Convicted murderer Thomas denied new trial; appeal likely

Joseph Thomas

A judge has denied a new trial for the former Nez Perce County sheriff’s deputy convicted of strangling his ex-wife to death in Lewiston.

2nd District Judge Michael Griffin on Wednesday also denied a request by the attorney for Joseph Thomas to withdraw from the case.

The 38-year-old Thomas was found guilty in December of first-degree murder in the death of his former wife, 28-year-old Beth Irby-Thomas. Thomas is to be sentenced March 2.

Irby-Thomas was found at her Normal Hill home May 1 with a belt wrapped tightly around her neck. During trial, prosecutors argued Thomas killed his ex-wife, while he claimed she died accidentally while practicing autoerotic asphyxiation.

Defense attorney Paul Thomas Clark claims Thomas was deprived of a fair trial for reasons that included the judge’s order limiting references to the sexual behavior, and a denial of a request to have a psychologist examine Thomas for post traumatic stress disorder, which Clark says may have contributed to his actions.

However, Griffin ruled none of the arguments would produce any new evidence that would likely warrant acquittal. Clark says Thomas will appeal Wednesday’s ruling.

Meanwhile, Clark filed a motion to withdraw as Thomas’ attorney, citing Thomas’ family’s inability to pay for the trial. Griffin ruled that Clark should remain on the case, at least through sentencing.

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