September 26, 2008 in City

Jurors chosen for Coe commitment trial

Judge reaffirms denial of new venue
Staff writer
 

Only one member of the jury that will decide convicted rapist Kevin Coe’s fate lives on the South Hill, where most of the rapes that paralyzed Spokane took place.

He was a toddler when Coe was arrested in 1981.

The eight-woman, four-man jury chosen by 11:15 a.m. Thursday for Coe’s civil commitment trial varies widely in age and life experience. The youngest, the South Hill resident, is a 29-year-old with young children who brews beer in his spare time.

The jurors include a stockbroker, a widowed Block Watch volunteer, a woman with a grown daughter in the military, a school crossing guard with a young son, a night shift worker, two insurance claims employees, a fourth-grade teacher, a former undercover drug cop who cares for foster kids, a UPS worker and a human relations expert.

They are from many corners of the county, including Liberty Lake, Greenacres, Otis Orchards, Colbert, Airway Heights and the Shadle and Logan neighborhoods of north Spokane.

Two of the selected jurors were privately questioned by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor. They requested that option on a juror questionnaire asking whether they’d had any experiences among friends and family with sexual abuse and mental illness.

Four alternate jurors – three men and one woman – also were chosen because of the length of the trial, expected to last until mid-November.

They include a housewife whose husband is retired from the Air Force, a computer engineer for a startup company, a trucker for a beer distributor and a counselor for developmentally delayed children.

Some of the selected jurors have extensive knowledge of the “South Hill rapist” case that frightened many Spokane women in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Coe, arrested in 1981, was charged with six rapes and ultimately went to prison for 25 years for one rape conviction that withstood a series of appeals.

Some of the younger jurors, however, said they have little knowledge of the case and haven’t followed the recent news coverage.

Also Thursday, O’Connor rebuffed a renewed motion for a change of venue from Coe’s lawyers. O’Connor had denied the motion at the outset of jury selection but said she’d revisit the topic if a fair jury couldn’t be found.

Spokane County Public Defender John Rodgers, one of Coe’s lawyers, said the trial should be moved because “we’ve so far struck over 50 percent of the people we’ve talked to.”

Assistant Attorney General Todd Bowers opposed the motion, saying many people were excused who said they couldn’t be fair but a significant number remained who have open minds. O’Connor agreed.

“We’ve been able with careful selection to pick a jury in Spokane County. The motion is denied,” O’Connor said.

Coe’s trial starts Monday with opening statements.

The attorney general’s office seeks to have 61-year-old Coe committed indefinitely to a mental institution as a sexually violent predator. Coe’s attorneys will argue that he isn’t likely to commit more rapes and doesn’t fit the definition of a mentally ill, paraphilic rapist.

More than two dozen women who alleged years ago that Coe raped them or exposed himself to them are on a state list as potential witnesses. Some 80 people have been deposed for the trial.

Reach Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or at karend@spokesman.com.

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