A former police officer who’s now medically disabled told a federal jury Friday that Norman “Griz” Ford Jr. confessed in a living room conversation in North Spokane to killing Gary Flett Jr. in June 2006 on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
“He admitted it and told me he was the shooter,” witness Jonathan Lubben testified in response to questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Kimball.
Lubben was a last-minute witness in the government’s case against Ford, who’s charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
The last murder trial in U.S. District Court in Spokane was in the early 1990s. The killing of Flett occurred on the Spokane reservation, establishing federal jurisdiction.
The trial will continue Tuesday and likely will go to the jury late next week.
On the stand Friday, Lubben said he had held various jobs in law enforcement, including working as the police chief in Garfield, Wash. The witness didn’t describe how he became acquainted with Ford, but said he went to Ford’s north Spokane home a few days after the killing.
“He was agitated, very nervous,” Lubben said. Ford had earlier met with FBI agents, saying that he only accompanied Joey Moses, who did all the shooting when the pair went to Flett’s home during the early morning hours of June 1, 2006.
Lubben said Ford indicated in their conversation that he and Moses were accompanied by as many as four other men when they went to Flett’s house – testimony that has not been supported by any other witnesses in the week-old trial.
Ford said he went to the house after becoming angry when Moses said Flett was having sex with Ford’s fiancée, Naomi Stearns, Lubben testified. Stearns also testified Friday, saying she only casually knew Flett and identifying Ford as the father of her infant.
Lubben said he called the FBI in June 2006 and told agents about Ford’s confession.
Agents took his statement, but didn’t do a follow-up interview with him until Jan. 11, just days before the trial, Lubben testified.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Vovos seized on that 18-month delay, suggesting that if Lubben’s information was credible, FBI agents would have responded sooner.
When Vovos attempted to ask Lubben about his medical condition and medicine he was taking, the prosecutor objected. Judge Edward Shea limited questioning, and Lubben only testified about having “tremors.”
Vovos also attempted to ask Lubben if he “had been investigating a dirty police officer” and had shared information about that and Ford’s confession with Spokane attorney Jeffry Finer. Other objections from the prosecutor largely blocked that line of questions.
Outside the courtroom, Vovos said he expects to subpoena both Lubben and Finer when the defense case begins next week.
As the prosecution neared the end of its case, FBI agent Stanley Meador, the lead investigator, took the stand, introducing bullets and other evidence. The judge prevented the prosecutor from showing an FBI video of the crime scene, saying it would duplicate maps and still photos already admitted.
Moses was identified as the initial suspect in the killing and it was initially thought Ford only was a witness-accomplice who didn’t fire a 9mm handgun, Meador testified.
The FBI agent said he met Moses in Glass Park in northeast Spokane on June 6 after the suspect returned from a bus trip to California.
As other agents watched from surveillance cars, Meador said he was alone when he approached Moses, who walked to a bench in the park.
“I touched his shoulder and said, ‘How you doing?’ ” the agent testified. “He vomited, threw up.”
“It appeared to me he was scared to death,” Meador testified.
Because of Moses’ uneasiness, agents took him to Franklin Park, a short distance away, where they spoke with him for some time before arresting him for Flett’s murder.
Moses didn’t implicate Ford in the killing until six months later when he struck a plea bargain, agreeing to cooperate with the FBI in the hopes of getting an 18- to 25-year sentence instead of life in prison.
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