Karl Thompson, Convicted Spokane Cop, May Get New Trial Because Jurors Saw TV

karl thompson03.jpg
Karl Thompson
The Oxford Suites hotel in Yakima, like the vast majority of mid-range hotels, has a TV in the lobby, which, by default, has a news station playing. This is all well and good, except when certain hotel guests happen to be members of a federal jury.

Carl Oreskovich, the defense attorney for disgraced Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, is preparing to file a motion to grant his client a new trial because some of the jurors on his original trial may have glimpsed news reports on the hotel lobby TV that gave information about the case that they were barred from seeing.

Thompson was convicted last week in federal court of using excessive force when he beat, Tased, and crushed mentally-disabled janitor Otto Zehm to death in 2006 after mistakenly thinking that he was stealing money from an ATM.

But depending on what the jurors saw or didn't see in the hotel lobby, that conviction may be tossed.


The paralegal said that on the morning of November 1st she went down to the breakfast room and noticed both of the stations were set to Northwest Cable News, and that day, the station included a bottom line ticker on the Thompson trial that included the words "beating death of mentally ill man."

Jurors, you see, were never supposed to know that Zehm was mentally ill. Another ticker message supposedly said that he was "mistakenly accused of taking money from an ATM"--a true statement, but again, jurors were not supposed to know that the Zehm was innocent of any wrongdoing when Thomspon found him.

Of course, the jurors may not have seen the news ticker message, but attorneys may soon be grilling those jurors on what they did and didn't see.

All the while, Thompson's fate and the Zehm family's justice hangs in the balance.

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