Spencer's lawyer asking judge to order county to pay award

Wrongfully imprisoned man won $9 million verdict

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Clyde Ray Spencer's attorney said Monday she's preparing a writ of execution on the $9 million verdict Clark County commissioners have said they won't pay.

By filing a writ of execution, she'll be asking U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle to order Clark County to pay the judgment, which was awarded to Spencer by a jury that determined his constitutional right to due process was violated because a Clark County detective fabricated evidence, leading to wrongful convictions for sexually abusing his two children and a stepson.

The jury also found the detective's supervisor, who had an affair with Spencer's wife, liable in its Feb. 3 verdict in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Spencer, 66, served 20 years in prison.

On Feb. 12, Commissioners Tom Mielke, David Madore and Steve Stuart voted unanimously to not indemnify former Clark County Sheriff's Detective Sharon Krause and Sgt. Mike Davidson.

The county spent nearly $500,000 defending Krause and Davidson, but commissioners believe they don't have to pay the judgment, claiming Krause was acting outside the scope of her duties as a county employee when she was fabricating evidence.

Chris Horne, the county's chief civil deputy prosecutor, said he notified attorneys paid to represent Krause and Davidson of the commissioners' decision to not indemnify the former employees.

Kathleen Zellner, Spencer's Chicago-based civil rights attorney, said Monday through a statement from her office she's confident Clark County will have to pay the $9 million judgment plus interest.

The interest, set by federal statute, is accruing at approximately $2,700 a day, Zellner said during a Feb. 13 interview with KOMO news in Seattle.

"My reaction is, it's just another blunder on the part of Clark County," Zellner said during the KOMO interview. "They are going to end up paying this."

She said these cases have happened all over the country.

"Counties don't just get to say, 'Whoops, we don't have to cover that,'" she said. "They hire these people, they train them." During Spencer's federal trial, the defendants called other county employees to testify to the fine quality of Krause's work, she noted.

"Everybody would like to just be able to walk away from a $9 million verdict, but it doesn't work that way," Zellner said, adding the county commissioners have "really shut the door on the ability to negotiate with us, because they are acting in bad faith."

When asked by a KOMO reporter whether she's had a case where the losing side refused to pay, she said no. "Because I think the more progressive counties in the country realize that the case law is totally against that position," Zellner said. "I'm assuming that these commissioners think this is some novel approach, but it's not."

In 1985, Spencer, who had been a motorcycle officer with the Vancouver Police Department, entered an Alford plea. That's treated as a guilty plea but allows the defendant to acknowledge a jury could find him guilty while maintaining innocence. He was sentenced to two life sentences plus 14 years.

Gov. Gary Locke commuted his sentence in 2004, citing numerous flaws in the investigation. Spencer's convictions were subsequently thrown out, and the charges were dismissed.

All of those flaws were scrutinized during the 13-day trial. A jury of four men and four women heard testimony from 25 witnesses, and unanimously concluded Spencer's constitutional right to due process was violated by Krause and Davidson.

Krause lives in Arizona, while Davidson lives in Central Oregon.

The county paid $495,050 for legal counsel for Krause and Davidson and all related outside costs for the Spencer case, such as transcription, travel and expert witness fees.

The county provided a spreadsheet showing the expenditures in response to a public records request from The Columbian.

Approximately $275,000 was paid to the Olympia firm of Law, Lyman, Daniel, Kamerrer & Bogdanovich; Guy Bogdanovich represented Krause.

Another $142,000 was paid to the Olympia firm of Freimund, Jackson, & Tardif; Jeffrey Freimund represented Davidson.

Last year, the county paid $5.25 million apiece to two men who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of rape. The county took out a loan to pay the settlement after its insurance claim was rejected because the county didn't have insurance in 1993, when the men were convicted.

Likewise, if the county does have to pay in Spencer's case, it will not be covered by insurance.