Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KPLU since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KPLU, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KPLU: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

Ways To Connect

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

More information has been made public about the mindset of the killer in the days leading up to last year’s deadly shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Five people died, including the shooter, on October 24, 2014. One student was seriously wounded.  All were friends of the killer, Jaylen Fryberg.

In response to public records requests, investigators have released  1400 pages of the police investigation, conducted by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team. The documents detail the chilling messages Jaylen Fryberg sent to his family and friends shortly before pulling out a gun in the school cafeteria.

Paula Wissel

Could Marysville-Pilchuck High School have done more to prevent the deadly shooting there last year? The attorney representing the victim's families says it's possible. 

Brian Cox / City of Tacoma

The City of Tacoma has launched a program to improve the relationship between police and the community. Project Peace will involve a series of meetings to be held over the next several months. The plan is that, with the help of facilitators, people will sit down with police and brainstorm how best to improve trust.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

Gun rights organizations, including the National Rifle Association, are suing the city of Seattle over its new tax on guns and ammo. The tax amounts to $25 for each firearm sold in the city, plus 5 cents for every round of ammunition. The groups say the tax violates Washington state law.

Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment foundation is one of the groups suing. Spokesman Dave Workman says the problem with Seattle’s tax on ammunition and guns is it violates Washington’s preemption law.

Paula Wissel

Some of those giant ads on buildings in downtown Seattle may be coming down. The city sued outdoor advertising company, Total Outdoor,  charging it with violating the city’s sign ordinance.

Now, a settlement has been reached.

Seattle’s sign ordinance is a decade old and is meant to help beautify the city by limiting billboards. The city contended Total Outdoor defied the law by marketing space on the sides of buildings to corporate clients, such as Apple and T-Mobile.

Her husband was murdered. Now, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, the killer is suing her from prison for causing him emotional distress. The lawsuit of Washington Department of Corrections inmate Larry Shandola against Paula Henry goes to court in Tacoma on Friday.

Paula Wissel

Seattle wants to shut down all of the hookah lounges in the city because of ongoing violence near the clubs. The most recent example was the murder of Donnie Chin, a well-liked community figure in Seattle’s International District. But, club owners say it’s unfair to punish them for what happens outside their establishments.

Paula Wissel

Seattle is making it easier to track development projects in the booming city. An interactive online map on the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) website lets users click on any current permitted building project. There are more than 100 in just the downtown area.

A click on one of the blue dots brings up every document tied to a particular project, from the mitigation being done for building on a steep slope to the construction timeline to architectural renderings.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU

Seattle, Tacoma and Everett have activated their water shortage response plans. The hot, dry weather has increased demand for water just as river levels are at historic lows. Seattle Public Utilities, Tacoma Public Utilities and the city of Everett issued a joint  release announcing the implementation of the first stage of the response plans.

Paula Wissel

Seattle’s Central District has long been the hub of the city’s African American community -- in part because until the late 1960’s, racist housing covenants and redlining prevented most blacks from living elsewhere in the city.

Even after fair housing laws were passed, the area continued to have the largest percentage of African Americans. Now, long-time residents say they are being forced out by gentrification. And they worry about what is being lost. 

Mike McKenney

Imagine spending a year getting ready to open a new business only watch the business become illegal at the eleventh hour.

That’s the case for Seattle pot entrepreneur Mike McKenney.

McKenney had everything in place for his private cannabis club, including warehouse space in Seattle’s SODO district. He’d decided that the club, to be called ZERO, would be solely for marijuana use.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gun shop owners in Seattle say a proposed tax on sales could force them to move or go out of business. The Seattle City Council is considering placing a $25 tax on every gun sold and a 5-cent tax on every round of ammunition purchased in the city.

The money from the guns and ammo tax would be used to pay for gun violence research and prevention, which would be conducted at Harborview Medical Center. 

City officials estimate the new tax would collect between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. But, at a city council hearing, bun shop customer Ken Stok, said the measure is unlikely to bring in much money at all.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

There won’t be private cannabis clubs in Washington anytime soon. State lawmakers outlawed the establishment of such clubs, places where people could go to legally use marijuana. The ban caught legal pot advocates by surprise.

In the waning days of the Washington legislative session,  an amendment  banning cannabis clubs was added to a bill, House Bill 2136, meant to tweak the laws regarding the state’s fledgling legal marijuana industry.

Among other things, House Bill 2136 simplified taxes on marijuana, moving to a single point of sale tax, and loosened the restrictions on the location of pot businesses.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he will contribute $30 million toward a nationwide program to hire low income 16-to-24-year olds. 

Paula Wissel

One year ago, Cannabis City owner James Lathrop stood outside his Seattle store, one of the first to sell legal recreational marijuana in Washington, and declared “free the weed.”

A year later, he says his pot business has had its highs and lows.

John Froschauer / AP Photo

It’s illegal to set off fireworks in Tacoma, Seattle and most other cities in the region. But, every 4th of July, so many people ignore the law there’s little police can do. They say calling 911 about violations just overwhelms the emergency system.

Paula Wissel

The state is cracking down on handicapped parking abuse. Beginning tomorrow, July 1st, you’ll need a doctor’s prescription in order to get a disabled parking placard. It was rampant misuse and abuse of disabled parking permits that prompted the Washington state legislature to act.

In Seattle, a 2013 auditor’s report showed a loss of $1.4 million a year in parking meter fees due to people cheating the system.

Under the new state law, according to Department of Licensing spokesman David Bennett, penalties for cheating are tougher. 

“Illegally obtaining  or selling a special parking placard is now a gross misdemeanor instead of an infraction,” Bennett said.

Meaning, you could face criminal charges and a fine of $250 dollars.

Paula Wissel

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says the solution to disjointed planning in Seattle is to create a new city office to deal with the city's booming growth.  At a news conference, Murray signed an executive order creating a new Office of Planning and Community Development.

WA State Dept. of Corrections

A federal court said it’s OK for Washington state to require that only women be allowed to guard female prisoners in certain situations. Male correctional officers had sued the state saying denying them access to those jobs was a violation of their civil rights.

This story began back in 2007 when women prisoners at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair sued the Washington Department of Corrections alleging a pattern of sexual abuse by male correctional officers. 

Team Totem

A long-lost treasure of Tacoma’s past will come bursting to life on the big screen this fall, if enough money can be raised to make it happen.

The silent film, “The Eyes of the Totem,” made in Tacoma between 1925 and 1928, was recently found. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to bring the film, complete with newly composed music, to Tacoma’s Rialto Theater on September 18.

AP Images

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has launched a criminal investigation into state auditor Troy Kelley. Kelley is already under a federal indictment for tax evasion and fraudulent practices related to his former real estate business.

Now, the state is looking into his hiring practices in the auditor’s office.  The state is investigating Kelley's hiring and employment of Jason JeRue, a long time business associate.

Paula Wissel

They arrive at nearly every city or county council meeting. The regulars. The gadflies. The people who, no matter the topic, seize the microphone during the public comment period and say things like:

“You’re all criminals,” or “ I’m looking at you being an extraordinary, abusive, pathological liar,” or “I would think that this council would have some pretty high priced heads on spikes when all this clears.”

And so on.

While a member of the public has a right right to say such things – off-topic, on-point, sometimes insulting – that right isn’t unlimited.  In the interest of civility, some local governments have been tightening the rules for public comment speakers.

It becomes a balancing act between protecting people’s free speech rights and moving a meeting along.   

Matthew Brown/AP Photo

BNSF Railway and oil refineries in Washington are teaming up to better respond to accidents.  The railroad and BP Cherry Point, Phillips 66, Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Companies and U.S. Oil Refining Company have all signed the agreement.

But, environmentalists say it doesn't address safety problems with oil trains.

John Froschauer / PLU

The Pacific Northwest has deep Norwegian roots and nowhere was that more evident than at Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday.

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came for a visit to the school that was founded 125 years ago by Norwegian immigrants. The King was in the Northwest to speak at PLU's Commencement ceremony in the Tacoma Dome, but made a quick trip to the university first, where he was welcomed by hundreds of students and and  other well wishers from around the region.

LISTEN: A sound portrait of HM King Harald V's visit:


Paula Wissel

In addition to a book or movie, you can now take Internet access home from the Seattle Public Library.

The library has started checking out 150 mobile Wi-Fi devices. The SPL HotSpot devices will connect to borrowers laptops, tablets or smart phones and provide free Internet access anywhere 4G LTE or 3G service is available. The mobile online access will be limited to 90 minutes daily.

King County Sheriff's Department

Who speaks for the murder victim when there’s no family left to tell their story?  That's a question the Washington state legislature is considering.

A bill in the legislature, Senate Bill 6099, would make it possible for law enforcement officers to be appointed to speak on behalf of deceased victims.

The impetus is a 38 year old murder case and a  Washington Supreme Court ruling that came down in 2010.

CSL Plasma Kent Facebook page

A blood plasma bank in Kent, Washington is being sued by a transgender woman who was barred from donating because of her sexual identity. The lawsuit targets CSL Plasma Inc., a profit making company based in Florida that pays plasma donors as much as $200 a month and often offers gift cards as an added incentive.

When  Jasmine Kaiser, who was born male but now identifies as a woman, went to CSL Plasma in Kent in June of 2014 with the intent of donating plasma, she was turned away. According to the complaint filed in King County Superior Court, she was told she'd be banned for life because she is transgender.

And, Attorney David Ward, with the Seattle based women's rights group Legal Voice, says that's not all.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle police could have been much more effective in how they handled May Day protesters when violence erupted on Capitol Hill Friday night, said the head of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

It was during a debrief before the Public Safety Committee that chair Bruce Harrell laid into incident commander Captain Chris Fowler.

Harrell went so far as to say it seemed like police provoked the riot. He referred to a video, that’s gone viral, of a cop on a bike ramming a protester from behind and knocking him down.

Paula Wissel

Local Somali immigrants are continuing to pressure the federal government to allow them to once again send money to relatives back home.

Now, the Seattle City Council has gotten behind their cause.

Kyle Stokes

Seattle Police say they’re prepared for whatever happens at protests tomorrow for May Day, the international day to celebrate workers that has become a rallying point locally for all sorts of activists.

In the past few years, there have been some arrests on May Day for property damage, although protest marches have been mostly peaceful. The biggest problem  this year could be traffic.

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