U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea refused Wednesday to grant a new trial or set aside a jury’s murder verdict against Norman “Griz” Ford, convicted in February of first-degree murder in a 2006 home-invasion on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Ford’s attorney, Mark Vovos, had requested a new trial, arguing that jury instructions were changed by the court after jury deliberations were begun.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Kimball argued that the court’s rewriting of the jury instructions came after the panel had questions about them. Appeals courts have ruled that trial judges must attempt to answer jury questions.
“I don’t think there was error from this court’s instructions – far from it,” the prosecutor said at Wednesday’s hearing.
The initial jury instruction at issue said for the jury to convict Ford of first-degree murder, “it is not necessary … for the government to prove the defendant had any premeditated design or intent to kill the victim.”
That instruction was modified to say if the murder occurred during the crime of first-degree burglary that Ford admitted committing, he also was guilty of first-degree murder.
“I’m not convinced in any fashion that the jury wasn’t properly instructed,” Shea said at the end of the hour-long hearing
Ford, 31, will be sentenced next month.
Co-defendant Joey Jake Moses, 24, was sentenced in March by the judge to 35 years in prison. He cut a deal with federal prosecutors and hoped to only get a sentence of 18 to 25 years in exchange for testifying against Ford.
They were charged with the June 1, 2006, shooting death of Gary R. Flett Jr., who died in his home on the Spokane reservation.
“This (case) is a tragedy for all people concerned,” the judge told a packed courtroom, filled with relatives of the victim and the two defendants.