Mistrial declared in former sheriff's deputy assault trial


by KING 5 Staff and KING5.com


Posted on January 22, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 22 at 6:29 PM

SEATTLE -  A mistrial has been declared in the trial of Paul Schene, a former King County sheriff's deputy accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl, after jurors said they were unable to reach a verdict.

The 12-member jury had been deliberating since Wednesday afternoon.

Former deputy Paul Schene displayed no visible reaction as the judge declared the mistrial Friday. Prosecutors quickly announced that they will retry the case.

Schene, 32, is on trial for the Nov. 29, 2008, videotaped beating of 15-year-old Malika Calhoun inside a Sea-Tac jail holding cell. The girl was a car theft suspect who was taken down violently after she kicked a shoe at Schene. The incident was caught on video. That video led to an internal investigation and Schene's firing last September.

Paul Schene, 32, was charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor. If convicted, he could face a year in prison.

During the trial, prosecutors played the tape in court.  In his closing argument Wednesday, Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff said Schene used unreasonable force when he kicked, grabbed and twice punched the girl.

Defense lawyer Peter Offenbecher told jurors that Schene had acted lawfully. Schene claimed he was following police academy taught techniques when he used a "hair hold" and punched and kicked Calhoun. The former deputy says felt he was in danger after Calhoun kicked a shoe at him striking him in the leg.

Just a few short hours after jury deliberations began Thursday, the presiding juror sent a letter to Judge Michael Fox asking that one juror be dismissed because the foreperson felt the juror could not be impartial.

A portion of the letter was read in open court just one day after deliberations began in the 4th degree assault case.  Judge Fox read one sentence which accused one juror of lying on a jury questionnaire and stating in capital letters "she has a 15-year-old daughter." The alleged victim in the case, Calhoun,  was 15 at the time of the videotaped beating.

Both the prosecution and defense asked for the juror to be dismissed. Judge Fox denied the request, saying he felt the letter did not state enough evidence to dismiss a juror. The defense then immediately asked for a mistrial, but Fox denied the request and said the foreperson letter would be part of the record.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.