All Portland wants is a fair fight in Chasse case

Editorial column by Steve Duin, The Oregonian, January 18, 2010

Forty months, or 1,220 days, have been insufficient to produce a single minute of discipline for Chris Humphreys and the other Portland police officers who were on hand when the 145-pound James Chasse was taken down in the Pearl and, somehow, died.

Yes, I know: Humphreys admitted tackling Chasse, breaking 16 of his ribs, and the poor guy died of blunt-force trauma while in police custody. But I’d hate to add to what deputy city attorney James Rice calls the “overwhelming, inflammatory, negative and pervasive” media coverage of the case.

That coverage has so tainted the jury pool, Rice insists, that his clients in the civil case can’t possibly geta fair trial in Oregon. Those clients include Humphreys and Officer Kyle Nice, police Chief Rosie Sizer, former Mayor Tom Potter and the city.

In his 16-page request for a change of venue, Rice condemns the “pervasive, prejudicial publicity that has saturated Portland for the last three years,” or as long as it took Sizer and the cops to complete their internal inquiry.

He cites the “attacks on the credibility” of police officers in random letters to the editor as undermining the ability of potential jurors “to consider them as honest, trustworthy witnesses at trial.”

He cites a documentary on Chasse’s death, “Alien Boy,” as possibly adding “another layer of sensationalism that would inhibit a fair trial.”

“How strange,” the film’s director, Brian Lindstrom observed last week in a guest column for The Stump, The Oregonian’s online opinion site, “that the city cited my film as one cause for potential jurors in a civil trial to be adversely prejudiced against the Portland police when the film has yet to be completed, yet alone screened.”

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