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Thompson’s attorney says feds have ‘slew’ of evidence in Zehm case

The attorney defending Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. acknowledged today that federal prosecutors have a “slew of evidence” purportedly showing that his client used improper levels of deadly force against Otto Zehm during the confrontation in 2006 from which Zehm later died.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich made those comments today as he argued against the inclusion of evidence from prosecutors showing that Zehm, a 36-year-old mentally ill and disabled janitor, was innocent at the time Thompson confronted him in a convenience store on North Division Street.

“They have a ton of evidence other than this innocence evidence,” Oreskovich said, referring to the prosecution’s case.

He said federal prosecutors have eye witnesses, testimony from Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken, other health care professionals and even a neuro-radiologist who will testify “about head and neck strikes.

“The point about all of this, is that the government argues the necessity of the innocence evidence when they have a slew of evidence they can utilize,” Oreskovich said. Evidence that Zehm did not commit a crime “is not essential evidence.”

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle said he intends to hold firm to the Oct. 11 start of the trial, but did not rule on several pre-trial motions argued before him Thursday.

Those motions include efforts by the defense to exclude testimony from Assistant Chief Jim Nicks, and to bring in jurors from outside the Spokane area to decide the case.

The prosecution is seeking to include evidence of Zehm’s cognitive delay, evidence of Zehm’s innocence and to exclude the detailed testimony from several defense experts because of defense attorney’s violations of rule and court orders regarding detailed descriptions of their expected testimony.

Van Sickle said he anticipates ruling by early next week.

Thompson is scheduled to stand trial for the felony charges of using unreasonable force and lying to investigators following the confrontation with Zehm on March 18, 2006. The case has generated a civil suit against the city and allegations that city leaders withheld key information from the public, Oreskovich said in court. The issue has also become a hotly debated topic in the current race for mayor as incumbent Mary Verner faces a challenge from David Condon.


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