Law

Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

"We have nothing to hide" – those were the words of Seattle's chief of police yesterday.  The department is under fire. 

The questions stem from a federal review of the fatal shooting of a first nation's wood carver last August, as well as what many people perceive as a prior pattern of  abusive violence against minority groups.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Update 2:55 p.m.

The federal Department of Justice is launching a full-scale investigation into possible discrimination and excessive use of force in the Seattle Police Department. The probe will review the department’s policies, practices and behavior.

The investigation will look for what’s called a “pattern or practice” of civil rights violations in how the Seattle police use force, especially against minorities.

Same-sex marriages performed in other states will be recognized as domestic partnerships in Washington State under a bill now awaiting Gov. Chris Gregoire's signature. 

House Bill 1649 passed the state senate Wednesday 28-19. It was already approved by the House of Representatives.

Five peace activists who broke into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor have been sentenced to prison.  The group cut through fences at the Trident submarine base on November 2, 2009 to reach an area near where nuclear warheads are stored.  Bangor is the largest nuclear weapons storehouse in the United States.

At a trial in Tacoma in December, the Bangor trespassers, also known as the "Bangor Five," were found guilty of conspiracy and destruction of federal  property. 

A follow up now to a story we brought you last fall on people who are sent to jail for failing to pay their debts, like a medical bill. A proposal moving through the legislature would toughen standards for debt collection agencies. It wouldn’t ban the practice of jailing people who owe money.

Last September, we introduced you to Janelle Leslie of Newport near Spokane. She described the night she called the police for help and ended up getting arrested for a warrant she didn’t know about.

Updated 3:17 p.m., Friday, Mar. 25th

Northwest Jesuits have agreed to pay $166.1 million 450 American Indians and Alaska Natives who were abused at the Catholic order's schools around the region.

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus runs schools in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The claims are from victims who were students at schools in all five states.

Austin Jenkins / N3

A Washington-based soldier has been sentenced to 24-years in prison for killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. Specialist Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of premeditated murder and other crimes.

FBI

The Colville man accused of planting a bomb along Spokane’s Martin Luther King Day parade route pleaded not guilty today.

It was Kevin Harpham’s second appearance in federal court. The 36 year old wore a tan Spokane County Jail uniform and ankle shackles. His plea means the case is now headed to trial.

The man charged with planting a bomb along the route of Spokane's Martin Luther King Day parade will appear in federal court today.

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.

State lawmakers have heard tearful pleas this legislative session from victims of child rape who advocate the statute of limitations be eliminated. A bill with that provision passed unanimously in the state House recently. But it appears destined for oblivion because a state Senate chairman won’t hear the bill.

Washington's budget shortfall has grown to more than $5 billion. That's after Thursday's state revenue forecast. Advocates on the left immediately intensified their calls for lawmakers to end corporate tax exemptions. The Governor warned the legislature to avoid budget gimmicks.

The debate over legalizing marijuana in Washington is producing some unusual alliances. At a legislative hearing Wednesday, lawmakers heard from the wife of Canada's so-called "Prince of Pot." And from the former federal prosecutor who indicted him.

PublicIntelligence.org

The backpack bomb found along the route of Spokane’s Martin Luther King Day Parade was supposed to be triggered remotely using a car alarm receiver. That’s according to a newly uncovered FBI document.

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity reports thieves broke into a work site Tuesday night in Tacoma, stealing more than $10,000 worth of equipment and building materials. The thieves had to cut through chains securing the project, a development called Founders Circle. Six homes are being built for low income families on the site at 1102 South Shirley Street.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe says he'll seek the death penalty if Byron Scherf is convicted of aggravated murder in the death of Monroe prison Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.

In announcing his decision Tuesday in Everett, Roe said jurors "should have the opportunity of imposing the ultimate punishment if they see fit."

Biendl was strangled Jan. 29 in the prison chapel.

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.

We’re learning more about the Washington prison inmate charged with killing a female correctional officer in January.  Prison disciplinary records were obtained for Byron Scherf. They show two major violations, but not for hurting others.

This week Northeast Washington learned one of its residents is suspected of being a Neo-Nazi terrorist. The FBI arrested 36-year-old Kevin Harpham for allegedly planting a bomb in a backpack along the route of Spokane's Martin Luther King Day Parade. Harpham is now being held at the Spokane County Jail.

FBI

The FBI has arrested a man with Neo-Nazi ties in connection with the attempted bombing on Martin Luther King Day in Spokane. Agents arrested the man in rural Stevens County.

It's not quite Wisconsin, but Republicans – and a lone Democrat - in Washington are taking a jab at state employee unions. They've introduced legislation to not fund union contracts negotiated by the governor.

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.

West Coast lawmakers want to take shark fin soup off restaurant menus. The Washington, Oregon and California Legislatures are all considering measures to criminalize the trade in shark fins.

Washington could soon be the last state in the nation to issue driver’s licenses without an immigration check. A controversial proposal in Olympia to create a two-tier license system appears to have died. Senate Republicans failed to force a vote just before a key legislative cut-off.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services is reviewing how a patient was able to escape from
Western State Hospital at Lakewood.

Jonathan D. Wilson remained in Pierce County Jail over the weekend, and Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis says officials are deciding Monday where he should be transferred. 

The News Tribune's Stacia Glenn reports Wilson may be headed to Mason County.

United States Coast Guard

The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Midgett has returned home from a patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. A highlight of the voyage was the interdiction of a 35-foot-long self-propelled semi-submersible vessel (SPSS) that was carrying about 6,000 kilograms of cocaine. These vessels are also known as narco submarines.

British Columbia is getting get a new Premier.  Over the weekend, the province elected a new leader. The new Premier, which is equivalent to a state governor, is pledging to maintain good relations with Washington State.

 

Newly released video shows Seattle Police Officer James Lee stomping on the head of a man detained by a group of cops in city's Belltown neighborhood last October.

KING-TV's Linda Brill reports the incident is bringing further allegations of excessive force by Lee, already under criminal investigation for kicking a teenager in a Belltown convenience store, just minutes before the second confrontation happened.

U.S. Census Bureau

Washington's Latino population grew 71% in the last decade. That's according to newly released 2010 Census Data. The dramatic rise has implications for how Washington redraws its Congressional districts.

AP

Washington's total debt load is twice the national median – and one of the highest in the nation. That's the warning from the State Treasurer. Now lawmakers are considering two proposals to cap how much Washington can borrow for capital construction projects.

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