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Spokane, WA – The federal civil rights trial against Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson is now in the hands of the jury. The jury heard the closing arguments of the US Attorney’s Office by ASUA Butros and defense counsel Oreskovich. The news media’s tweets can be seen by using the search word [ #zehm ]. I too was present in Spokane watching the live feed from Yakima. I filed my commentary at KXLY Rick Rydell’s FaceBook page:
[Note: Scroll this feed for my live commentary as this trial progressed. I linked to S-R Meghann Cuniff’s tweet more than any others as her tweets captured the essence the best in my opinion. My fat fingers couldn’t keep up with her. Here’s a link to her tweets https://twitter.com/#!/meghanncuniff ]
Ofc. Thompson was charged with unlawful use of force violating the civil rights of Otto Zehm and also lying to investigators. The closing arguments have not changed my opinion. Ofc. Thompson created his own emergency to justify this level of force. His tactics were not consistent professional police practice. In short it would be safe to say he “cowboyed” this call and it resulted in a tragic outcome.
The $64 question is whether Ofc. Thompon’s actions rise to the level of willfulness as required by this criminal civil rights section. Mistakes, poor judgement, poor tactics, ignorance and mistakes do not rise to the level of willfulness as required by this section. The burden of proof required for this violation is high threshold to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe it was, but this is for a jury to decide as it should be. As to lying to investigators, I have no doubt in my mind there was a conscious effort to conceal that mistakes were made and lies were told to investigators. This is similar to the Watergate Scandal. The cover-up and lies are worse than the underlying offense.
At least this time a jury will decide whether there was a violation of law and not a closed group of insiders in a bush league presided over by County Prosecutor Steve Tucker. As I commented in S-R Doug Clark’s column in yesterday’s paper:
WAKE UP SPOKANE!!!
Stink in the courtroom in Yakima? The smell from the dirty laundry at City Hall now openly displayed is overwhelming. Can the voters of Spokane can smell it too. Will they do anything about it?
I’m not voting for Mayor Verner.
Read Ofc. Thompson’s disingenuous testimony and that of others of SPD’s finest in the news media’s tweets – twitter.com use search term – #zehm. SPD’s use of force experts would find some justification for the use of lethal force for someone asking for a Snickers bar. Read the testimony of the US Attorney’s Office use of force expert retired LA County Sheriff’s Lt. Callanan –
Ok I’ve said before that Ofc. Thompson used poor police tactics and in essence “cowboyed” this call. S-R Cuniff – Callanan on Preuninger’s view: “I totally disagree with that opinion” A single officer would not want to engage potential armed robber. “There are other things to do than close & capture,” Callanan says. “It’s too fast, ..I don’t see an actual threat to the officer.” [Defense now screaming an objection.] Defense vehemently objecting. “Simply putting Mr. Preuninger’s name into that question does not make it proper rebuttal.”From my running commentary at KXLY Rick Rydell’s facebook page if you have a FB account. http://tinyurl.com/3blckfd
I court watched several times in Spokane and it’s obvious to me these officers have never been held to this level of scrutiny before in Tucker’s bush league where everyone CYAs each other. The general aw shucks attitude and that we are the professionals and we know best clearly showed. They are now playing in the major leagues. It’s clear they don’t like this – Ofc. Moses for one did himself no favors as he was clearly uncooperative/argumentative on the stand on direct from the US Attorney’s Office while his memory suddenly improved considerably on redirect from the defense without having to pull teeth.
While there are many fine men and women doing a very difficult job day in day out at SPD, it’s apparent they have been abandoned by SPD’s police leadership. This failure of leadership has been condoned and tolerated if not actively sanctioned by the Office of the City Attorney and the Mayor. The City Council is clueless and spineless and cowers in fear at the of the mention of the name of the Spokane Police Guild as counseled by the City Attorney’s Office of violating the Guild’s union contract.
And of all it’s County Prosecutor Steve Tucker the most who has abdicated his duty and responsibility to WE THE PEOPLE in not holding accountable local law enforcement for its lapses. While some of these officer involved shootings and deaths may not be criminal in the nature, their investigations in some have been very lacking or in the Zehm case an active cover-up was underway. Tucker could have but didn’t raise the professional bar of these OIS/OID investigations.
Who runs this City?
As I posted in S-R Clouse’s latest report from Yakima:
While the death of Zehm was very tragic and the result of poor police practice/procedure/tactics tantamount to a negligent homicide/manslaughter under WA state law, the cover-up is much worse. Bottom line is Tucker and his bush league that covers each others’ back will never bring such a criminal complaint let alone prosecute those responsible for this cover-up.That’s why I’ve demanded that the Mayor and City Council immediately request the US Attorney’s Office to expand it’s current criminal investigation to include any that were complicit and or aided/abetted in the cover-up and to prosecute them for obstruction of justice. So far the Mayor and the City Council have refused to do so. Further the Mayor has not settled the Zehm civil case even though the handwriting was on the wall when the US Attorney Office filed their proffer in April 2010. This will cost WE THE TAXPAYERS dearly. http://tinyurl.com/3wy8tg6
S-R reporter Tom Clouse file this report last night.
Prosecuting, defense attorneys make closing arguments
. . . He does the job we demand,” Oreskovich continued. “Now he gets accused of a crime and accused of creating a web of lies.”
Boutros challenged Oreskovich’s notion that after 5 ½ years Thompson was somehow the victim.
“Don’t forget what happened to Mr. Zehm,” Boutros told the jury. “Don’t forget the terror and panic Mr. Zehm suffered with no way to stop the acts from continuing. His last words were, ‘All I wanted was a Snickers.’ We are asking you to let the defendant know that no one is above the law.”
Ofc. Thompson found guilty on both counts:
Prosecutors to seek six to eight years; defense promises ‘to keep fighting’