King County executive orders review of police shooting inquests

The latest local police shooting happened overnight in Magnuson Park.

Seattle police say a robbery suspect drove away, shooting at officers, before police shot him.

Among the things that will happen next: a King County inquest.

The process to review facts of a case in a courtroom often causes frustration for family members of the dead.

"It's slanted from a law enforcement perspective, first of all," said Andre Taylor, whose brother was shot and killed by Seattle police in 2016. "Second, there's no guarantee whatsoever a family will be able to produce an attorney to represent them going through an already flawed process."

Andre Taylor now helps other families, and says that, too often, families can't afford to hire attorneys to represent them at an inquest.

"If you don't have any representation, the attorneys from law enforcement will come and just run the table, and you're sitting there suffering," Taylor said.

On Monday, the mother of Giovonn Joseph-McDade, who was killed by police in Kent, stormed out of an inquest, saying she was being denied her rights to legal counsel.

Deborah Jacobs, who directs King County's Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, said inquests have a narrow scope.

"It's a well-intentioned process but it's not answering the needs of the public," she said.

Jacobs said inquests are set up for a jury to decide factual questions about a case, but not draw conclusions.

"Often it doesn't get to the questions the public is most interested in, which are: 'How did this happen and how can we stop it from happening next time?'"

KIRO 7 looked at several databases and, by our count, 34 people have been shot by police in Washington state this year.

Six of those shootings have been in King County.

On Tuesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine appointed a panel to review how inquests are working.

The panel will report back in March on whether juries in inquests should consider more aspects of shootings and whether the county should pay for legal representation for the families of the dead.

"Our sole goal is to make sure justice is done and all the facts get out on the table so we can prevent these tragedies from happening again," Constantine said.

In a statement, Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs said no change is needed to the inquest process, which it describes as objective and fact-finding.

But, the council said, if a review goes forward, law enforcement agencies need a seat at the table.