February 7, 2009 in City

Jury deadlocks in trial over death in Browne’s Addition

By The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane judge declared a mistrial Friday after jurors failed to reach a verdict on second-degree murder charges against Craig M. Heiny, a local businessman involved in a bloody fight with two intoxicated drifters in his Browne’s Addition apartment last year.

The jury also acquitted Heiny of first-degree assault in the stabbing of Mark Russell during the fracas. But jurors rebuffed a special verdict of self-defense in the assault – which would have required the state to pay for Heiny’s defense.

The state, disappointed with the verdict read in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Michael Price, will file new murder charges against Heiny, said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel.

Spokane Police Department Detective Marty Hill, the lead investigator in the case, left the courtroom after the verdict, saying “I can’t believe it.”

During his oral argument on the self-defense verdict, Heiny’s attorney David Partovi thanked the jurors for their work during the nearly two-week trial. “You did the right thing,” Partovi said.

Russell’s friend Jason Casey, 29, died Oct. 5, 2008, when he was stabbed with a letter opener in Heiny’s apartment. Russell also was stabbed but lived. The defense attacked Russell’s credibility, noting he could remember little about the violent fight because he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.33 that night.

Heiny met Casey and Russell at a bar on the day of the incident and invited them to his place for hamburgers. He sometimes employed homeless men in his carpet-cleaning businesses, according to court testimony.

According to Heiny, Russell made a sexual advance and Casey got angry and slapped Heiny – precipitating a fight with a letter-opener used as a weapon. The prosecution blamed Heiny, saying he made the first advances and noting he gave police several versions of what happened that night.

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

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