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Inquests into King County police shootings temporarily on hold


All inquests into police shootings will be put on hold temporarily while the King County Inquest Review Committee finishes conducting its review of the inquest process, Executive Dow Constantine announced on Monday.

“In the interest of fairness to all those involved, we will pause all inquests as the Review Committee and community partners seek to better understand what works and what doesn’t, and recommend reforms,” Constantine said.

Five inquests into deaths at the hands of police officers are currently pending in the following cases: Isaiah Obet, Damarius D. Butts, Eugene D. Nelson, Tommy Le, and Charleena Lyles. Those five inquests will be put on hold and no new requests will be accepted.

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Similarly, but in a separate decision, King County District Court Presiding Judge Donna Tucker stated that she will stop appointing District Court Judges to preside over inquests for the foreseeable future.

“It is important and timely for the County to review this Executive process,” Judge Tucker said.

An inquest is a process of investigating a police shooting to determine the facts of the incident. Inquests into King County law enforcement-related deaths have traditionally been conducted by District Court Judges and a six-member jury. The jurors are not tasked with determining liability on the part of any law enforcement personnel involved. Instead, they decide what factual issues exist in the case.

The review committee, which was formed by Executive Constantine about a month ago, includes five members and will eventually appoint a sixth. One member of the committee is Rick Williams, whose brother John T. Williams was shot and killed by a Seattle Police officer in 2010. Other members include a King County Superior Court judge, a member of the state Supreme Court’s Minority & Justice Commission, and the former Director of Seattle’s Office of Professional Accountability.

The committee will likely make recommendations on topics such as attorney’s fees for the family of the deceased, the role of inquest jurors, and alternative processes that might better serve the county and its residents.

The committee’s final recommendations are expected in March.



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