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

Here's some good news in a down economy.  Michelle Dunlop writes in The Herald of Everett that Boeing is hiring 100 people a week and has been doing it for the past several months.

Dunlop writes:

Erik Stuhaug / Courtesy Taproot Theatre

Seattle’s theater community is reeling this morning at the loss of one of their own.  The Seattle Times reports actor Mark Chamberlin died Tuesday after a weekend bicycle accident.

AP

Drug courts have long been viewed as a success.  The courts give drug offenders charged with non-violent crimes the option of treatment rather than prison.

The courts, including those in Washington State, have proven effective in reducing repeat offenses. But some critics say too much money is being poured into drug courts.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

How important is a protest sign?  That’s the question we’re asking on the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq.

Back in 2003,  in the weeks and months leading up to the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and Coalition forces, millions of peace activists around the globe rallied against war. 

At every protest you saw the same signs-- red, white and blue placards with the words “No Iraq War.”  All of them came from one place, a family run sign shop in Seattle.

Federal prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to prevent an anti-abortion protester from blocking access to a medical clinic in Lynnwood.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice complaint, John C. Kroack walked into a Lynnwood health clinic on Jan. 7, 2010, became agitated as he talked about abortion and tried to force his way into one of the exam rooms. Prosecutors say a nurse had to hold her body against the door to keep him from breaking it down.

Starbucks

In 40 years it went from a tiny store near Pike Place Market to a global brand, recognized around the world.  Starbucks is celebrating its  anniversary with a new, simplified logo that doesn’t have the word "Starbucks" or "coffee" on it. 

On Tuesday, a band played and hundreds of employees gathered and cheered as the logo was unveiled at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle.  CEO Howard Schultz told the crowd there were many doubters in the beginning who didn’t think Starbucks could ever go beyond the West Coast. "But they were wrong," he said.

Paula Wissel

The homicide rate in Seattle is at its lowest level since 1958.  Most other major crime is down as well.

Murder, rape, robbery and other violent crime was down 9 percent in 2010 compared to 2009. The 2010 crime statistics were released Tuesday by the Seattle Police Department. As KPLU reported, the  Seattle Police Department has also released a report showing that the use of force by officers is rare and below the national average.

AP Photo

President Barack Obama is expected to nominate US Commerce Secretary and former Washington Governor Gary Locke to be ambassador to China. Both as governor and Commerce Secretary, Locke has promoted close trade relations with the country from which his father and grandfather emigrated.

If Locke is confirmed as ambassador to China, he’ll become the first Chinese-American to hold the post. He was also the first Chinese American to become a governor and the first to be Secretary of Commerce.

Scott Schaefer / B-Town blog

They say you can’t tell a book by its cover.  But maybe coming face to face with one that towers over you will entice you to read a little more.  At least that’s the hope of the King County Library system.

Huge, 6 foot tall posters of book jacket covers have been placed next to coffee shops, paint stores, law firms and other small businesses on main streets in Burien, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, Issaquah, Kirkland and on Vashon Island.  It’s called the Book Cover Walking Tour.

The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, which received $595,000 from Seattle Public Schools, insists taxpayers got their money's worth despite a state audit report calling the payments of questionable value.

Burke Museum

A new species of crab spider was found last spring by Rob Crawford, curator of arachnids for the Univesity of Washington's Burke Museum.  He discovered it on Foster Island in the Washington Park Arboretum.  Seattlepi.com reports a team of students will soon be scouring the island for more information.

Just as intriguing as a new discovery is the question raised by Knute Berger of Crosscut who wonders about the effect a newly discovered spider could have on the Highway 520 expansion.  The highway cuts across Foster Island.

WSDOT

The brunt of an arctic cold front is expected to hit Western Washington this afternoon, bringing wind and 2 to 6 inches of snow.  National Weather Service meteorologist Art Gable says temperatures "will drop below freezing and remain below into Thursday morning." A winter storm warning remains in effect through 10 a.m. Thursday.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

With 82-percent of Seattle's officers living outside the city limits, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says it's hard to have a good local police force. It's also difficult to do anything about it because state law prevents cities from requiring officers to live where they work. McGinn says there could be an opportunity, though, when 300 officers who are eligible for retirement leave the force.

AP

It was an emotional scene in a King County courtroom as the man known as the Green River killer pleaded guilty to his 49th murder.  Gary Ridgway is already serving 48 consecutive life terms. The latest plea is for murdering Becky Marrero in 1982, whose remains were found last December.

Paula Wissel / KPLU News

Sage smoke, prayers and the beat of Native drums filled the air at Seattle City Hall Wednesday afternoon as several hundred people gathered to demand justice for woodcarver John T. Williams. Williams, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nuulth First Nation in British Columbia, was shot to death last Aug. 30th by a Seattle police officer.

The demonstrators moved on to Westlake Park.  Later, several dozen marched to the crosswalk at Boren St. and Howell St. where Williams was killed by Officer Ian Birk.

Gary Davis

Justice, Harvest, Charlie, Tiger, Blaze, Jet and Cody recently got a reprieve.

The horses are in  Seattle Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit. Budget cuts had threatened to eliminate their jobs. But the Seattle Police Foundation and the Seattle Hotel Association have pledged to pay for feeding, sheltering and caring for the working horses for three years.

The organizations have enough money to cover two years and are asking the public to pay for the rest. At the website, saveourhorses.net, you can make a donation.

Here's a video about the Mounted Patrol Unit produced by the Police Foundation:

AP

Update Feb. 10, 2011 - The correct percentage of area mortgage holders "underwater" - as reported by Zillow.com - is 34.3%, not of all homeowners. This post has been updated to clarify that point.

Do you owe more on your mortgage than your house is worth? You’re not alone. One-third of homeowners in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are “underwater” on their homes. "Negative equity" rose faster in this region than anywhere else in the country.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

In Washington state, if someone dies under suspicious circumstances or suddenly with no obvious cause, an investigation is required. But just how that investigation is conducted depends on where the person dies. It varies county by county.

In King County, Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Harruff has a full staff of forensic pathologists who respond quickly to conduct autopsies and other post mortem investigations.  On a recent morning, he described the bodies that had been brought in over night.

King County Prosecutor's Office

The man known as the "Green River Killer" has been charged with another murder. Gary Ridgway is already serving a life sentence for killing 48 women. He's considered one of the nation's most prolific serial killers.

On Monday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced aggravated first-degree murder charges against Gary Ridgway in the death of Rebecca "Becky" Marrero, who disappeared after leaving a motel in SeaTac in 1982.

A teenager caught with an illegal gun in Washington gets little more than a slap on the wrist.  That’s the complaint of prosecutors who are trying to stiffen the penalty.

melsil / YouTube.com

Seattle has a special connection to the Oscars this year. Anne Rosellini, a Mercer Island High School graduate and co-founder of the One Reel Film Festival at Bumbershoot,  received two nominations for "Winter's Bone,"  a film she produced and co-wrote, with director Debra Granik. Here's the trailer:

Some Seattle high school students plan to walk out of class tomorrow, Wednesday, as part of a protest against police brutality and misconduct.  They plan to rally at Victor Steinbrueck Park near Pike Place Market at 1 p.m.

guidehorse.org

When you think of a service animal, you probably think of a dog sitting next to someone who’s blind.  But under new civil rights legislation in Seattle,  the city defines " service animal” as:

"any animal a doctor deems medically necessary."

ACLU Legal Exhibit

King County is being sued over its refusal to allow a controversial ad on Metro buses. The advertisement, sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, reads:  “Israeli War Crimes.Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

County officials originally agreed to the ad in December, but changed their mind when news of the campaign sparked international criticism and concerns about violence.

KING-TV

The brother of the woodcarver killed by a Seattle policeman testified today during the inquest into the shooting. Much of the testimony during the inquest has centered on whether John T. William’s knife was open or closed at the time he was shot by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, who has testified he feared the woodcarver was about to attack him.

On the stand today, John T. Williams older brother Rick told jurors he and his brother were taught by their father to close their knives when they talked to people. Linda Byron of KING 5 News writes:

Paula Wissel

Those quaint streetlights that grace some neighborhood business districts in Seattle may be history.  Seattle City Light wants to limit the installation of decorative streetlights in the future.  This comes in the wake of the city’s ongoing inspection of light poles, some of which have been emitting dangerous levels of electricity.

Gary Davis

Seattle’s ongoing inspection of streetlights has turned up more dangerous structures.  But city officials insist the potential harm to people and pets is minimal. 

Seattle City Light began testing all 30 thousand metal lights and sidewalk covers after a dog was electrocuted on Queen Anne Hill in November.  The metal plate the dog stepped on was emitting 90 volts of electricity.  Frayed wires were the problem.  

A victim of domestic violence can seek a restraining order against an abusive spouse.  But how about allowing a city to get a restraining order against a street gang?

Washington State Coalition for Mental Health Reporting

Mental health advocates say news stories of social service budge cuts are unfairly stereotyping people who suffer from mental illness.

They say a case in point is a recent cover of The Stranger, which included the headline "How a decimated state budget equals more unmedicated loons with hatchets."

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