Mistrial again in deputy assault case; Jury 11-1 for acquittal

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on July 1, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 1 at 5:33 PM

SEATTLE – A second mistrial was declared Thursday in the case of a former King County Sheriff's deputy accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell. The difference this time is which way the jury was leaning.

"It's a little frustrating and a little surprising," said Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff. "I don't think anybody saw this coming."

Paul Schene was charged with fourth-degree assault against Malika Calhoun. The Nov. 29, 2008 incident was captured on surveillance video. Calhoun was a car theft suspect who was taken down violently after she kicked a shoe at Schene.

"Obviously, the first time seeing that," said one female juror who asked not to be named, "It's dramatic. It's unsettling. But during the trial, we tried very hard to take our emotions out of it."

Schene testified at both trials. He says he was following training to subdue the girl. On Tuesday jurors reviewed the footage of the attack for the first time in court.

Just after noon on Thursday, the jury came back, deadlocked 11-to-1 in favor of acquittal. That's a complete reversal from the first trial in January, in which the jury voted 11-to-1 in favor of conviction.

"It's 50-50," said Ernsdorff. "At this point we have 12 jurors saying it's criminal conduct, and 12 jurors saying we haven't proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that says more about how difficult it is to convict a police officer given the nature of their duties and what we ask of them to perform every day."

"After the evidence and the testimonies were given, it was clear there were rights and wrongs on both sides," said the female juror. "This wasn't a black and white [situation], this was a complicated dynamic."

The jurors we spoke to say most of the jury felt Schene's level of response was appropriate after Calhoun kicked the shoe at him. They also noted that the girl had no long-term injuries, indicating that Schene showed restraint.

"I take away that it's a very tough job being a cop," said a male juror who also asked to remain anonymous. "You have to make split-second decisions regarding the use of force."

King County prosecutors will spend the next two weeks reviewing the case to determine whether to try Schene again.

Schene faced up to a year in prison if found guilty.

He was fired for excessive force last September following an internal investigation.

Schene's attorney Peter Offenbecher said Schene was "relieved that at least 11 jurors believed he was innocent.  He always felt that he used reasonable force."

"I think perhaps the jury understood better, perhaps I did a better job of explaining than I did the first time," he added.

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