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

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington voters have overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to expand background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. Initiative 594 passed with 60 percent of the vote.

At the I-594 victory party in Seattle, campaign manager Zach Silk fired up the crowd.

“Washington state has voted yes on 594 and closed the background check loophole,” Silk said.

Paula Wissel

In the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting, a makeshift memorial site is taking shape at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. A long chain-link fence is now covered with balloons, ribbons and flowers. But there’s something unusual about this memorial site.

Paula Wissel

In the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, some Native children in the district have received threats, according to the Tulalip Tribes.

Tribal member Jaylen Fryberg killed himself after shooting five friends, killing two of them. In a statement, the tribes said some kids are fearful of returning to school, and some parents are reluctant to send them.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Parents and officials gathered Tuesday to discuss the aftermath of Friday’s shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School that left three students dead, including the gunman, and three others injured.

Parents listened as Tulalip tribal leaders, school district officials and law enforcement officials spoke. The main message: If we stay united, we’ll get through this together.

Women who work at Dream Girls at Foxes, a strip club in Tacoma, don’t want Pierce County to release personal information about them. They say doing so would violate their right to privacy.

But the Pierce County auditor says Washington’s Public Records Act requires her to release information contained in the women’s business licenses on file with the county.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

There are two gun initiatives on the Washington ballot. Initiative 594 and Initiative 591 both have to do with background checks on gun buyers.

The battle over the initiatives is a classic fight between gun control advocates who say more regulation will limit gun violence and gun rights activists who fear a loss of their Second Amendment “right to bear arms.”

Tetona Dunlap / AP Photo

Nervous air travelers might know Sea-Tac International Airport doesn’t have any flights to or from Africa. What it does have is a quarantine station that’s prepared to stop the spread of contagious diseases, such as Ebola.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has 20 quarantine stations around the U.S. In Seattle, the station is located at Sea-Tac, and it’s not new. 

duncan C / Flickr

Seattle thinks it knows its coffee. After all, it's the birthplace of Starbucks, and neighborhoods with two or three coffeehouses per block are not uncommon.

So you’d think the new director of Seattle Opera, Aidan Lang, would be happy. He’s a self-described coffee lover. But Lang says what we’re missing is a drink that’s taking the world by storm called a "flat white."

So we set out to find out what a flat white is, and where we can find it in Seattle. Click play below to hear what we found.

Paula Wissel

The Blessing of the Animals has long been a tradition in the Anglican Church in England and Catholic and Episcopal churches in the United States. It occurs on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The Pacific Northwest isn’t immune to home grown terrorists. That’s what FBI director James Comey told reporters during a stop in Seattle.

Comey, who’s been in his position for a year, is visiting all 56 FBI field offices.

Paula Wissel

Imagine spending ten years of your life behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit. 

That's what happened to Brandon Redtailhawk Olebar. Now, Washington state is paying him more than half a million dollars.

Olebar is one of the first exonerees to receive a monetary award under a Washington law passed in 2013. The law makes it possible for people wrongfully incarcerated in the state to receive up to $50,000 for each year in prison as well as tuition waivers for themselves and their families to state universities and colleges.

Paula Wissel

Charges of racial discrimination are being aimed at a Sound Transit contractor. 

A group of African American laborers who worked on the Sound Transit Link Light Rail project at Husky Stadium are suing, seeking class action status in federal court.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says he isn’t promoting the use of marijuana in public, but he is calling for all the tickets issued for public pot smoking between Jan. 1 and July 31 to be thrown out.

John Leven

In a public ceremony Saturday in Port Townsend, a 101-year-old ship’s bell will finally come home. 

The story of the bell is worthy of the name given the wooden schooner it was made for in 1913. The sailing ship is called Adventuress. 

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

Weyerhaeuser is moving its headquarters from Federal Way to Seattle's historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, the company announced Tuesday.

The 114-year-old timber company will "divest the land and buildings it owns in Federal Way, Washington," according to a news release.

Arizona State University/Shared Hope International

Men who are convicted of paying for sex with minors are unlikely to serve much time behind bars, says the finding of new research conducted by Arizona State University and released by Shared Hope International, an organization trying to stop sex trafficking.

The study examined 134 cases in Seattle, Phoenix, Portland and Baltimore-Washington, D.C.

City of Seattle

Imagine being able to turn to the person walking next to you and say, “Could you fix that streetlight?” That’s been the experience for people in south Seattle who’ve taken part this summer in what Mayor Ed Murray calls “Find It, Fix It” walks.

On a recent warm Tuesday evening, I tagged along on one of these walks. There were neighbors, the mayor and city employees holding up “clipboards, clipboards — there we go, we’re talking clipboards,” said Seattle Police Capt. John Hayes, Jr., our guide for the two-hour trek. On the clipboards, they were to record problems residents pointed out.

Provided by Zach Featherstone

A Northwest medical school has been ordered to reinstate a deaf student who took the school to court after it wouldn't let him begin classes.

As KPLU reported last month, Zachary Featherstone sued Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima after it admitted him, then wouldn’t let him attend. The university said his admission might harm the training of other students and put patients at risk.

Barry Sweet / AP Photo

Former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, who led the city during the World Trade Organization protests in 1999, has died. He was 76.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says Schell died Sunday morning.

beataT1i / flckr

Voters in Seattle will decide whether to establish a special taxing district to help fund the city’s parks.

Proposition 1, which appears on the Aug. 5 ballot, has created a rift in the ranks of park advocates.

While marijuana is legal in Washington, it remains illegal under federal law.

So a recent encounter in front of the Federal Bureau of Investigation offices in Seattle proved a little awkward for the new special agent in charge of the Seattle division.

Natalie Wilkie / Flickr

The federal monitor charged with overseeing reform of the Seattle Police Department says there’s finally reason for optimism.

“The glass is now looking half full to me rather than half empty,” Merrick Bobb said during a briefing before the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

AP Photo/Transportation Security Administration

Should the constitutional right to bear arms include the right to carry a knife in public? That was the question addressed in a recent Washington state court decision.

The case highlights a growing movement advocating the right to carry knives.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The first legal sales of recreational marijuana in Washington state have begun.

Eager customers bought pot at 8 a.m. at Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two stores in the city north of Seattle that started selling marijuana as soon as was allowed under state regulations.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on home health care workers in Illinois in the case of Harris v. Quinn could have an effect on the people who work in home care here in Washington state.

The high court ruled that home health aides in Illinois, who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, cannot be required to pay union dues or fees, even though other public employees are.

Courtesy of Zachary Featherstone.

A man who was admitted to the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima, only to be told it couldn't make special accommodations for his disability, is suing the school claiming discrimination. 

Ashley Gross

A Skagit County Superior Court judge sided with migrant berry pickers on Thursday by ordering their employer, Sakuma Brothers Farms, to provide housing for the workers' family members. 

The workers took the farm owners to court over a new policy to no longer provide housing for workers’ family members. They argued the policy was intended as punishment for workers who went on strike last year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The man charged with killing one student and seriously wounding two others on the campus of Seattle Pacific University on June 5 has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday attorneys for Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, filed a notice of intent to pursue a not guilty by reason of insanity defense. The move doesn't mean they will go that route, just that they may use an insanity defense.

Provided by Kate Pflaumer

Editor's Note: “Senior Thesis” is a special week-long series that brings together venerable veterans in various fields with university students hoping to forge a career in the same field.

At first glance, you might think a former U.S. attorney and a man who once sued the government for spying on him wouldn’t agree on much.

But Kate Pflaumer, U.S. attorney for western Washington during the Clinton administration, and Philip Chinn, a recent graduate of Seattle University School of Law, share a passion for trial work and more.

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