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Man acquitted of first-degree murder for 2020 Spokane Valley death; jury was hung on second-degree murder charge

UPDATED: Sun., April 10, 2022

Brian Riley hugs his lawyer, Joe Kuhlman, after a jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder of Eric Klein and guilty of attempting to elude police on Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court. The jury was deadlocked on second-degree murder changes.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Brian Riley hugs his lawyer, Joe Kuhlman, after a jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder of Eric Klein and guilty of attempting to elude police on Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court. The jury was deadlocked on second-degree murder changes. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

A jury found a 36-year-old man who had been on trial in connection with a 2020 killing in Spokane Valley not guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Brian L. Riley was on trial for the fatal shooting of Eric Klein. The jury Thursday was also hung on a related second-degree murder charge, but it did find Riley guilty of attempting to elude police.

Riley hugged his attorney, Joe Kuhlman, after the court went into recess, and smiled at his family sitting behind him.

“When we talk about justice, this is justice,” Kuhlman said after the proceedings. “The fair application of the law. … Justice was done today even with the hung (jury).”

Klein’s mother, Beverly Klein, said it wasn’t the verdict she wanted.

“He was my baby,” Beverly Klein said. “He was loved.”

Eric Klein, 33, was shot in a home at 11313 E. Seventh Ave. in Spokane Valley in February 2020.

A homeowner said Riley came to his house asking for money and credit cards, according to court documents. The homeowner allowed Riley to go upstairs, where Klein was.

The homeowner then heard a gunshot shortly after and called upstairs to ask who had fired the gun, court records say.

Riley told the homeowner that he shot the victim, according to Spokane County Sheriff’s Office investigators. Riley then pointed the gun at his own head and threatened to shoot himself, documents said.

The homeowner talked Riley out of killing himself and the two drove to the Maverik gas station on Argonne Road, where the homeowner got out of the car and told the clerk to call police. The homeowner then left through the back of the store and waited for deputies to arrive, according to the sheriff’s office.

Riley drove away as deputies approached the car, and a chase ensued. Deputies eventually ended their pursuit for safety reasons, but then restarted it after deputies were told Riley was a likely shooting suspect. He was eventually arrested.

Deputies found a semi-automatic pistol magazine in Riley’s pocket, and a handgun was visible in the car. Another semi-automatic pistol was found under a nearby parked car.

Eric Klein was initially listed in critical condition but died later that week.

Kuhlman praised Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin, Superior Court Judge Annette Plese and Northwest Law, the latter of which assisted Kuhlman on the case.

He said Garvin is “probably one of the best prosecutors I’ve ever seen” and Plese is “one of the gold standard judges” in the state.

“This is the most professional trial I’ve had in a long time,” Kuhlman said.

Garvin declined to comment.

A trial for the second-degree murder charges is set for Aug. 22. Sentencing for the attempt to elude police conviction is also scheduled that day but Kuhlman said sentencing would take place after the trial.

Riley remains in Spokane County Jail on a $305,000 bond. He also faces unrelated charges of first-degree rendering criminal assistance and unlawful imprisonment for an incident that happened a few days before Eric Klein was shot. Riley allegedly helped hide the body of Juan Campos in a freezer. Riley, who has 14 prior felony convictions, denied being involved.

Melissa Lee Ann Martin pleaded guilty in January to shooting Campos in the back of the head in Spokane. Martin was sentenced in February to 63 months in prison for second-degree manslaughter.

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