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

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Amanda Knox has thanked all those who believed and defended her during her trial in Italy over the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate.

"Thank you for being there with me," she said through tears Tuesday, shortly after the plane carrying her to freedom landed in her hometown of Seattle.

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Hometown friends and supporters of Amanda Knox kept an early morning vigil at a Seattle hotel while awaiting the verdict from Italy. The group of about a dozen burst into applause and cheers when they got word that the murder charge against Knox was overturned.

Associated Press

A Seattle man has a special reason to celebrate the release of two American hikers from an Iranian prison. One of those who was freed, Josh Fattal, is his nephew.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

If you’ve ever used a cash machine, here’s something you should be aware of. The Justice Department has disrupted one of the largest debit and credit card skimming rings on the West Coast.

Krug6 / Flickr

Washington students appear to be acing one test, the SAT test. 

Average scores were the highest in the nation among states where more than 50 percent of eligible students take the college-entrance exam.

Robin Cedar / KPLU

A brightly colored totem pole was given a send off celebration at the Seattle Center. The carved cedar log is embarking on a 4,000 mile journey.  It’s headed to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit on Native American concepts of  healing. 

9-11 Commission

'NORAD provided us and the public with a highly erroneous history of what happened ...'

On Sept. 11, 2001, former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton was at a conference in Leavenworth, Wash.  He'd gone out for an early morning run when he got word a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York.  He drove home to Seattle over a  Steven's Pass, which had almost no traffic on it,  trying to absorb the news of the attacks.

Gorton was later tapped to serve on the 9/11 Commission by President George Bush.  He considers the work he did some of the most important of his life.

Ballard Raingardengue blog

Just a year ago, Seattle was promoting its roadside rain garden project in Ballard. Now, the city is spending half a million dollars to dismantle huge sections of it.

Some neighborhood residents say, despite good intentions, the whole thing has been a fiasco.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

If you have feral cats in your neighborhood, you know they can be a major headache, what with the loud cat fighting and territorial spraying. 

In Grays Harbor County, two women have taken it upon themselves to fix the problem, literally. They trap cats in order to get them spayed or neutered. They then release them back where they came from.

Oran Viriyincy / Flickr
Solo / Flickr

Recently, Washington's Employment Security Department sent out a news release announcing it had identified 9,000 people in 2010 who were not actively seeking work. The state said the individuals would have to pay back $23 million in benefits.

But those claims of jobless benefit fraud may be overstated.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

The Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard was packed last night as hundreds gathered to pray, sing and offer their condolences to the people of Norway. The Vigil of Remembrance, as it was called, was organized by the Museum, the Honorary Consul of Norway and the Pacific Lutheran University.


One of Seattle’s most -influential arts patrons and real estate developers has passed away.  Bagley Wright died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 87, according to

His name is synonymous with much of what makes Seattle unique.

"Good Lord, how did we get here ..."

Seattle has become the first city in Washington to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. A number of other cities have banned the businesses outright.  The Seattle City Council decided to take the opposite approach after efforts to regulate medical pot at the state level failed.


The city of Seattle is getting closer to regulating medical pot dispensaries.

The Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee of the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a measure that would require the marijuana shops to comply with city building codes, zoning ordinances and fair employment laws.

Could cuts to Metro bus routes result in more college dropouts? Student leaders at the University of Washington say it’s something they’re deeply concerned about.

Students testifying last night at a hearings in King County over a proposed $20 car tab fee argued in favor of the charge. The money would  help keep Metro busses running at current levels. Without the fee, Metro service is expected to be cut by 17 percent.


The city of Seattle is pouring an extra $3 million into road repair. The city is using money it made selling property along Aurora Avenue North, known as the "Rubble Yard," to the state Department of Transportation. 

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

It isn’t against the law to sip a martini. So why should you face jail time for lighting up a joint? Supporters of the latest initiative to legalize marijuana say both activities should be treated the same.

Liquor in Washington is heavily regulated. And that’s what the group New Approach Washington wants the state to do with pot.

Gary Davis

Are you willing to fork over extra money to register your car in order to keep buses running?

King County Executive Dow Constantine is betting you are. He’s urging the King County Council to pass an emergency ordinance temporarily increasing car tab fees by $20 per vehicle. The two-year charge would generate about $25 million per year and be used to preserve Metro Transit service at current levels.

Null Value / Flickr

If you’ve witnessed a crime, you’ll swear you can accurately identify the person who did it. But, there’s a good chance you’re wrong, especially if that person is of a different race. Still, jurors believe eyewitness accounts.

And, in Washington state, the law doesn't allow judges to tell juries about the problems associated with cross-racial eyewitness identification. One Court of Appeals judge says that's wrong.

Associated Press

In June of 1971, President Richard Nixon officially declared a "war on drugs."  Drug abuse, he said, was "public enemy No. 1."

Forty years later, few would call the war a success.  Even President Obama says we need to stop looking at our drug problem as a war. But, some former top cops say the President isn't doing enough to actually end the war.

Associated Press

The details are heartbreaking. A lesbian couple subject to unspeakable horror after a stranger breaks into their home in the middle of the night. The high profile case happened in 2009 in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Now, the man accused of rape and murder, Isaiah Kalebu,  is on trial.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

It’s late Saturday night and you get a phone call. Your teenage son has been arrested. You show up for court on Monday morning unsure what to do or say.  Now there’s help for parents in this predicament. It's called Juvenile Justice 101.

Courtesy of PLU

One of the longest serving college presidents in western Washington is stepping down.  The President of Pacific Lutheran University plans to retire effective a year from now, June 1, 2012.

Loren Anderson made the announcement Tuesday afternoon  to faculty and staff at the south Tacoma campus.  Anderson has led Pacific Lutheran University for the past 20 years.  (The university holds the broadcast license for KPLU-FM.)

Elaine Thompson / AP

With Memorial Day over, the summer travel season has begun. If recent data from Sea-Tac airport is any indication, it will be a busy one.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

How do you convince someone not to text or talk on the cell phone while  driving?  How about an in-your- face reminder of what can happen if you do?  That's the tactic Seattle Police have been using this week. 

They've been parking a black Honda, with the driver's side smashed in, outside area high schools.  A Tumwater teenager, Heather Lerch, died in the car in February of 2010 while texting and driving.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

A lesbian Air Force Major who was trying to get her job back has decided to retire instead.  Under an agreement reached with the Pentagon, flight nurse Margaret Witt will retire with full benefits and her discharge will be removed from her record.

A federal judge has ruled the city of Seattle can go ahead with its effort to limit free phone books on doorsteps. Yellow pages companies were trying to block the city’s anti-phone book plan.

Department of Homeland Security

Former U.S. Senator from Washington state, Slade Gorton,  says the killing of bin Laden is proof that intelligence agencies in the United States have improved.  Gorton sat on the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the terrorist attacks.

Refugees face a lot of stress.  They’re usually escaping war or poverty.  They land here unable to speak English and without a means of support.  But for some women, there’s the additional burden of domestic violence.