A big challenge in reporting this week's feature story, "The Wrong Man," was verifying Dawud Malik's claims about alleged injustices in his murder trial. Chief among them was Malik's assertion that Ken Klepeck, a witness in the trial, embellished his story from the time that police interviewed him on the day after Ed Hutton was killed to the damaging testimony he gave against Malik in court several months later. But documents provided by Malik's attorney at Innocence Project Northwest, including the original Seattle police reports from 1966, suggest that Klepeck may have indeed lied under oath.
Hutton asked the bartender, his friend Ken Klepeck, to cash his $30 paycheck and mix him a screwdriver. He gulped it down, then ordered another.
About five minutes after 2 a.m., Klepeck cleared out the bar and began counting the cash in his till. From where he stood, he could see out the window to the intersection of 14th Avenue and East Madison Street, where he watched as Hutton walked unsteadily to his car, followed closely by two men who had been loitering on the corner.
Klepeck would later tell police that the men were "two Negroes:" one tall and thin, the other short, stocky, and wearing a sport coat. He said he had noticed them earlier in the evening because he feared they were casing his place for a robbery. So when he saw the men climb into the front seat of his friend's Plymouth, Klepeck stuck his head out the front door and shouted to Hutton, asking if everything was all right. Hutton rolled down his window, hollered "Hell yes! They're a couple friends of mine," then drove off.
Here are the police reports provided by Malik's attorney, Kelly Canary. Homicide detectives' initial interview with Klepeck is detailed on pages four and five:Dawud Malik Police Reports
And here's the portion of the story that sheds light on what changed about Klepeck's account from that night to the time he took the witness stand:
New evidence in hand, detectives went back for another interview with Klepeck, the Lucky Inn bartender. This time he told a slightly different story. Not only did he say he had poked his head out of the bar's front door to check on Hutton, Klepeck now claimed he also had walked outside and down the block, so that he was standing just across the street when the men got into Hutton's car. After studying a half-dozen mug shots, Klepeck told police that Malik was definitely the short guy he had seen leaving with his friend that night. . .
. . . The judge was unmoved. And what's more, he allowed prosecutors to suppress several key pieces of evidence, including the police report that contained Klepeck's original statements about the night of the Hutton murder. Klepeck was the only witness who put Malik inside Hutton's car. [Judge] Walterskirchen's decision meant the jury would never hear about the inconsistencies in his story.
Here is a portion of the transcript from Hutton's courtroom testimony, 25 pages from a trial account that totaled more than 1,600 pages of courtroom dialogue. Note Klepeck's statement on page 4 that seeing the two black men made him "uneasy," and on pages 7-8 in which he claims he locked up his tavern and walked down the street to check on Hutton, a fact he neglected to mention when first questioned by police:Dawud Malik Trial: Ken Klepeck Testimony