster family.

Jamison is charged with first-degree assault. Police say he described weeks of horrible abuse that was sparked by the baby's crying.

He cut off her breathing until she turned pale “a couple times a day until his fingernails started leaving scratches and cuts on SkyeLynn’s skin,” according to court documents. He didn’t want anyone to notice what he was doing, so “he started cupping his hand over SkyeLynn’s nose and mouth when she would cry.”

Jamison also reportedly told police that he sometimes squeezed SkyeLynn and may have broken ribs. Medics said the girl’s ribs appeared to have been broken at different times.

Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno is presiding over the trial, which began Monday. Sharon Hedlund is prosecuting. Jeff Compton is defending Jamison.

Past coverage:

April 12, 2010: Injured baby improving at Spokane hospital

April 8, 2010: Police: Baby brain dead after assault by father

Couple convicted, acquitted in murder

Three witnesses put the gun in her boyfriend’s hand either during or immediately after a Spokane man was shot last December following a bizarre altercation.

But Melinda R. Barrera, 32, admitted pulling the trigger and a jury convicted Thursday her of second-degree murder while acquitting her boyfriend of all charges.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

June 22: Trial starts for couple in shooting death

May 8: Murder suspect now facing meth charges

Dec. 10: Shooting suspect recalls chaos

Jury clears deputy of excessive force

A North Idaho jury has cleared a Bonner County Sheriff’s deputy against allegations that he used excessive force during a DUI arrest following a crash with injuries on the road to Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

 The jury on Friday determined that Deputy Clint Mattingley did not use excessive force during the DUI arrest of Joel W. Petty on March 8, 2008. Mattingley was successfully defended by attorney Peter Erbland of Spokane. Petty was represented by attorney Greg Devlin, also of Spokane.

 At issue was Mattingley’s handcuffing of Petty after the deputy responded to an injury accident. According to court records, Petty had an ordor of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test. Petty alleged Mattingley used excessive force and caused a rotator cuff injury when the deputy handcuffed him. But the jury did not agree.

Man faces 123 years in prison for guns

A convicted felon from Stevens County now faces a minimum of 123 years in prison after a jury found him guilty today of 21 felonies that were tied to the slaying last year of a Colville man.

Investigators believe was a botched burglary.The jury deliberated about three hours before finding Christopher G. Nichols, who turned 27 Thursday, guilty of nine counts of a felon in a possession of a firearm and nine counts of theft, burglary, auto theft and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Tourism tweets tout Sandusky trial

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio tourism board tweet meant to promote a Father's Day deal in the Lake Erie town of Sandusky instead directed followers to news about the sex abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

 The tweet was sent out this week by the Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourism office. It included the hash tag “Sandusky”.

Hash tags are created by Twitter users to help others find tweets on specific topics.

Anyone who clicked on the “Sandusky” hash tag got the latest updates from the Pennsylvania trial, not the town known for its waterfront location and the Cedar Point amusement park.

Tourism office director Joan Van Offeren says they won't be using the Sandusky hash tag again until well after the trial ends.

Stoned-while driving case hangs, again

A second jury in nine months failed to agree Tuesday whether a Deer Park man’s marijuana use caused a fatal crash, highlighting the lack of accepted standards to determine when motorists should be considered too stoned to drive.

A Spokane County jury deliberated only about seven hours before announcing the impasse Tuesday in the vehicular homicide trial of Jonathon P. Bales, 22, who caused the fatal crash on July 26, 2010, that severed the leg and killed 54-year-old Rene Blaume.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 6: Driving while stoned is focus of trial

Sept. 21: Jury deadlocked in fatal scooter crash
  

Spokane man guilty of tire-iron attack

A jury of seven men and five women found a Spokane man guilty Tuesday of attacking a refugee from Iraq with a tire iron during a gruesome attack that left the victim with severe head injuries.

Sentencing has not yet been set, but 25-year-old Grant T. McAdams faces somewhere between 17 and 22 years in prison after he was convicted of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery for the May 9, 2011, attack that nearly killed an Iraqi man who had come to the United States as a refugee after helping the U.S. military.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 6: Tire iron assault trial begins

May 24, 2011: Tire iron assault, car theft leads to assault

Repeat offender sentenced to 4+ years

A repeat offender has been sentenced to about four years in prison for drug and property crimes.

Christopher Bruce Gooch, 35, was given an exceptionally high sentence of 50 months in prison. He's in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

A jury convicted Gooch of two counts of eluding police last month. He then pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen motor vehicle, eluding police, unlawful possession of a payment instrument and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced May 31.

Gooch was arrested in February after a police chase while driving a stolen vehicle.

Police issued a news release today about his prison sentence that included information on a serial burglar sentenced last month to 108 months in prison. Read more about Donald Myhren here.

“These arrests and convictions are part of an extensive effort by Spokane Police to investigate property crimes and arrest the ROPs responsible for the majority of these crimes,” wrote Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Myhren was actually arrested by Spokane police last summer, well before the department announced they would only be investigating about 5 percent of property crimes. He was out of jail awaiting trial - and committing more crimes - when the Spokane County Sheriff's Office connected him and his brother to a series of burglaries.

Spokane police helped with that arrest, DeRuwe said today, which occured one day after the City of Spokane and Spokane Police Department announced a renewed focus on property crimes.

When are you too stoned to drive?

The vehicular homicide trial of Jonathon Bales raised an interesting legal question that a defense attorney made his focus during opening arguments: At what point does a driver become impaired after smoking marijuana?

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady argued to the jury Monday that marijuana contributed to Bales’ turning some 47 feet prior to his intended intersection on Wandermere Road, causing the collision that killed 54-year-old Rene Blaume on July 16, 2010.

The lead investigator determined “the cause of the collision was because (Bales) had active THC in his blood at the time of the collision,” Brady said.

Blaume was driving 45 mph in the northbound lane and investigators estimated that Bales, 22, was driving a 1985 Pontiac Firebird 9 to 10 mph in the southbound lane when he crossed the centerline, causing the crash that severed Baume’s leg and killing her.

But defense attorney Sean Downs pointed out that none of the investigating deputies – who were trained to look for DUIs — reported that Bales appeared to be impaired when they spoke to him after the crash. A blood was negative for alcohol but showed 3.9 nano-grams of active THC per milliliter. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

“That doesn’t mean anything unless there are signs of impairment,” Downs told the jury.  Bales “may have misjudged how far away Ms. Blaume’s scooter was … but that is a simple infraction.

“This was an incredibly tragic case to be sure. But the evidence will show it was nothing more than a terribly tragic accident.”

Brady called Rebecca Flaherty, a forensic toxicologist, who said the American Medical Association has yet to come to agreement – as they have with alcohol – which level drivers become impaired after smoking marijuana.

Downs asked Flaherty whether a blood test or the officers at the scene would be the best judge at determining impairment. She replied: “The officers are the scene.”

On re-direct, Brady asked Flaherty whether marijuana could have caused Bales to drive in the wrong lane and attempt to make a turn 47 feet before the intended intersection. “It could be an explanation for why he made those errors,” Flaherty responded.

The same issues caused a jury to become deadlocked last September.

2nd trial begins in fatal scooter crash

Testimony began Tuesday in the second vehicular homicide trial against a Spokane man who killed a woman riding a scooter north of Spokane in 2010.

 Jonathan P. Bales, 22, is facing a second trial after a jury deadlocked and could not come to a unanimous decision following his first trial last September.

Bales was driving his 1985 Pontiac Firebird southbound on Wandermere Road on July 16, 2010, when he crossed the center line and struck 54-year-old Rene Blaume, who was riding her Racer iScooter.

Blaume (pictured) suffered a severed leg and died both from blood loss from the amputation and from trauma from the crash, according to testimony.

A blood test on Bales was negative for alcohol but showed traces of marijuana.

Trial begins in brutal tire-iron assault

A Spokane County jury on Tuesday saw graphic photographs and heard descriptions of the tire-iron attack last year against a man who came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq after helping the U.S. military

 Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz told the jury how the gruesome beating took place. But, Steinmetz did not say why Grant T. McAdams, 25, is alleged to have committed attempted first-degree murder and first-degree robbery on May 9, 2011.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

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