Law

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

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When you think of a service animal, you probably think of a dog sitting next to someone who’s blind.  But under new civil rights legislation in Seattle,  the city defines " service animal” as:

"any animal a doctor deems medically necessary."

MJDArv / YouTube.com

King County has agreed to pay $10 million to a man who suffered a catastrophic brain injury when a sheriff's deputy slammed him into a concrete wall after a chase in Seattle.

Christopher Harris ran from deputies who mistook him for a suspect in a fight on in May 2009. After a couple of blocks, Harris stopped, and a deputy knocked him 8 feet into a concrete wall, head first.

Harris eventually emerged from a coma but can't walk or talk. The 30-year-old is expected to need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Lawmakers face stark choices when it comes to the budget. Those choices were on display Monday as the House voted on a cost-cutting bill. Democrats and Republicans split over what to cut next: education or social services.

Updated Monday, Jan. 24th, 7:01 a.m.

A man and a young woman were killed in a shooting incident outside a Walmart store in Port Orchard Sunday afternoon. Two Kitsap County Sheriff deputies were injured, and are reported in satisfactory condition late Sunday evening, according to the Kitsap Sun.

Some state lawmakers are proposing major changes to Washington's voter-approved medical marijuana system. 

Associated Press reporter Curt Woodward describes a packed meeting yesterday of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, which was discussing Senate Bill 5073, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. It would give medical marijuana users more protections against arrest than they currently have. 

Four of eight jurors in a coroner's inquest say woodcarver John T. Williams didn't have enough time to put down his knife before he was shot and killed by Seattle police Officer Ian Birk.

Only one juror found Williams had time to put down the knife. The other three answered "unknown." Thursday's conclusions are only findings of fact by the jury, which did not have to be unanimous. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington would become an all vote-by-mail state under a bill being considered by a State Senate committee.

Pierce County is the last in the state that still allows polling places and some of the county’s voters want to keep it that way.

Lakewood resident Erika Cranmer testified that she has not missed an election since she became an American citizen in 1951. The German native told lawmakers she does not trust vote-by-mail:

ACLU Legal Exhibit

King County is being sued over its refusal to allow a controversial ad on Metro buses. The advertisement, sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, reads:  “Israeli War Crimes.Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

County officials originally agreed to the ad in December, but changed their mind when news of the campaign sparked international criticism and concerns about violence.

KING-TV

The brother of the woodcarver killed by a Seattle policeman testified today during the inquest into the shooting. Much of the testimony during the inquest has centered on whether John T. William’s knife was open or closed at the time he was shot by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, who has testified he feared the woodcarver was about to attack him.

On the stand today, John T. Williams older brother Rick told jurors he and his brother were taught by their father to close their knives when they talked to people. Linda Byron of KING 5 News writes:

The FBI says a Palm Springs, Calif., man accused of making threatening, obscene phone calls to the office of U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott  last month told authorities he never intended to hurt anyone.

KPLU/Bellamy Pailthorp

King County's inquest into the death of native woodcarver John T. Williams at the hands of a Seattle policeman is expected to last all week. The fact-finding work will review last August's shooting, and will determine whether prosecutors bring any charges against Officer Ian Birk.

TVW image

The state's newest Supreme Court justice was sworn in Friday afternoon. Charlie Wiggins defeated incumbent Justice Richard Sanders by just 13,000 votes in November's election. 

The Bainbridge Island attorney challenged Sanders, who had served three terms, and who was sometimes the center of controversy. 

Gene Johnson of the Associated Press covered today's swearing in, and the Wiggins-Sanders race last fall:

If you challenge a speeding ticket in traffic court, you’ve had a good chance of getting it thrown out in recent years.  That’s because prosecutors in western Washington have been cutting their budgets and prioritizing for bigger crimes. 

Prosecutors have been absent from traffic court for at least five years, according to The Seattle Times.  At the urging of presiding King County District Court judge Barbara Linde, that's changing. 

A victim of domestic violence can seek a restraining order against an abusive spouse.  But how about allowing a city to get a restraining order against a street gang?

In the new year, Washington state is raising taxes. But you'll need sharp eyes to notice where.  Lawmakers have hiked and expanded a telephone tax to support 911 service.

John Froschauer / AP

The amount of money the state pays out in lawsuits has doubled in the last four years to more than $50 million dollars a year. This spike in legal costs comes as Washington reduces funding for education, healthcare and other state services. But cutting Washington’s legal bills is no easy task.

AP

A jury is recommending that a judge sentence a man and his son to death after they were convicted of planting a bomb that killed two Oregon police officers.

The jury's decisions in the case of 59-year-old Bruce Turnidge and 34-year-old Joshua Turnidge were read in a Salem courtroom Wednesday.

Prosecutors say the pair built and planted the bomb outside a Woodburn bank in 2008. The device exploded as state police bomb technician William Hakim tried to dismantle it, killing him and Woodburn police Capt. Tom Tennant.

Austin Jenkins / N3

Welfare dollars are supposed to help the poorest of families pay for the necessities of life. But Washington welfare recipients are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each month on ATM surcharges. That’s what correspondent Austin Jenkins found through a public disclosure request. The finding comes as Washington’s welfare program faces budget cuts. 

A hue and cry has erupted in response to Washington Governor Chris Gregoire’s proposal to slash billions more in anticipated state spending. The Democrat Wednesday unveiled her plan to close a $4.6 billion budget shortfall.

Chris Lehman / N3

Some Washington welfare recipients are withdrawing cash at out-of-state liquor stores, smoke shops and even strip clubs. That’s the finding of a public radio investigation into welfare debit card use outside Washington’s borders. The finding comes at a time when the state’s welfare program is $82 million in the red.

WSP

Slow down and move over.  That’s the message from the Washington State Patrol as a new law goes into effect.  It’s meant to better protect troopers and emergency workers who handle car accidents.  

Lawmakers hope they’ve taken a sizeable bite out of the state’s one-point-one billion dollar budget shortfall. The legislature met Saturday in what’s been called an unprecedented December special session. Governor Chris Gregoire demanded the lame-duck meeting saying she couldn’t solve the problem alone.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The State Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the state’s formula for calculating how much money school districts get for special education classes.

Russell Dickerson III (right) is suing the Aberdeen School District
Charla Bear

An African-American teen in Aberdeen is suing the city’s school district for not keeping him safe from bullying when he was a student.  He alleges administrators knew he endured racial and sexual harassment for years, but did little to stop it.

Governor Chris Gregoire says she will call a budget-cutting special session of the legislature before the year is out. As the state’s budget crisis worsens, the governor and lawmakers are looking to save money anywhere they can. One target in the crosshairs: lobbyists for state agencies.

Department of Homeland Security

Next time you walk into a Walmart store, you might see the head of the U-S Department of Homeland Security.  Secretary Janet Napolitano has recorded video messages that are being aired inside Walmart stores in 27 states, including Washington.

Twiter.com/@getyourcarback

Seattle police are tweeting for stolen cars.  They’re using Twitter to get the word out whenever a theft is reported. Police say making use of the popular social networking site just makes sense. 

The mentally ill man charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of  Joseph LaMagno on Capitol Hill on Nov. 22 is a suspect in an earlier killing. 

Paula Wissel/KPLU

A lesbian flight nurse says she's anxiously waiting to rejoin her unit in the U.S. Air Force reserve.  Major Margaret Witt was discharged in 2004 under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Governor Chris Gregoire wants an agreement from Republican and Democratic lawmakers on a package of immediate cuts to the state's budget by the end of this week.

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