Thompson Loses Bid For New Trial in Zehm Case

By Tom Bacon

Ex-Spokane police officer Karl Thompson has lost his bid to get a new trial in the 2006 beating death of Otto Zehm. Thompson's main argument revolved around prosecutors' failure to disclose possibly exculpatory evidence from one of its expert witnesses, Grant Fredericks. 

But a panel of three federal appeals court judges ruled the failure was not a material flaw, because it probably would have made no difference, even if Fredericks, a video expert, had testified. Moreover, they ruled that Thompson's lawyers knew about potentially favorable opinions in his conclusions, so they could have constructed a defense using the evidence. 

The appeals judges also held that a jurors off-hand remark about police corruption in Spokane did not amount to jury misconduct.

Zehm died after a confrontation with Thompson and two other police officers in a north Spokane convenience store. Thompson hit Zehm several times with a baton, used a stun gun and tied him up, claiming that Zehm had attacked him with a large bottle of soda. Zehm was taken to a hospital, but died a few days later.

Thompson is serving a four year sentence in Arizona after a Yakima jury found him guilty of using excessive force and trying to conceal evidence.

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