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

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.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, says the United States should be doing more to free a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison. Nestora Salgado was arrested last August in the state of Guerrero, Mexico after helping to organize a local militia of indigenous people — something allowed under Mexican law.

Appearing alongside Salgado’s daughter and husband at a news conference in Seattle, Smith said he’s done what he can to make Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration aware of Nestora Salgado’s situation in Mexico.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The gunman who allegedly killed a student on the campus of  Seattle Pacific University last week told police he had stopped taking his anti-depressant medicine because he wanted to "feel the hate."

That was among the revelations released in charging documents filed against Aaron Rey Ybarra in King County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Paula Wissel

Navy recruiters have noticed a disturbing trend among young people looking to join up: too many of them are obese.

Rear Admiral Annie Andrews, who is in charge of recruiting for the U.S. Navy, says obesity "has actually surpassed even those with drug use" as a reason for disqualification. In addition to the high rate of obesity, she says, some potential recruits are just plain out of shape. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Confirmation hearings begin today for Kathleen O'Toole, the woman nominated to be the new Seattle police chief. Kathleen O’Toole will appear before the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

One issue stirring controversy among the top brass in the Seattle Police Department is O’Toole’s plan to hire assistants from outside the department.

More than 100 Seattle police officers have filed a federal civil rights complaint against city and federal authorities.

They allege the agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Seattle restricting police  use of force has put both police and the public in danger.

Paula Wissel

A jury has found two men guilty of stealing 4.3 miles of copper wiring from Sound Transit's Light Rail System in Seattle. It’s believed to be the largest theft of metal in Washington State.

Apparently, the thieves undoing was a popular energy drink.

Courtesy of the Hak family.

A man being held in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma could help save his brother’s life by giving him a kidney.

But that won’t happen if the U.S. goes forward with plans to deport the man to Cambodia, a country he left as a baby. The case shines a light on what some consider the U.S.'s overly harsh deportation policies.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has nominated former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole as new chief of the Seattle Police Department. 

If confirmed by the Seattle City Council, O’Toole would be the department’s first female chief.

Murray has said he wants someone who can “reform and change the culture” on the force and “restore the respect of the community.”

"We can be a national model for urban policing, and Kathleen O'Toole is the right choice to lead us there," Murray said Monday. 

Joe Polimeni/ General Motors/AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants Seattle voters to approve both tax and fee increases to pay to keep buses running in the city and to and from the suburbs.

Murray on Tuesday announced a proposed $60 car tab increase and a sales tax increase to buy bus service back from King County Metro. Metro has said bus service will be cut this fall after the state Legislature did not find more money for transit and King County voters defeated a tax increase.

Washington health officials say there has been a sudden rise in pesticide-related illnesses in eastern Washington orchards. 

Kelly Stowe with the Washington State Department of Health says at least 60 people have been affected by pesticide drift since March.

Pages