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

Drunk drivers who cause deadly accidents in Washington rarely spend more than two years in prison. A bill working its way through the state legislature would increase the maximum sentence to eight years.

Prosecutors and people who've lost loved ones to accidents caused by drunk drivers say it's about time.

 A Bellingham man has been sentenced to prison for trying to sell a map showing the location of surveillance cameras along the U.S./Canada border.

According to federal court records,  Leif Rankin planned to sell the map to drug smugglers. 

In the Northwest, we share some unique attributes. But, like people everywhere, we disagree passionately when it comes to those things that tie us together. That came clear to us after sorting through the comments prompted by KPLU’s "I Wonder Why…?" series.

For instance, in combing through two of our most popular stories, no one could agree on just how friendly we are in the Northwest or whether men in skirts … er Utilikilts is a good idea.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Cellular Immunity / Flickr

The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in three years. The stock market is up.  But, are you feeling better about the economy? 

Maybe it was the economic news. Maybe it was the sun coming out for the first time in a while, but most people we talked to on the streets of downtown Seattle this afternoon said they were feeling positive.

Denise Walker

Did you find yourself in the dark, shivering under blankets, eating cold rations during the recent wind storm? Did it have you wondering why we are so dependent on overhead power poles to keep the lights on?

Could there be a better way?

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Paula Wissel

Puget Sound Energy  crews working to restore power say they haven't slept much.  On Tuesday afternoon, Rob Brackman, who was redirecting traffic while other workers strung new power lines near Dash Point Road and Redondo Way, said he'd  had just 15 hours of sleep since Friday morning.  But, he says he's been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers.

"We get a lot of joyous people when we get into their neighborhood. They're so happy to see us. People have been bringing us coffee and donuts. It's been very nice," he said.

During the last major snow storm in the Seattle area, in 2008,  Metro Transit came in for a lot of criticism. Busses slid out of control on icy streets or got stuck in the snow.

This time, the transit agency has new plans it hopes will result in better bus service. For complete details, go to the King County Metro Transit website.

Image from YouTube video

Since 2008, four prisoners in Washington State have been exonerated through DNA testing and other evidence. Advocates for granting them compensation say it’s the right thing to do, even in tough budgetary times.

Of the four wrongfully convicted men, Alan Northrop did the most time behind bars. Now that he’s out, he’s trying to put the pieces of his life back together.

Photo by wanderflechten

The city of Seattle is revamping its rules regarding street trees. The rules clarify what homeowners can and cannot do to trees planted in parking strips and other city right-of-ways.

The ordinance under consideration is the first update of the city’s street tree rules since 1961.

There they sit. On the shelf in the KPLU newsroom. Two dozen of them. Each in their own day-of-the-week slot.

Seattle Post-Intelligencers from March 2009, the month the paper ceased publication after 146 years.

We wonder: Why haven’t we been able to toss those papers and relegate the printed P-I to the dark depths of the archive stacks at the public library?

Read More

Paula Wissel / KPLU

YAKIMA, Wash. — Eight Native Americans have filed suit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, claiming the agency placed them in a mission school where they were sexually abused by a Jesuit priest decades ago.

Associated Press

This is the first story in a new KPLU series called "I Wonder Why ... ?" Each Friday, we'll explore what makes our corner of the world special – unique attributes that amaze, irritate and sometimes just puzzle us.

In this first story, we tackle Seattle's reputation for having the loudest fans in the NFL. This isn’t a particularly noisy place ... after all, you can get a ticket for honking your horn here.

So, we wondered why we're so loud in the stadium and just how loud are we?

Check out the rest of the story at I Wonder Why ... ?

Tacoma is facing a $26 million dollar budget shortfall. That was the grim news Interim City Manager Ray Arellano delivered to the Tacoma City Council during a 2011-2012 budget update. 

Paula Wissel / KPLU

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg has brought felony theft charges against former Seattle Public Schools manager Silas Potter Jr. and two associates, David A. Johnson and Lorrie Sorensen.

Potter was at the center of a financial scandal that led to the firing last March of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johsnon and Seattle Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Don Kennedy.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Tacoma ballot Initiative 1 directs police to give the lowest priority to enforcing minor marijuana laws.  If the Initiative passes, arrests would be unlikely in Tacoma for  possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana.

Sherry Bockwinkel, who has run a lot of statewide initiative campaigns, is volunteering her time to run the  Tacoma marijuana initiative campaign.  She believes Tacoma police have better things to do than bust people for pot.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Mayor Mike McGinn has once again told Occupy Seattle protesters at Westlake Park that they must follow the rules against camping in the park. 

Occupy Seattle protesters say they will expand to City Hall but won’t abandon Westlake.

Jake Ellison / KPLU

More and more homeless people are joining protesters occupying Seattle’s Westlake Park. The Occupy Wall Street movement has a special attraction for people who sleep on the streets.

When you walk through Westlake Park, in the heart of downtown Seattle’s shopping district, you notice the donated tarps and sleeping bags on hand to keep people warm. And there's a big tent where you can get a cheese sandwich or receive first aid.

If you don’t have a home, it seems like a good place to hang out. 

Jake Ellison / KPLU

Occupy Seattle protesters continue to weather the rain and exposure, with the aid of one structure for storing and distributing food and some first-aid care.

Monday morning, roughly 50 occupiers of Westlake Park milled about while many still slept or huddled against the rain under plastic tarps and whatever other makeshift barriers they could create to stay warm and dry.

One protestor and organizer said she intended to stay in the park indefinitely or until the "National Guard rolls in with tanks."

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.

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