Local news

Jury could have heard Zehm’s mental status

THURSDAY, NOV. 10, 2011, 3:21 P.M.

Attorneys for both sides of the criminal case of convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. filed legal briefs today indicating that jurors were in a room that had two televisions broadcasting a tickertape on Nov. 1 indicating that Otto Zehm was “mentally ill.”

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle set a 2 p.m. Thursday deadline for attorneys to gather information about what was broadcast on Nov. 1 on Northwest Cable News, which was broadcast in the common breakfast room of the Oxford Suites hotel in Yakima.

While both sides showed that information was available, neither side established in court records that jurors either saw the news tickertape or whether it influenced their decision. Van Sickle had barred attorneys from telling the jury about Zehm’s innocence, mental illness, cognitive function and that he was not using drugs.

Van Sickle has not given a specific time when he will rule on a motion by the defense to question the jurors about the broadcasts. Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich also filed a motion seeking to extend a 14-day window to ask for a new trial. Oreskovich included an unsolicited e-mail from an alternate juror who said he or she was “shocked” by the verdict.

Thompson was convicted last week of using excessive force and lying to cover up his confrontation with Zehm. He died two days after he was beaten at least 13 times with a baton and shocked four times with a Taser on March 18, 2006.


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