Expert witness' testimony gives jurors hints on Zehm’s history



Posted on October 28, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 28 at 6:13 PM

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The federal trial of Spokane Police Ofc. Karl Thompson resumed Friday morning with testimony from an expert on video surveillance.

Thompson is accused of using excessive force in the arrest of Otto Zehm, who died two days after the incident in 2006.
KREM 2's Katie Utehs is watching the case. You can see her moment-by-moment updates by following KREM 2 on Twitter.

He testifies that he told Det. Ferguson that Zehm was boxing him with both fists, and that the shelves in the surveillance video obstruct the view.
The prosecution questions Thompson on the injuries he suffered, and says the pictures don’t match the injuries. The pictures could be seen on a disc Friday, and the only obvious injury was a scrape on Thompson’s left knee.
Thompson says he asked for the “lunge” statement to be corrected twice, despite earlier testimony that said otherwise. He says he never felt the need to have an attorney fix it.
Thompson says, “Your best tool is your best judgment.” He tells the court he believes there was probable cause for the two counts of 3rd Degree Assault against Zehm, and says he never “intentionally [directed] any strikes to his head or his neck,” when speaking about Zehm.
After Thompson steps down, Joseph Callanan, a self-employed law enforcement consultant, takes the stand. He is also trained in baton use and has a long law enforcement history. Callanan says that as an officer, he has had to make quick decisions, including times he used a gun or baton.
Callanan says considering the Zehm case a robbery is “a huge leap in logic.” He calls Thompson’s approach “poor police work,” and says police are trained to manage risks by avoiding them.

Most of the details about Zehm have been excluded; the jury doesn't know Zehm was mentally disabled, nor do they know he wasn't committing a crime.
Friday’s prosecution witness slipped in some key points and the jury may have picked up on them.

Otto Zehm was a mentally disabled man with a history of mental illness. It could have played a role in his reaction to Officer Karl Thompson. The jury doesn't know that.
Previous rulings don't allow testimony or evidence about Zehm because they're judging Thompson based on what he knew about the suspect going into the zip trip.
Dispatchers mention the man may be high and Thompson says it played a role in his assessment of the suspect as possibly dangerous.

Callanan says officers need to remember a suspect could be high, mentally ill or slow, therefore not actively resisting the officer.
He says passive resistance means force isn't needed when confronting suspects.
Callanan says, "You need to give them a reasonable amount of time to try to gauge comprehension."
Jurors will not be told Zehm was, in fact, cognitively slow. Callanan's testimony may have given them a hint.