Man guilty in Spokane reservation killing, innocent on gun charge

Spokane, Washington (AP) 2-08

A man has been convicted of first-degree murder and burglary in a shooting on the Spokane Indian Reservation, but was found innocent of using a firearm in a crime of violence.

The mixed verdict was handed down in early Febuary in the case of Norman “Griz” Ford Jr., 31, of Wellpinit, following a two-week trial and more than a week of deliberations in which U.S. District Judge Edward F. Shea issued four changes in jury instructions in response to questions from the panel.

The case stems from the shooting of Gary Flett Jr., 20, on June of 2006, and was heard in federal court because the killing occurred on the reservation, about 30 miles northwest of Spokane.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared C. Kimball said he was pleased with the verdict and would not comment on the changes in jury instructions, which dealt with the issue of intent.

Initially, Shea told jurors they did not have to find that that the killing was premeditated to find Ford guilty of first-degree murder.

After four days of deliberations, the judge sent an instruction that if the panel found that the killing occurred during a burglary that Ford “knowingly and intentionally committed,” he could also be convicted of first-degree murder.

In a later revision, the judge wrote, “It is not necessary for the government to prove that defendant had any premeditated design or intent to kill the victim or that he shot or killed the victim.”

Defense lawyer Mark E. Vovos, whose motion to dismiss the murder charge was rejected during the trial, said he was “very disappointed” by the verdict.

“We’re going to file other motions,” Vovos said, without elaborating. The defense could ask the judge to set aside the verdict.

Sentencing was set for a mid May date.

Ford admitted he kicked open the door to Flett’s house but testified that all the shooting was done by Joey Jake Moses, 24, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in an agreement with the government to avoid the possibility of a life prison term.

Moses testified that he fired the first shots but then handed the 9mm semiautomatic handgun to Ford. He said Ford then fired additional rounds.

Ford told the jury he went to Flett’s home only to confront him about rumors that Flett was having sex with Ford’s girlfriend.

“I really have questions how they found him not guilty of the firearms, but convicted him on the murder charge,” said Ford’s father, Norman “Tinker” Ford Sr. of Wellpinit, outside the courtroom. “It doesn’t make any sense.”