Jurors ask to re-listen to Thompson interview


by KREM.com & Associated Press


Posted on October 31, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 2 at 5:56 AM

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Jury deliberation resumed Tuesday in Yakima in the trial of a Spokane police officer accused of using excessive force in the 2006 death of a mentally ill man.

Officer Karl Thompson is charged with violating the civil rights of 36-year-old Otto Zehm during an encounter in a convenience store and lying about the encounter afterward to investigators.
Thompson has pleaded not guilty.

The jury requested to re-listen to the hour and a half long audio interview of Karl Thompson.

KREM 2 News’ Katie Utehs said the jurors listened intently to the interview and some were taking notes. She noted that attorneys for both the prosecution and defense look tired.

Jury deliberation ended Tuesday evening and will resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
The attorneys started Monday morning without the jury in the court room, arguing what instructions would be given to jurors.

The prosecution wanted the jury to be instructed Zehm had the right to resist Karl Thompson's force.

Ultimately, the judge decided the jury should know Zehm had the right to defend himself and wanted attorneys to prepare exhibits for the jurors.

The defense opposed letting the jury have access to the video evidence in deliberations. The prosecution argued bringing the jury back into the courtroom to watch the video would be a waste of judicial resources and time.

The judge ruled against having digital exhibits in the jury deliberation room, stating "It doesn't make sense, it doesn't really work."

Judge Van Sickle warned the court room about having proper closing arguments saying, "This has been a long and difficult trial." The judge stated "Please don't jeopardize this case with closing arguments.”

The prosecution and defense argued over whether of not the pop bottle touches on Zehm’s "innocence" issue.

The defense argued that Karl Thompson couldn't have known Zehm regularly bought pop or that he only wanted a Snickers bar.

The judge says reference to Zehm's paycheck at the ATM would not be appropriate, but they can bring up that it was found at Zip Trip.

Today would have been Zehm's 41st birthday. Both sides agreed that it would not be brought up in closing arguments.

The prosecution and defense each got one and a half hours for closing arguments.
Before the closing arguments began the judge reminded jurors that they are not to consider Zehm's cause of death.

The judge instructed the jury that Karl Thompson could have acted mistakenly, and they must consider his intent.  The judge said that jurors are not confined to literal testimony of the witnesses

The Prosecution began their closing arguments saying, "This case is about a police officer that chose to strike first and ask questions later…He continued to disgrace his badge further with a web of lies."

Prosecutors played to jurors’ emotions during closing arguments.
While they weren't allowed to call Zehm innocent, they painted a picture of a man who didn't know why he was being struck with a baton.
The defense did the same pointing to Thompson’s distinguished career, calling him a good officer we should be proud of.

Otto Zehm’s last words were, "all I wanted was a Snickers" prosecutors told the jury.
Prosecutors worked to show Officer Karl Thompson violated Zehm’s constitutional rights.
They say Zehm’s last words show even until the end, he didn't know why Thompson was hitting him.
Counting off the strikes prosecutors tell jurors if they find any one of the blows unreasonable they can convict Thompson.
The defense counters and says Thompson "acted based on his training and experience."
Even if it was wrong they say it wasn't willful, asking "where is the evidence that this defendant acted with a bad or evil purpose?"
Ultimately the jury is left with the decision as they grapple with the issue of reasonable doubt.   
"This is a tragic and terrible story, but it is not over yet. You get to write the last chapter," they're told.

The prosecution told the jury they're not judging the person, they judging the act.

Prosecutors say Officer Karl Thompson realized his force against Otto Zehm was excessive then changed his story, saying "he continued to disgrace his badge further with a web of lies."
Thompson’s defense says he's an officer we should be proud of, with service in Vietnam and years as an officer. "Does he sound to you with his history and his hard work that he's a liar," they ask.
Prosecutors say Thompson made up ways to justify the force with the lunge statement first then punches from Zehm.

"Who punches a cop with a Kevlar vest in the chest," they asked.
Prosecutors say the video doesn't match-up with Thompson’s testimony and every time there's an alleged punch from Zehm it's out of camera view.

The defense continued and said "you cannot second guess this kind of decision making…this is not a man that should be in a criminal court."