Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KPLU since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KPLU, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KPLU: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

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Green River killer
5:02 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Family of Becky Marrero speak out about serial murderer Ridgway

Mary Marrero right, the sister of Green River Killer victim Becky Marrero, reads a statement in court as her mother, Rebecca Marrero, left, wipes her eyes, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent., Wash.
AP

It was an emotional scene in a King County courtroom as the man known as the Green River killer pleaded guilty to his 49th murder.  Gary Ridgway is already serving 48 consecutive life terms. The latest plea is for murdering Becky Marrero in 1982, whose remains were found last December.

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JOHN T. WILLIAMS SHOOTING
8:26 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Angry protesters demand justice for slain woodcarver

Anwar Peace was one of several hundred people gathered to honor John T. Williams and express their dismay that the police officer who killed him on a Seattle street last summer will not face criminal charges.
Paula Wissel KPLU News

Sage smoke, prayers and the beat of Native drums filled the air at Seattle City Hall Wednesday afternoon as several hundred people gathered to demand justice for woodcarver John T. Williams. Williams, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nuulth First Nation in British Columbia, was shot to death last Aug. 30th by a Seattle police officer.

The demonstrators moved on to Westlake Park.  Later, several dozen marched to the crosswalk at Boren St. and Howell St. where Williams was killed by Officer Ian Birk.

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Seattle Police
10:44 am
Wed February 9, 2011

Seattle's horse patrol looking to public to pay for hay

Seattle Police Mounted Patrol Sgt. Grant Ballingham in Belltown in September, 2010.
Gary Davis

Justice, Harvest, Charlie, Tiger, Blaze, Jet and Cody recently got a reprieve.

The horses are in  Seattle Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit. Budget cuts had threatened to eliminate their jobs. But the Seattle Police Foundation and the Seattle Hotel Association have pledged to pay for feeding, sheltering and caring for the working horses for three years.

The organizations have enough money to cover two years and are asking the public to pay for the rest. At the website, saveourhorses.net, you can make a donation.

Here's a video about the Mounted Patrol Unit produced by the Police Foundation:

Real Estate
8:14 am
Wed February 9, 2011

One-third of homes 'underwater' in Puget Sound region

Data shows increasing number of residents owe more on mortgage than home is worth.
AP

Update Feb. 10, 2011 - The correct percentage of area mortgage holders "underwater" - as reported by Zillow.com - is 34.3%, not of all homeowners. This post has been updated to clarify that point.

Do you owe more on your mortgage than your house is worth? You’re not alone. One-third of homeowners in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are “underwater” on their homes. "Negative equity" rose faster in this region than anywhere else in the country.

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Crime
2:52 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

How deaths are investigated in Washington state

Autopsy table in the morgue operated by the King County Medical Examiner. Every year in the county, about 2,000 deaths are investigated.
Paula Wissel KPLU

In Washington state, if someone dies under suspicious circumstances or suddenly with no obvious cause, an investigation is required. But just how that investigation is conducted depends on where the person dies. It varies county by county.

In King County, Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Harruff has a full staff of forensic pathologists who respond quickly to conduct autopsies and other post mortem investigations.  On a recent morning, he described the bodies that had been brought in over night.

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Gary Ridgway Charged
7:41 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

New murder charge filed against "Green River Killer"

An undated photo of Becky Marrero, who disappeared near Sea-Tac in 1982. The man dubbed the "Green River killer" is now charged with her murder.
King County Prosecutor's Office


The man known as the "Green River Killer" has been charged with another murder. Gary Ridgway is already serving a life sentence for killing 48 women. He's considered one of the nation's most prolific serial killers.


On Monday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced aggravated first-degree murder charges against Gary Ridgway in the death of Rebecca "Becky" Marrero, who disappeared after leaving a motel in SeaTac in 1982.


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Juvenile crime
5:32 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Teens with illegal guns get off easy

A teenager caught with an illegal gun in Washington gets little more than a slap on the wrist.  That’s the complaint of prosecutors who are trying to stiffen the penalty.

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Film
8:17 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Oscar nomination for woman who grew up on Mercer Island

Mercer Island-native Anne Rosellini (right) is pictured with Alix Madigan at the Gotham Awards in New York last November. Rosellini got an Oscar nomination as co-writer and producer of the film "Winter's Bone."
melsil YouTube.com

Seattle has a special connection to the Oscars this year. Anne Rosellini, a Mercer Island High School graduate and co-founder of the One Reel Film Festival at Bumbershoot,  received two nominations for "Winter's Bone,"  a film she produced and co-wrote, with director Debra Granik. Here's the trailer:

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Seattle Police
5:06 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Seattle high school students plan walkout over police conduct

Some Seattle high school students plan to walk out of class tomorrow, Wednesday, as part of a protest against police brutality and misconduct.  They plan to rally at Victor Steinbrueck Park near Pike Place Market at 1 p.m.

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Civil rights legislation
11:32 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Seattle expands definition of service animal

Miniature horses can be trained to assist people who are blind. The Guide Horse Program says the animals perform many of the tasks seeing-eye dogs do.
guidehorse.org

When you think of a service animal, you probably think of a dog sitting next to someone who’s blind.  But under new civil rights legislation in Seattle,  the city defines " service animal” as:

"any animal a doctor deems medically necessary."

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Metro Transit
2:54 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Lawsuit over Metro bus ad

This is the ad the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign was set to place on Metro buses in December, 2010. King County decided not to allow the ad and is now the target of a lawsuit.
ACLU Legal Exhibit

King County is being sued over its refusal to allow a controversial ad on Metro buses. The advertisement, sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, reads:  “Israeli War Crimes.Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

County officials originally agreed to the ad in December, but changed their mind when news of the campaign sparked international criticism and concerns about violence.

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John T. Williams shooting
2:22 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Woodcarver's brother testifies at inquest

Rick Williams, brother of the native woodcarver shot by a Seattle policeman last August, testifies at an inquest, January 18, 2011 in Seattle. This image is a screen grab from KING-TV video.
KING-TV

The brother of the woodcarver killed by a Seattle policeman testified today during the inquest into the shooting. Much of the testimony during the inquest has centered on whether John T. William’s knife was open or closed at the time he was shot by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, who has testified he feared the woodcarver was about to attack him.

On the stand today, John T. Williams older brother Rick told jurors he and his brother were taught by their father to close their knives when they talked to people. Linda Byron of KING 5 News writes:

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Street lights
12:37 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Saying goodbye to decorative street lights?

Decorative streetlight in Belltown in downtown Seattle.
Paula Wissel

Those quaint streetlights that grace some neighborhood business districts in Seattle may be history.  Seattle City Light wants to limit the installation of decorative streetlights in the future.  This comes in the wake of the city’s ongoing inspection of light poles, some of which have been emitting dangerous levels of electricity.

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Street lights
1:50 am
Wed January 5, 2011

More bad light poles in Seattle

More problems have been discovered with Seattle City Light poles and sidewalk plates
Gary Davis

Seattle’s ongoing inspection of streetlights has turned up more dangerous structures.  But city officials insist the potential harm to people and pets is minimal. 

Seattle City Light began testing all 30 thousand metal lights and sidewalk covers after a dog was electrocuted on Queen Anne Hill in November.  The metal plate the dog stepped on was emitting 90 volts of electricity.  Frayed wires were the problem.  

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