UPDATE | Judge grants hearing in city’s request for new trial in Ostling shooting

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing on the city of Bainbridge Island’s request for a new trial in the Ostling shooting case.

The city’s legal team asked for a new trial and a stay of the judgement in the civil rights lawsuit after a jury awarded the Ostling family $1 million in damages in June.

The Ostlings had filed a lawsuit against the city last year, prompted by the October 2010 police shooting of Douglas Ostling. Ostling was shot by police after he confronted officers with a double-bladed ax after they came to his family’s home to investigate a 911 call.

The jury decision said the Bainbridge Island Police Department had not adequately trained its officers and the Ostling family’s civil rights had been violated because the killing had severed the relationship between Ostling and his parents.

Judge Ronald B. Leighton has set a hearing date of Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Tacoma.

Stewart Estes, the lead attorney defending the city against the Ostling lawsuit, said the decision was flawed for two major reasons. The jury was given faulty instructions on how to reach a decision, and Estes also noted that Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Fehlman was not able to defend himself during the trial due to health reasons.

Fehlman, who was named in the lawsuit, did not appear in court during the 11-day trial, and was hospitalized with pancreatitis just before the trial began.

“He wasn’t able to attend his own trial,” Estes said.

Estes said the judge’s call for a hearing was not uncommon.

“It’s not unusual for him to want to hear argument on it, get some things clarified maybe,” he said.

“I don’t want to read too much into it. It certainly is a better event than having the motions denied,” Estes added.

“We feel good about our position and hopefully it will carry the day,” he said.

Attorneys for the Ostling family have previously told the court that a new trial was not needed, and that attorneys for the city of Bainbridge Island wanted “a second bite at the apple.”

Nathan Roberts, lead attorney for the Ostling family, noted that oral arguments were a fairly routine occurrence, and that in Pierce County Superior Court, for example, the judge holds a hearing on every motion.

“We are looking forward to again discussing the case with Judge Leighton,” Roberts said.

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