On June 21, 1980, a young couple was killed in Donald Paradis’s home in Spokane, Washington. Paradis was the leader of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang, and the couple -- Kimberly Anne Palmer and Scott Currier -- went to his house to confront the group about guns that had been stolen from their motel room. In the dispute, Palmer was strangled, and Currier was beaten to death.
Paradis was not at home when the murders occurred, but when he returned, he helped dispose of the bodies, wrapping them in sleeping bags and dumping them across the state line in Post Falls, Idaho. Several eyewitnesses claimed to have seen him in the place where the bodies were found. He was arrested and tried for Currier’s murder in Washington, but acquitted. He was then tried in Idaho for Palmer’s murder; the prosecution based its case on testimony from Dr. William Brady, the medical examiner who had performed the autopsy on Palmer. Dr. Brady claimed that fluid found in Palmer’s lungs indicated she had in fact been killed in Idaho. Paradis’s attorney had never studied criminal law, and had never tried a felony case or a case before a jury, but he also worked as a police officer in the same town in which Paradis was tried. Paradis was found guilty and sentenced to death on December 10, 1981.
In the years that followed, two private pro bono attorneys who took on the case found that prosecutors had withheld notes from the autopsy that contradicted statements made by Dr. Brady at trial. Dr. Brady was later dismissed from his position because of various instances of misconduct.
Based on this new evidence, Paradis’s attorneys filed numerous appeals, but were repeatedly denied relief. In 1996, after a wave of publicity surrounding the legality of Paradis’s death sentence, Idaho Governor Phil Batt commuted the sentence to life in prison. In 2001, after twenty years on death row, Paradis’s conviction was vacated when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s grant of habeas corpus. Paradis pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact, because he had helped move the body, and was sentenced to time already served. He was released on April 10, 2001. He was later awarded $900,000 in a settlement with Kootenai County.
- Alexandra Gross