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Court upholds retired sailor’s murder conviction

Thu., March 19, 2009, 3:13 p.m.

The Court of Appeals in Spokane has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a retired sailor who killed Ken Conklin and wounded Thomas Darco during a drunken party on Spokane’s South Hill in 2007.

Norman L. Roberts, 74, appealed his 2008 conviction by a Spokane County Superior Court jury, saying now-retired Judge Robert D. Austin erred in admitting hearsay evidence and lay testimony. He was sentenced to nearly 38 years in prison.

The court allowed Spokane Police Detective Mark Burbridge to testify as a ballistics expert about the order in which the shots were fired, over the objections of defense counsel. Austin didn’t abuse his discretion in allowing Burbridge to testify, the appeals court ruled.

Roberts testified he couldn’t remember shooting Conklin, but claimed self-defense. That was undermined by his own taped statement, where he admitted no one threatened him and that “he shot Mr. Conklin because he did not like him,” wrote Appeals Court Judge John Schultheis for the three-judge panel.

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