Washington state man who created ricin appeals sentencing

Kenneth Olsen, a Washington state man sentenced to 13 years in prison for plotting to poison his wife in with ricin in 2003, has asked for his conviction to be thrown out following the disgrace of a prosecution witness.

Olsen was sentenced under the 1989 U.S. Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act following allegations by federal prosecutors that claimed Olsen produced ricin from castor beans after studying biotoxins.

Olsen's attorneys claimed that he meant no harm and his wife agreed.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case, has previously supported the conviction by the federal jury but cut Olsen's sentence from 23 years to 13.

Olsen's current appeal contends that the expert testimony of then-Washington State Patrol crime lab head Arnold Melnikoff, who the prosecutors relied on for expert testimony, had given expert testimony by the time of Olsen's trial in another case based on questionable science.

The conviction in that case - a Montana rape trial - was thrown out because of Melnikoff's testimony.

Olsen argues that not only were his trial lawyers not adequately briefed on inquiries into Melnikoff's professional conduct but also that one juror at trial believed Olsen to be guilty prior to the beginning of the trial.

Prosecutors have until December 11 to reply to appeal with a hearing scheduled for January 29.