In a letter dated today and addressed to the Williams' family attorneys, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says he will not convene a grand jury to investigate whether or not former police officer Ian Birk could be held criminally responsible for killing John T. Williams.
"I must respectfully decline your request," Holmes writes (.pdf). "The King County Prosecuting Attorney has determined that there will be no criminal prosecution in Mr. Williams's death."
However—and this is exciting—Holmes adds that the laws governing an officer's justifiable use of force should be changed. He's not the first attorney concerned by the "breadth and vagueness" of the law addressing an officer's justifiable use of deadly force that puts prosecutors in a horrible "all or nothing situation" where manslaughter charges are impossible for homicides that don't qualify as murder (something I touched on here).
Furthermore, Holmes states: "I believe the statute should be amended, for example, to add a 'reasonable belief' requirement or perhaps to remove the 'malice' element altogether."
I'm not sure if this means Holmes is committed to drafting a measure to get the law changed—his office wasn't immediately available for comment (I'll update when I hear from them). Hopefully, it does.
UPDATE: Holmes office says that the city attorney is willing to help convene a group of stakeholders to tackle the issue—not necessarily draft legislation. Bummer.
Holmes's letter is in response to a request sent Monday by Williams' family attorneys Tim Ford, Andrea Brenneke, and Connie Sue Martin, calling on either Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg (.pdf) to assemble a grand jury of citizens to decide whether or not criminal charges should be pressed against Birk (after Satterberg declined to press criminal charges against the former officer last month).
The grand jury system was last used in King County in 1971.
Similar to the public inquest that took place, a grand jury would review all of the facts surrounding Williams death, with one important difference: a grand jury would be educated on the (murky) laws governing officers' use of deadly force. Essentially, the jury would then decide whether or not Birk followed the law. The public inquest jury was not instructed in this manner.