Police shooting inquests halted in King County pending report on possible reforms

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SEATTLE (AP) — Inquests of fatal police shootings in King County have been put on hold until a committee reviewing the process submits recommendations for potential reforms.

King County Executive Dow Constantine made the announcement Monday.

Monday’s action puts on hold five pending inquests currently underway for the police shooting deaths of Isaiah Obet, Damarius Butts, Eugene D. Nelson, Tommy Le and Charleena Lyles.

Under state law, elected coroners or appointed medical examiners are allowed to call an inquest to investigate circumstances and causes of any death involving law enforcement. King County’s charter requires an inquest.

Constantine announced the formation of the review committee in December at the end of a year when Constantine ordered 13 inquests.

The process has drawn increasing criticism from those who say the method is biased toward law enforcement officers.

The review committee is expected to issue its recommendations in March.

Corey Guilmette, an attorney with the Public Defender Association in Seattle, issued a statement that read, in part:

“Significant reforms are needed in order for inquest proceedings to serve the needs of Charleena Lyles’s family members…. Reform must also include publicly-appointed counsel for families, which is the only way to ensure inquest proceedings are fair and balanced. On January 9th, Councilmembers Kohl-Welles, Dembowski and Upthegrove will introduce important legislation that will ensure all families have the legal representation they need to effectively participate in inquest proceedings.”

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