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Old 10-30-2004, 12:04 PM
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Default Board won't free killer grandmother

Board won't free killer grandmother

JoAnn Peterson was found guilty of slaying of son-in-law in Valley

Richard Roesler
Staff writer
October 30, 2004

OLYMPIA – The state clemency board on Friday unanimously rejected family members' pleas to release from prison JoAnn Peterson, a North Idaho woman convicted four years ago of the execution-style slaying of her son-in-law.

"Part of this is about trying to restore the fragments of a family that's just been decimated," said Peterson's daughter, Orinne Goldberg.

Thirteen years ago, Orinne and her husband, Peter Zeihen, were in the midst of a divorce. He was fighting for custody of their daughter, a toddler.

On Nov. 18, 1991, as Zeihen backed his car into a parking spot at his girl-friend's Spokane Valley apartment, he was ambushed by Peterson and her ex-husband, Morris Goldberg. According to a report to the clemency board by detective Mark Henderson, Goldberg used his car to block in Zeihen. Peterson, disguised as a man, then shot Zeihen in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun. He died instantly, still wearing his seat belt and with his foot on the brake.
Years later, a family member told police what had happened. Peterson and Goldberg were sentenced in separate trials in 2000. He's serving a 26½-year sentence; she's serving 25 years.

On Friday, family and friends of Peterson's asked the board to recommend that Gov. Gary Locke grant her a pardon or clemency.

"My entire family has repented and apologized to the Zeihen family," Orinne Goldberg told the board. "I hope at some point in time they can accept our apologies." Her mother, she said, "has accepted responsibility for her behavior."

Less than a minute later, Orinne Goldberg claimed that Zeihen was killed because he had been molesting their toddler daughter.

"What happened, I just hate to say this because it's so heavily denied and it's a controversial subject in the Spokane area, was because of the abuse that is evident in the reports that I've given to you," Goldberg told board members. That's a mitigating factor, she said, that wasn't allowed to be considered in court.

The molestation claim, however, was investigated and rejected by child welfare officials and sheriff's detectives. In his letter to the board, Henderson said that at least one witness overheard Peterson and Orinne Goldberg "conspiring to falsely accuse Peter Zeihen of molesting his daughter...An exhaustive investigation led to the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence to support that allegation."

"They made up the lie and you have to keep the lie alive to keep justifying the actions you've taken," said Zeihen's sister, Diane, who watched from the back of the room.

Clemency board member Raul Almeida, the police chief in the Yakima County town of Mabton, asked about a report that JoAnn Peterson, when arrested, owned an illegal machine gun.

Not true, said Orinne Goldberg. The gun was a MAC-10, which Goldberg described as "just a little handgun." She said the gun had a trigger defect that sometimes caused it to spit out multiple rounds from a single trigger squeeze.

Her daughter, now almost 16 years old, also spoke to the board. She didn't mention any abuse, but said that she missed her grandmother. Family members and longtime friends also urged the board to let JoAnn Peterson out of prison, or at least shorten her sentence.

"She will almost certainly perish in prison if she has to serve the full sentence," said her brother, Pete Peterson. "My sister is not a danger to society, and you can bet your life on that."

Zeihen's parents, Frank and Jewel Zeihen, were also at the hearing. They were ready to testify, but didn't need to. With little discussion, the board rejected any clemency for JoAnn Peterson.

"My son Peter would not want this monster out of prison," Frank Zeihen said afterward. "Let her die there. She cannot contribute anything to society except hate and murder.

"She should get out of prison," he said, "about the time our son gets out of his grave."

Also appealing for pardons Friday were:

--
Dr. S. Mohammad Marashi, a former pediatrician and Spokane County Health officer who was convicted in 1988 of three counts of attempted federal tax evasion. The key witness in the case was his former wife, Sharon Marashi Smith, who went to IRS investigators in the middle of a high-profile divorce. Marashi was sentenced in 1989 to six months of work-release. He was also jailed in 1985 for allegedly sending $105,000 to Iran in violation of a court order that was part of the divorce. He petitioned for bankruptcy in Spokane, with unspecified debts, just before Christmas 1996.

Asked by a board member if he'd paid all his restitution, Marashi said he still owes the government $285,000.

"I have not worked since 1998 because I have been sick with congestive heart failure," he said. "I'm basically on Social Security. ... I regret what happened close to 20 years ago."

But there wasn't much the state Clemency and Pardons Board could do, since it's a federal case. After a quick consultation, they unanimously voted to do what they could: restore his civil rights, such as voting. Marashi thanked them, and bowed slightly.

--
Jeffrey Johnston, a former Washington State University freshman who served 30 days in work-release in 1998 for selling marijuana. When arrested, police found $1,100 in cash, a scale, marijuana and hashish. Johnston went on to get his degree in computer work, but found it extremely difficult to get a good job with a felony conviction.

He told the board that he now wants to join the Navy, but that the felony conviction bars him from serving.

Johnston later got in trouble for underage drinking and for throwing traffic cones into the street in Pullman. A roommate was busted for growing two pot plants, something that Johnston told the board he knew nothing about.

The board narrowly voted, 3-2, to recommend that the governor pardon Johnson, but only if he provides a letter saying the Navy will accept him. Locke will make the final decision before leaving office at the end of this year.


Article found here: http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=35066
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