Zehm family prepares for civil trial, could seek millions


by KREM.com & Ashley Korslien


Posted on November 3, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 3 at 6:32 PM

SPOKANE-- With the criminal trial over, the family of Otto Zehm plans to move forward with the civil trial against the city of Spokane.

KREM 2's Ashley Korslien spoke with the family's attorney about the civil suit.

The family says it wants more accountability from the city and police department, which they hope can be achieved through a civil trial.

The Zehm family filed this civil suit against the city of Spokane, Karl Thompson, and eight other people involved.
Attorneys expect the civil trial will start in about 18 months.

Breean Beggs is representing the Zehm family. He hasn't said how much money they'll seek, but says it could reach into the millions.

Karl Thompson’s conviction in the criminal trial could affect the civil trial in two ways.

First, prosecutors won't have to prove that Thompson is liable for violating Zehm’s rights because the criminal case already found him guilty of that.
Second, the family could see more money.

Thompson and the other officers named in the suit aren't personally liable for the damages because they're covered under the city's insurance policy.

The family hopes the civil trial will hold the city accountable, and lead the police department to re-work its current use of force policy.

Zehm's mother hopes to use the money to create a non-profit aimed at preventing police violence.
If more of the defendants are investigated criminally, the civil trial could slow down.