Everett may face civil suit in killing of Niles Meservey
A verdict in police officer Troy Meade’s trial could influence a $15 million claim against the city.
Meade is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the June 10 shooting death of Niles Meservey behind the Chuckwagon Inn.
The jury began deliberations Friday and is expected to resume this morning.
Outside the criminal case, a civil claim has been filed for up to $15 million against the city of Everett by Meservey’s daughter, Tanda Louden.
Paul Luvera, a Seattle trial attorney representing Meservey’s family, declined to discuss the case Friday.
City officials also wouldn’t talk about either the civil or criminal case, or how they’ll deal with Meade after his criminal trial.
“The city is not able to provide additional information,” Everett city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.
The case has generated controversy. It’s the first time a police officer in Snohomish County has been charged with murder.
Midway through the trial, Lou Peterson, an attorney representing the city of Everett, sent an e-mail to lawyers on both sides of the criminal case. The documents raised questions about the credibility of a key prosecution witness.
The e-mail raised doubts about previous testimony Everett police officer Steve Klocker gave in unrelated Everett Municipal Court cases.
Klocker was with Meade and saw him shoot Meservey. He told jurors that he believed Meade had alternatives to using a handgun to prevent Meservey from driving away.
Meade’s defense attorney, David Allen on Friday told the court he had decided against pursuing the allegations regarding Klocker.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock on Friday said that he had investigated, speaking with Everett city prosecutors. He said there was a misunderstanding and confusion about the municipal court proceedings and the records.
In an e-mail to lawyers, Peterson said he sent the records discussing Klocker out of an abundance of caution.
Jurors were not told about the records or their contents.
Allen could have had firm grounds to argue that his client was prejudiced by not knowing about the concerns, said Ronald Sullivan, a professor at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., and the director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute.
Raising the issue mid-trial could have laid the ground work for an appeal if the jury returns a guilty verdict, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he wasn’t surprised Everett’s civil lawyers passed along their concerns.
He said it’s the job of a civil attorney to limit his client’s liability. and one way to do that is to ensure that there are no issues that people could complain about later.
“It’s probably as simple as that,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t want anything to come back later.”
At the same time, Sullivan said he’s never heard of a court proceeding where a civil attorney passed along information to both parties.
“Stranger things happen in courts,” he said.
It’s better for any questions about a witness’s credibility be presented during the trial than after, said Charles Weisselberg, a professor of law at University of California, Berkeley.
Hadar Aviram, an associate professor at University of California Hastings in San Francisco, said it used to be highly unusual for police officers to testify against one another.
Police used to adhere to a strong so-called “Blue Code of Silence,” she said.
“The bond is beginning to loosen a little bit,” Aviram said.
She also discussed the impact of a criminal case on a related civil case.
Attorneys in the civil case against Everett likely watched the criminal case carefully, she said.
The murder trial of O.J. Simpson is a good example of what can happen in a civil court, even if a defendant is acquitted of criminal charges, Aviram said.
“Conviction is more valuable,” she said. “An acquittal could go both ways in a civil lawsuit.”
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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