LOCAL NEWS

Urine, assaults have jurors avoiding King County Courthouse

May 23, 2019, 6:40 AM | Updated: 3:00 pm
King County Courthouse...
King County Courthouse in Seattle. (Dyer Oxley, KIRO Radio)
(Dyer Oxley, KIRO Radio)

Concerns around the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle have potential jurors worried for their safety, with some even asking to be excused altogether.

King County judges’ hands tied in prolific homeless offender cases

Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell says that safety is a common reason people are asking to be excused from jury duty. Judge O’Donnell read one letter for KIRO Radio.

“As a female I do not feel safe waiting for the bus to take me home from the Seattle Courthouse. I also do not feel safe walking from the bus to the Seattle Courthouse. There’s an overabundance of addicts congregating around the courthouse and I’m concerned for my safety. I ask to be excused from jury service due to safety reasons.”

O’Donnell says “These are the letters we are contending with.”

The judge voiced those same concerns to KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott back in March, when he cited unsafe conditions, open air drug use, tents lining the street, and assaults. Since then, the city has initiated emphasis patrols in the area. Still, O’Donnell says the situation is getting worse.

“Three weeks ago, we had to send out a note to employees that there’s been an uptick in violence against women,” he said. “Men walking up and touching and grabbing and harassing. We’ve had the incidents of the employees … two were assaulted and one was harassed. We had the commuter that had the urine thrown at her.”

You heard that right: A container with urine was thrown off the Yesler overpass onto a commuter. O’Donnell invited me down for a tour and his bailiff, Rianne Rubright, showed me the spot.

“I was walking behind her over towards the Yesler Bridge and then I just heard this bag hit the ground right in front of her,” Rubright said. “I turned around and it was a bag of urine. Someone ran over to comfort her, but she was distraught, upset and rightfully so. I would have been too. But I think it dropped from the top of the bridge right onto her.”

Rubright says for commuters, the Yesler overpass is an unavoidable gauntlet, that has them walking through tents, feces, drug abuse, and harassment.

“There are a lot of feces on the streets — I walk over it every day,” she said.

King County’s Caroline Whalen says these issues can be more problematic considering people with special needs coming into the courthouse.

“I think this morning there were not tents there, and now they are setting up again,” Whalen said. “So, it’s just an ongoing issue to keep this sidewalk clear, because we have a lot of commuters like Rianne who are coming to the courthouse, and some are disabled, and so the only way they can get from the train to the courthouse in their wheelchair is through here. It’s an ongoing effort with the Seattle police and the Navigation Teams because they just re-establish.”

Seattle failing at stopping repeat criminal offenders

This is all despite significant efforts by the county to get a handle on human waste that has cleaning crews washing the pavement around the perimeter of the courthouse regularly.

O’Donnell gives high marks to Parks and Recreation for their ongoing efforts to clean up the park next to the courthouse. They’ve also added food trucks and games to make it more welcoming, but the area is a constant struggle to maintain.

Even so, the county says the city needs to do something about the Prefontaine Fountain across the street.

“Basically, it’s a gathering place and I think a lot of drug dealing occurs there,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve been working with the city to try to get that fountain relocated and operational, because it is a problem.”

Another issue: You never really know what you’re going to encounter on a daily basis.

“Broad daylight from the morning commute coming up from the trains, and an employee is witnessing a graphic sex act occurring right on the sidewalk as everyone walks by,” Judge O’Donnell described. “And, you sort of shrug that off. But for this employee to have that burned into her eyes, you don’t unsee that. That’s sort of the atmosphere occurring as you try to get into the building.”

Local News

(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Julia Dallas, KIRO 7 News and Bridget Chavez, KIRO 7 News

Redmond police using vehicle-mounted GPS tracking system to track down fleeing suspects

The Redmond Police Department started using StarChase Pursuit in January to safely pursue fleeing suspects.
1 day ago
...
Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

Murder of Kent teacher calls attention to mental health crisis in Washington

A Tacoma mom stabbed and killed on Wednesday has been identified as 66-year-old Gail Gese, a teacher at Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent.
1 day ago
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reac...
Associated Press

Man rescued by Coast Guard wanted in ‘Goonies’ fish incident

A man who was saved by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer at the mouth of the Columbia River as a massive wave rolled the yacht he was piloting Friday was wanted for a bizarre incident in which police said he left a dead fish at the Astoria, Oregon, home featured in the classic 1985 film, "The Goonies."
1 day ago
FILE - An Amazon company logo on the company's building in Schoenefeld near Berlin, Germany, March ...
Associated Press

Amazon violated labor law with delivery app

A Spanish court has ruled that Amazon broke labor laws by forcing more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use an app that the company controlled for scheduling work and payments and requiring them to use their own cars and cellphones on the job.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
Shawn Garrett, KIRO 7 News

Deputies seize nearly 100 pounds of drugs during Tacoma arrest

Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department seized nearly 100 pounds of drugs while arresting a man with a felony warrant in Tacoma
2 days ago
police pursuit...
Matt Markovich

Source of pursuit deaths updates controversial data

Stats used by legislators to consider changing police pursuit laws may be in question.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Urine, assaults have jurors avoiding King County Courthouse