Law

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

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.

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal challenging campaign disclosure laws in Washington state.

The court on Tuesday let stand without comment a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the state's disclosure requirements. Human Life of Washington challenged the requirements as a violation of the First Amendment. The group didn't want to reveal its donors in a 2008 campaign opposing an assisted suicide ballot measure.

A two-tier driver's license system is getting traction in the legislature. This is how it would work: applicants who provide a valid social security number would get a regular license. Drivers who can't prove they are in this country legally would get an alternative version.

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.

Andrei Pungovschi / AP

You can't walk into a store and legally buy marijuana in Washington for medical or any other purposes. Yet. But some cities in the state - anticipating that you soon might be able to - have placed a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and another is considering one. And the shops aren't even lawful. Yet.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Voters defeated not one, but two liquor privatization measures last fall -- one of them sponsored by Costco. But a key lawmaker says that's not stopping the Issaquah warehouse chain from continuing to push the issue in Olympia.

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.

The Seattle police officer who fatally shot a woodcarver on a downtown street last summer has resigned.

Chief John Diaz says Officer Ian Birk resigned as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

The shooting death of a Native American woodcarver by a Seattle police officer last summer was not justified. That’s the finding announced by the police department’s Firearms Review Board today. 

The review found Officer Ian Birk took actions that were "outside of policy, tactics and training."

The case is “among the most egregious failings that I’ve seen in my thirty years with the Seattle Police Department,” said the board chairman, Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer.

HeatherL / Flickr

First the state Senate, now the House. Either way, it’ll cost you ten bucks to visit a Washington State Park for the day if the legislature passes measures now being considered in Olympia.

AP

Byron Scherf, a convicted rapist already serving a life sentence has confessed to the killing of Monroe Reformatory guard Jayme Biendl.

Austin Jenkins / N3

Washington's legislature has hit the one-month mark. Budget writers say a deal is close at hand between the House and Senate to re-balance the current two-year spending plan. After that, attention will shift to the closing a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the next two-year budget.

AP

The families of six Tesoro Corporation refinery workers killed in an explosion at an Anacortes site last April have filed a wrongful-death suit against the company Wednesday. 

The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner reports the suit alleges Tesoro was negligent in addressing the conditions that resulted in the blast, which killed seven people. In addition to the six families, a contractor injured in the explosion has also joined the suit.

Austin Jenkins / N3

Washington's pension system is underfunded to the tune of nearly $7 billion. Now the State Treasurer and a bipartisan group of lawmakers say the time has come to force the legislature to pay the pension bill.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

Several thousand mourners, many of them uniformed law  enforcement officers, gathered in Everett Tuesday to pay tribute to Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.

Biendl was killed January 29th while on duty at the state prison in Monroe. She was the first corrections officer killed in a Washington prison in over 30 years.

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.

AP

A batch of documents released by the Pierce County Sheriff late last week reveal more about the man who killed four Lakewood Police officers in a Parkland coffee shop in late 2009. More than 2,000 pages provide added details about Maurice Clemmons, his family and the investigation into the murders.

The documents were released following a long legal dispute between Pierce County and a number of news organizations, including The News Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Associated Press and three Seattle television stations: KIRO, KOMO and KING. 

nwgeology.wordpress.com

Tenino sandstone would become the official state rock under a bill introduced this week by Republican state senator Dan Swecker of Rochester.

Critics may wonder why lawmakers are drafting bills for state rocks rather than dealing with an estimated $5 billion shortfall in the next biennial budget, but the bill is actually the work of a group of Tenino School District students. 

Al Pavangkanan / flickr.com

In the past 9 years, 12 people have died on Washington highways during Super Bowl Sunday. "Target Zero Teams" will be out in force in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, looking for impaired drivers this weekend.The Washington State Patrol says nearly three dozen city police officers, county sheriff's deputies and state troopers will be on patrol after the game.

Another peer review of Seattle's handling of the John T. Williams shooting has found the police department conducted a fair and thorough investigation. 

KOMO-TV

Hundreds packed a Seattle forum on police accountability Thursday evening, an event which quickly turned into a showcase of public anger over recent incidents involving questions of excessive force against ethnic minorities.

The event, sponsored by Mayor Mike McGinn and The Stranger, was organized in the wake of tensions following the shooting death last year of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams by Officer Ian Birk. 

Undocumented immigrants would lose state medical coverage under a proposal to save the popular Basic Health insurance program. The get-tough measure is part of a budget-cutting plan unveiled by the State Senate. But it's at odds with a competing approach in the House.

The co-founder of a Northwest chain of eye-surgery centers has been convicted of plotting to kill two former colleagues.

Dr. Michael Mockovak of Clearly Lasik eye centers was found guilty Thursday of four counts, including attempted murder. The King County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days.

Prosecutors said Mockovak was willing to pay more than $100,00 to have business partner Dr. Joseph King and former company president Brad Klock killed, and that he solicited an employee to hire an assassin.

Photo by taberandrew / Flickr

A state law that went into effect early last year limited the number of payday loans borrowers could get per year to eight. It aims to protect people from falling into an endless spiral of debt.

But a Tacoma legislator, who originally backed the law, says it's driving people into the clutches of far worse lenders, on the Internet. 

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.

Democrats in the Washington House of Representatives have a "One Washington" mantra. But a couple of Western Washington lawmakers are testing that East-West unity. Their issue? The flow of state tax dollars that go over the mountains.

Governor Chris Gregoire has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in memory of a slain prison correctional officer. Gregoire has also initiated an outside review of the murder of Officer Jayme Biendl over the weekend.

A man who says he was upset over losing state benefits has been arrested and charged with making threats against Governor Chris Gregoire and her family. 51-year-old Robert Ray Locke was arraigned on one count of felony threat and pleaded not guilty.

Governor Chris Gregoire says she supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses. Washington is one of the last states in the nation that still issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Gregoire says ending that practice is a matter of national security:

"The job of being governor has changed dramatically since I came into office in 2005 and security has become one of the top priorities for every governor in this country."

There are several proposals in the legislature to require the Department of Licensing to confirm an applicant's "legal presence" in the country. Gregoire says if the legislature sends her a bill, she’ll sign it.

The governor's statement comes after a public radio report earlier this week on the issue. 

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.

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