SPOKANE--A federal judge has called off the Jan. 27 sentencing of a Spokane police officer who was convicted of using excessive force in the death of a man.
U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle in Thursday's order also paved the way for attorneys for officer Karl F. Thompson to seek a new trial in the death of mentally disabled janitor Otto Zehm.
Thompson’s defense attorneys say the government may have withheld evidence that would help his case.
Van Sickle wrote that the circumstances giving rise to his order are unusual because his decision is not the result of a motion from one of the attorneys in a case that has damaged relations between the Spokane Police Department and citizens.
Rather, the judge says a letter from a forensic video analyst that came "out of the blue" prompted the move. The analyst is an expert witness assigned to dissecting the Zip Trip video where Thompson confronted Zehm.
The judge says that at some point the analyst decided that the government’s disclosures are incomplete and inaccurate.
Van Sickle says the analysts allegations raise serious constitutional issues and the defendant is allowed a reasonable opportunity to investigate them.
A new sentencing hearing will be scheduled as needed.