Judge In Thompson Trial Denies Motion By Defense To Throw Out Ca - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Judge In Thompson Trial Denies Motion By Defense To Throw Out Case

Otto Zehm And Karl Thompson Otto Zehm And Karl Thompson

SPOKANE, Wash. – Following opening statements in the criminal trial of Spokane Police officer Karl Thompson Thursday, Thompson's defense attorney asked a federal judge to throw out the case against the officer on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct.

Despite warning the prosecuting attorney with U.S. Attorney's Office several times that his opening statement included arguments that were not allowed, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle denied the motion.

During opening arguments, the government described Zehm as a man who regularly went into Zip Trip to buy two-liter bottles of Pepsi but was brutally attacked by Thompson, who "used the badge and the power it gave him to brutally beat the victim over and over again." Prosecutors said they were trying to prove Zehm wouldn't have known Thompson was coming at him.  

 Thompson's attorney, Carl Oreskovich, immediately objected, saying that the prosecution attempted to paint a picture of an innocent man after the judge previously barred any evidence labeling Zehm as innocent since the judge ruled that would prejudice the jury.

 Instead, jurors were specifically told to consider Thompson's frame of mind at that time he confronted Zehm and not what was learned after the incident. Jurors were also told not to consider Zehm's cause of death.

 The defense argued Thompson was pursuing a suspect and acted properly after being told by dispatch that Zehm was suspected of robbing an ATM theft. Zehm was not related to the theft.

 Both sides got into the issue of lying during opening arguments.

 The trial was moved to Yakima after intense publicity.

 The trial will pick up again at 8 a.m. tomorrow and end at 2 p.m. with a shortened lunch break. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Five years ago, the 36-year-old Zehm was beaten with a baton, restrained, had a plastic mask placed over his face, and was sat on by officers while inside the Zip Trip. He died two days later without regaining consciousness. Prosecutors say Thompson used excessive force and lied to investigators in the beating of Zehm.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

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YAKIMA, Wash. - The defense attorney for Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson says the officer's use of force was appropriate in the 2006 death of a man in a north Spokane convenience store and says Thompson will take the stand in his criminal trial.

Thompson is accused of using unreasonable force and lying to investigators in the death of Otto Zehm, a 36-year-old schizophrenic man. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich says Thompson didn't know if Zehm was armed when he approached him and made a split-second decision to protect the public.

Court records say Zehm was beaten with a baton, hogtied and sat on by officers.

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle moved the trial from Spokane to Yakima due to extensive pretrial news coverage. A jury was seated Wednesday.

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PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - A Justice Department trial attorney says a Spokane police officer brutally beat a citizen who posed no threat and disgraced his badge by lying to cover up his actions.

Federal prosecutor Victor Boutros began delivering his opening statement to a jury this morning in the case against Office Karl Thompson.

Thompson is accused of using unreasonable force and lying to investigators in the death of Otto Zehm, a 36-year-old schizophrenic janitor. Thompson has pleaded not guilty.

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