State covered up trooper's 'negligent' handling of bomb in Woodburn bank, defense attorney claims
Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 9:20 PM
SALEM -- Defense attorneys for Joshua Turnidge on Tuesday accused the state of participating in a "cover-up" to hide Oregon State Police Senior Trooper William Hakim's alleged negligence in handling the bomb that killed him and another police officer.
Defense lawyer Steven Gorham said he believes state attorneys may have provided "criminal and fraudulent" advice to Oregon State Police and the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
OSHA, based on that advice, "basically delayed and white-washed their report" into the December 2008 bombing at a Woodburn West Coast Bank, Gorham said. OSHA, which is responsible for investigating workplace fatalities, released a report in June 2009 that issued no citations.
Gorham made the allegations as part of a request to force a state assistant attorney general to testify in the aggravated murder trials of Turnidge and his father, Bruce Turnidge. He also sought release of an e-mail including advice from another state lawyer to OSHA.
The information, Gorham argued, would provide circumstantial proof of Hakim's negligence. That could be a factor in acquitting Joshua Turnidge or finding him guilty of a lesser charge, he said.
The son and father are charged with planting the bomb outside the bank as part of a failed robbery plot. The bomb detonated when Hakim, mistakenly believing it was a hoax device, tried to dismantle it. The explosion killed another police officer and maimed a third. A bank employee, who was also wounded in the blast, has testified that Hakim, a bomb technician, was banging on the device and trying to pry open the top with a crowbar when it exploded.
Gorham and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Castle made their arguments in front of Marion County Circuit Judge Thomas Hart, but out of earshot of the jury in the death-penalty case.
Hart denied Gorham's request, saying that information about what happened in the weeks after the blast aren't relevant to the case. He said he would allow other evidence found in Hakim's vehicle and in his pockets, which Gorham said will also show Hakim's negligence.
Prosecutors in opening statements have maintained that Hakim had no role in causing the bomb to go off, saying they believe a trucker using a CB radio may have inadvertently set off the homemade bomb, encased in a green metal box.
Gorham said the state is covering up negligence in part because of its potential liability if the survivors or the family of the police officers decided to sue.
OSHA spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros declined to address the allegations of a white-washed report, saying "what we did speaks for itself."
The report offers little scrutiny of Hakim's actions in handling the bomb. Witnesses interviewed as part of the homicide investigation "were unavailable" to OSHA, the report said.
The "findings and justifications" section of the report discusses reviewing standard operating procedures for the arson/
explosives unit and a conclusion that Oregon State Police procedures were in compliance at the time of the OHSA inquiry.
The report does note that state police have since changed their procedure to require two bomb technicians to respond to requests for help, instead of allowing just one.
A passage in the report indicates that the OSHA investigation drew the attention of the Marion County District Attorney's Office.
Starting in late January 2009, OSHA investigators tried to set up a meeting with a state police sergeant and others. A handwritten note the next month by the OSHA investigator indicates state police told him that Deputy District Attorney Courtland Geyer was "concerned" about the information the investigator was seeking and that Geyer would want to see a list of questions or meet with OSHA to discuss details.
In other trial action Tuesday, Joshua Turnidge's attorneys asked the court to require his mother, Janet, to testify. Janet Turnidge said she wanted to invoke the privilege that allows spouses to avoid testifying against each other.
But Steven Krasik, an attorney for Joshua Turnidge, noted that the judge has refused to separate the two defendants' trials and argued that it hurts his client's defense not to be able to call his mother as a witness. The judge said he will consider the request and rule in the coming days.
The joint trials are on hold for the next week and a half. Prosecutors have called about 140 witnesses -- nearly everyone on their witness list -- but are awaiting two people who are out of the country. Testimony will resume on Nov. 8.
http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-north ... laims.html
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