Moses takes the stand, takes responsibility for term "lunge"


by, Tove Tupper, Ashley Korslien

Posted on October 20, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 21 at 12:12 PM

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Testimony continued Thursday in the federal trial against Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson.

Federal prosecutors say Thompson used excessive force in the arrest of Otto Zehm in 2006, and then lied to investigators. Zehm died two days later.

Some of Thompson’s fellow officers, Moses and Erin Raleigh, are set to take the stand. Those officers both allegedly spoke to Thompson the night of the incident in the North Spokane Zip Trip.

Thompson allegedly talked to Moses the night of the Zip Trip beating.

Both Wednesday and Thursday emergency medical personnel on the scene that night said they got specific details about what happened  from Spokane Police Officer Tim Moses.

Aaron Jaramillo, an EMT who worked that night, took the stand first.

Jaramillo described the night to the courtroom. He said he had a conversation with Officer Tim Moses that night about Zehm’s injuries. He says Moses told him Zehm had been hit up and down with a baton in the head, chest, and neck. Jaramillo said Moses was the only officer to describe the location of the baton strikes.

He also said when he arrived at the Zip Trip, Zehm was unconscious.

Jaramillo told the court the medical staff was briefed on Zehm at the hospital. During briefing, Jaramillo says they described Zehm’s baton strikes to medical staff. SPD officers at the hospital didn’t contradict it.

The defense then questioned the EMT. They asked if he was telling the truth both in today’s testimony and his Grand Jury testimony in 2009. He described the baton strikes in both conversations. Jaramillo said he told the truth both days. The defense said there was no reference to a baton blow to Zehm’s head in the doctor’s report. Jaramillo agreed when the defense said he never noted any evidence of a head injury to Zehm in the medical report.

Jaramillo also testified that he was told Zehm lunged at Thompson before stepping down.

Dr. Harry Smith, of the Board of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, then took the stand. Dr. Smith is an injury causation expert, and will navigate through autopsy photos. He looked at Zehm's scalp images.  Smith said that it is evident that there are "areas of hemorrhage" in the photos of Zehm's autopsy, and the cause is "blunt form of impact." Smith added there is no way Zehm's head trauma could be from something like a knee holding his head down-- that would instead cause fracture.

Smith called the strikes “mechanically produced blows.” He said that a "mass" on the right side of Zehm's neck was "traumatically induced by some mechanical device."

The defense made a point to note that Dr. Smith didn't actually witness Zehm's autopsy, and that no witnesses actually saw Zehm struck on the head. The defense also said that Zehm's doctor did not find any head trauma, but did find taser marks on chest and other bruising.

Smith pointed out several areas of hemorrhaging on Zehm’s head which would be caused by blunt impact from a baton.

Smith identified 4 head injuries on Zehm.
Spokane Police Officer Tim Moses was called to the stand. Prosecutors asked Moses if he remembers talking to the AMR personnel the night of the incident? Moses said “I can't remember.”

Moses says he did not witness the force used by Thompson the night of the Zehm incident.

Moses said in his Grand Jury statements in 2009 he said what he knew to be true at the time. He also said that he doesn't recall getting any information from Thompson.

In 2009, Moses said he got his info from Thompson and did motion the baton strikes. But now, that's all changed.

Moses said he did not debrief Thompson until after Zehm was taken to the hospital.

Officer Moses said that Thompson said Zehm came at him, and took a defensive position. He doesn't remember the exact words. Moses maintains he was the one who said "lunged", not Thompson.

Officer Raleigh may be labeled as a hostile witness because he and Thompson are reportedly friends. Raleigh reported Zehm’s last words: “All I wanted was a Snickers bar.” Jurors may never hear those words, though. They are not allowed to hear statements related to Zehm’s innocence. Jurors can only listen to testimony regarding whether Thompson acted appropriately based on the information he had at the time.