Edwin Johnson never had sexual contact with a teenager he picked up downtown last summer, a jury decided Thursday.
The former Eastern State Hospital psychiatrist was acquitted of indecent liberties less than an hour after the eight-man, four-woman panel began its deliberations. The trial began Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.
“I’m happy that the jury realized (the prosecution) could not prove this case,” said defense attorney Bevan Maxey. “I hope this will finally allow Dr. Johnson to get on with his life.”
Johnson, 43, was accused of pulling a 17-year-old girl into his car at Howard and Riverside and driving to a South Hill parking lot, where the victim said he fondled her breasts, hit her in the head and tried to shove her face in his lap.
When she finally got out of the car, the girl ran to a nearby grocery store and police were called.
But Johnson told jurors Thursday the girl waved him down at Howard and Riverside, told him she needed a ride home and willingly got into the car. Once inside, she admired the red Lincoln Continental, fiddled with the control buttons and asked if she could drive.
Johnson pulled into the Super 1 Foods parking lot on East 29th and agreed to let the girl drive around the lot.
“She was doing pretty good,” Johnson testified, but then she nearly hit some mailboxes and he asked her to stop the car. When he took away the keys, Johnson said the girl became upset and a fight broke out, with Johnson’s face getting scratched.
Deputy prosecutor Carol Davis scoffed at Johnson’s story, telling jurors it “didn’t make sense” that he would allow a perfect stranger to drive his new car, on which he still owed $18,000.
She also dwelled on Johnson’s explanation of why the zipper on his pants was down when police stopped him a short time after the alleged attack. Johnson told jurors it was “only down a little bit” and said that isn’t unusual for most men.
“Zippers move,” Johnson said simply.
In her closing argument, Davis reminded jurors about strands of hair that were found in Johnson’s car - the victim’s hair, some of which a forensic expert said had been pulled.
“This was not pleasurable for her,” Davis said. “The whole thing has been a horror. We should just be amazed that she told anybody in the first place.”
One juror, however, said afterward he needed more proof. Photographs of the girl taken after the assault were poor and didn’t show the injuries she claimed to have received, he said.
The girl also changed her story too many times, while Johnson did not, said the juror, who did not want his name used. “The bottom line is that the evidence was weak,” he said. “We believed the doctor.”