February 20, 2014 in City

Mistrial declared in rehearing of 2004 double-homicide case

By The Spokesman-Review

A jury deadlocked in the case of a man being retried on murder and manslaughter charges in the 2004 death of his pregnant girlfriend and unborn child.

Spokane Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case of John Lipinski, who had been serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison for the deaths of Melissa Salvidar and a daughter delivered by cesarean section.

Lipinski, 30, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in 2006. He brought Salvidar to the emergency room with a fractured skull in August 2004. The child was delivered and the mother died; the baby died two months later.

A legal tussle began in August when opinions handed down by the Washington state Supreme Court caused Lipinski’s case to be reopened. In the first trial, several potential jurors were questioned separately in the judge’s chambers about their knowledge of the high-profile case. This was allowed to keep those with knowledge about the case from “tainting” fellow jurors, according to court records.

Three Supreme Court rulings, the most recent of which came last summer, were cited as reason for a new jury to hear the case. Justices said questioning jurors in private violated Lipinski’s right to a public trial.

Defense attorneys offered evidence at trial that Salvidar may have voluntarily stepped out of the vehicle driven by Lipinski in the incident that fractured her skull. But prosecutors contended Lipinski had a long history of physically abusing Salvidar and tried to prove Lipinski shoved Salvidar out of the car in a drunken rage.

The jury had heard closing arguments late last week and began deliberations Friday. A courtroom assistant confirmed the mistrial declaration Wednesday afternoon. Lipinski remains in Spokane County Jail. A new trial has been tentatively scheduled for May.

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