Spokane man receives new trial - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Spokane man receives new trial

Idaho appeals court overturns man's extortion conviction

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Posted: Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:00 am

A Spokane man's felony conviction in Kootenai County has been vacated and he has been granted a new trial, according to a decision filed Friday by the Idaho Court of Appeals.

Joshua M. Moses, 30, was convicted of grand theft by extortion at the conclusion of a jury trial in 1st District Court in March 2011.

In July 2010, he initially was charged with theft by extortion along with the kidnapping in Post Falls of a man named Joshua M. Branam.

In his appeal, Moses said the 1st District Court judge made a mistake by denying his defense lawyer's mid-trial request to question a juror. That juror informed the court he was suffering from anxiety and might be unable to continue his service.

"We conclude that the district court erred by denying the request, and because we cannot say that the error was harmless, the conviction must be reversed," the appeals court wrote in its opinion.

It added, "Defense counsel aptly argued that if the juror was 'under an anxiety attack in the courtroom, he may not be hearing the testimony' and that more information was needed 'to make sure that that's not something that is gonna prevent him from listening to every bit of the testimony.'"

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, whose office handled the trial, declined to comment on the overturned conviction.

Witnesses at trial testified that Moses got $2,500 in cash from Branam's brother-in-law in a Walmart parking lot on July 24, 2010, to secure Branam's safe release from the kidnapping.

The brother-in-law learned in phone calls that Branam owed somebody money and would be killed if the debt wasn't paid. Branam didn't testify in person at Moses' trial because he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify, but his preliminary hearing testimony was read into the record.

Moses' defense lawyers at trial said Moses was a pawn who was picking up money for Branam, who concocted the scheme to extort money from his brother-in-law.

According to the testimony, after the money was paid, Moses led the brother-in-law to Branam, who was at a trailer park with multiple facial wounds.

The brother-in-law took Branam home and then went to the police.

Post Falls police and SWAT team members surrounded a house at 204 W. 17th Ave. in Post Falls, believing Moses was there and armed. It turned out he wasn't inside, but Moses was arrested hours later after a foot pursuit along the banks of the Spokane River.

The kidnapping charge was later dropped.

Moses has been on supervised probation.

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