With reform of police shooting inquests underway, King County will provide lawyers to families

More progress? I-940 to provide more and better training to police and to increase accountability around police shootings is also moving forward.

Dow Constantine has named two more members to the King County Inquest Review Committee and the King County Council has voted to provide public attorneys to the families of police shooting victims.

The new appointments were named Monday and join a committee convened to reform  the county’s inquest process. Inquests in the county remain suspended pending a review period.

DeVitta Briscoe is the founder of the McCaney Project, a grass-roots organization that aims to promote awareness and find solutions to the escalating problem of gun-violence among youth. She lost her son, Donald McCaney, to gang violence in 2010, and her brother Che’ Taylor, who was fatally shot by Seattle police in 2016.

Corey Palmer is a 25-year-old Seattle native who represents the young QTPOC community. He graduated from Garfield High School and is earning his RN from Shoreline Community College. After graduation, he hopes to work in either neonatal intensive care or LGBTQ+ focused community health.

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The rest of the committee is Jeffrey Beaver, Seattle attorney and member of the Washington State Supreme Court’s Minority & Justice Commission, Fabienne “Fae” Brooks, retired Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division with the King County Sheriff’s Office, Sandra “Sam” Pailca, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft who served two three-year terms as the City of Seattle’s Director of the Office of Professional Accountability, Rick Williams, brother of John T. Williams, and Judge Dean S. Lum, King County Superior Court judge, currently assigned to the criminal department.

The Review Committee will hold a public focus group on Saturday, January 27th from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave South.

The Stranger reports that King County will also begin providing “publicly-funded attorneys to the families of police shooting victims” —

Families of police shooting victims, and particularly families affected by the spate of King County shootings over the last year, have criticized the limited inquest process for a number of reasons. One issue that repeatedly comes up is families can’t afford a lawyer to help them navigate the process. Inquests are typically packed with lawyers otherwise, including lawyers for the county or the city and lawyers for the police officers involved. Without a lawyer, families of shooting victims don’t have an avenue to pose their own questions to police officers and city officials.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says that between 2012 and 2016, there have been 34 deaths involving a member of a law enforcement agency that resulted in an inquest. Of those 34 inquests, 12 families obtained either privately retained or pro-bono legal counsel. “Washington law does not require the appointment of a publicly funded attorney to represent indigent individuals at an inquest,” the King County announcement reads. “Today’s adopted ordinance will require the King County Department of Public Defense to represent the families of the decedents during the inquest process at public expense.”

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