Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who's Got Your Back?

Officer Jay Olsen was found not guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Olsen--breaking department policy by getting drunk while carrying a concealed weapon, driving drunk, and not calling 911 while chasing or after shooting Shonto Pete--was apparently saved by police dispatch supervisor Marvin Tucker who testified that he spoke with a shooting victim who said he had stolen a truck. Unfortunately, the 911 tape had been erased. Pete had been tried and found innocent of those charges about 18 months ago. Tucker did not testify at that trial. The jury in this trial was not allowed to know that Pete had been found innocent so Tucker's innuendo was allowed to stand. Remember, administration of the law is not necessarily the administration of justice.

Otto Zehm was a placid soul unknown by most people in Spokane. Had he not died at the hands of the Spokane Police Department three years ago he would not have warranted an entry in Wikipedia nor would Doug Clark have made "Otto" buttons for us to wear and remind each other of the injustice done almost three years ago for which no one has been held answerable.

The only recourse for Pete and Zehm's mother are the federal courts. The Center for Justice filed yesterday on Zehm's behalf. It could easily take a year before there's a trial. Shonto Pete, thankfully alive, can look forward to the same lengthy, arduous process.

Along with these major incidents, members of the Spokane Police Department also gained notoriety for attacking a peaceful but boisterous group of so-called anarchists in Riverfront Park, telling a fireman to delete the photos of a young girl from his camera which could have been used as evidence, and taking photos of bare breasts with a department cell phone as well as having sex in and driving drunk in a police car.

If the Spokane Police have shown anything it's that they are adept at looking out for themselves. I find it a sad state of affairs when I have to tell my children not to trust the police, do whatever they tell you to do, and no matter what they say or what you did, do not answer a single question without a parent or attorney present.

An air of menace and suspicion has enveloped the Spokane Police Department. It taints the cops who do their job ethically and legally and makes it more difficult for them because the public trust is essential.

How long before justice is served and trust is earned?


Spokane Al said...

I was very surprised to wake up this morning and find that Olsen had been found not guilty. However, I am not sure we can point this to the police dept. He was, after all, judged by a jury of his peers who arrived at that decision after a trial.

Pat S said...

Like Spokane Al said, we don't know all the details. But I have to say, I was shocked. How can a drunk, off-duty, illegally-weapon-carrying police officer chase someone through downtown and shoot him in the head and skate. Self-defense? I'm highly skeptical.

Hank Greer said...

I haven't met a person yet that wasn't surprised by the not guilty verdict. I'm not saying Tucker was lying, but if is testimony is so important and credible why wasn't it presented at Pete's trial?

As to being tried by a jury of peers. I'm afraid that's a ideal that doesn't exist. The jury selection process is gamed. Attorneys can go through a large number of people before they settle on their final selections. Much less so at the federal level. That's one reason why I think everyone should serve on a jury. To see how the process works. The added benefit of being selected to serve on a jury is the OMG effect once you see who your fellow jurors are. Hopefully, one or two voices of reason are in the group.

EvilElf said...

Hank, I have to tell you that what the Spokesman-Review tells us is not necessarily what really happened in many of their "news" stories.

They have a narrative, an angle, that they want to promote and exclude facts that don't fit that narrative. It's a simple message that they are trying to get people to buy into. That's a shame too, because a lot of us like a story that's not neat and tidy but has shades of gray and not so clear cut "good guys" and "bad guys." But, you have to consider that quite a few of their readers want a more simple perspective.

I was surprised by the Jay Olsen verdict too. But, the only stuff I know about the story is what I read in the SR. Having been on juries before, the instructions you receive are pretty clear on what meets the bar to convict someone on very specific charges. Likewise, the specific legal criteria of self defense is not something I have been briefed on either.

All to say, having been a witness to events that they report on, there is a lot more to the story than they are going to tell you.

Hank Greer said...

I realize we may not get the complete story from the media. I think the point I'm not making very clear is that this, combined with the other incidents of police misbehavior or illegal behavior, casts a cloud of distrust over the entire police department which makes it more difficult for the "good" cops to do their job.

Anonymous said...

I was an eye witness at both trials. Evidence was withheld, some fabricated, and some short of ridiculous in the Olsen trial. It looked more like Pete was on trial and he caused his own plight so to speak. Sometimes it looked like the jury was asleep because the prosecutor had to show every drop of Pete's blood close up, every drop for an hour it seemed and it did the trick and the jury really did go to sleep, as I felt like sleeping too. The prosecutor should have used some of that time to get to the truth of the matter, for necessary rebuttals. There was so much he could have done but just didn't care about the victim, Pete. The defense attorney seemed more like he was trying to help Pete in some ways. I would like to look at the transcript and I could find where Olsen's testimony was contradictory.