County Prosecutor Telegraphs No Criminal Charges for Killing John T. Williams

Comments

1
Manslaughter? Negligent homicide?
2
Criminal or not, it was clearly really terrible police work. What do you want to bet the the SPD can't even fire him unless he's criminally convicted?
3
That's fucked up.
4
Whens the protest rally? Please dont say Noon @ Westlake,
5
Initiating a stop in which you shoot a guy several times before allowing him to respond seems pretty evil to me. Results like these will continue as long as we keep electing conservatives to head the County Prosecutor's office.
6
@1, criminal charges encompass both murder and manslaughter.
7
Dude, look at the logical operators.
"A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice AND with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section." (caps mine)
The way the law is written, Birk can be held criminally accountable if EITHER term is successfully argued. If he is proven to have shown malice, he's criminally liable. If he's shown to have no reason to believe that his actions were justifiable, given the situation, he's also criminally liable. For example, if a police officer shoots at a fleeing suspect, he may not have shown malicious intent. However, in most cases he would still be liable in that the use of deadly force is only justified, according to police protocol, in the most extreme cases. (Evading arrest does not usually qualify.) If you show that Birk clearly acted against the standards for proper use of force, you can bring him up on criminal charges.
It's "AND", not "OR" that we're looking at here.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, legal experts.
8
@1-It would seem that manslaughter might be an appropriate charge, but the defense given to law enforcement applies to all homicide charges, not just murder. Regardless of whether there's evidence of manslaughter, you essentially have to be able to prove intentional murder.
9
California is just as sticky about charges, and they still pursued Officer Mehserle. Imagine if they hadn't.

Seattle will probably burn. Even the most pro-cop or anti-native wag will tell you that the red meat of actual charges, regardless of your opinion, can greatly diminish the reaction to this case.
10
I'm ready to start a protest against this monstrosity.
11
@7-because it's an affirmative defense, the prosecutors have to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt (just like in civilian cases of self-defense). They'd have to disprove both.
12
Can we at least fire the murderous fuck already?
13
@7 is correct. I'm a lawyer. The law sets up a defense that requires the officer acted without malice AND with a good faith belief his act was justified. If either of those elements is missing, his defense fails.

14
You forget what OJ taught us; if you can't get him criminally, go after him in civil court. There is a much lower bar of proof and it's how the families of OJ's victims went after him (and won).

Now legal experts may say it won't work with a police officer (I don't know) but it's worth asking. You win in civil court and every other police officer might give it more than 3 seconds thought before gunning someone down who posed no imminent threat.
15
@11: Can you explain "affirmative defense"? I read the statute the same way as @7; he's not liable if he commits the act with A *and* B. If only one of those two conditions is present, it would seem he can be held liable.
16
Anyone else notice how much better behaved the hobos are these days downtown?
17
SPD IS BROKEN, SPOG IS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION
18
Unless McGinn and the Council stand up to Burgess and SPOG and refuse contracts without hard incontrovertable OPA oversight, we're fucked.

What is the status of the negotiation? Police have been without a valid union contract for 46 days.
19
A civil conviction is only useful if 1) you want to make a point and 2) the person you're suing has money and doesn't transfer it before the verdict (as Simpson did by buying a huge house in Florida). I doubt Birk has money and the PD won't indemnify him if he's not criminally chargeable.

Prosecutors tend to make decisions on charging people based on their estimate of whether they could get a conviction. Otherwise, they're spending OUR money for no purpose.
20
Rich and his porn-star moustache, along with his jack-booted thug cavalry run the city! Fuck McSchwin and his green machine! Bow down and submit!
21
What @18 said.

TANJ.
22
@14,

The city, the police department, and their respective insurance companies would pay out any award or settlement. Financially speaking, Birk is untouchable.

Williams' family should still sue to make a point, but it's not going to give them even the slightest hint of justice.
23
That certainly looked like evil intent to me.
24
@15-an "affirmative defense" is one in which the defendant essentially says, "yes, I did it, but I can't be held liable because____." Although there's not a lot of case law on this particular statute (because it rarely comes up), there's plenty of case law on other affirmative defenses. Once someone makes a prima facie case supporting the defense, the burden is on the prosecutor to disprove the defense beyond a reasoanble doubt. So I would interpret that sentence to mean that the prosecutor would have to disprove lack of malice and lack of good faith.

Even if that's not the right interpretation, though, Cienna's original post explains why it's kind of a moot point. The issue of good faith is pretty mushy, and I think that Birk would be able to convince at least some of the jurors that he acted in good faith. The jurors in the inquest split on that issue. I think the real issue is whether the prosecutor could disprove malice.
25
It's not new. It's been the reason why cops haven't been charged in such cases for decades. There is no clear way prosecutors can show malice or a lack of good faith in this one-on-one; only Birk can say what was in his mind.
26
That's disgusting and makes me sad.
27
Who is ultimately responsible for approving the SPOG contract? At the very least, this police force should not get a contract until it removes Birk.
28
I didn't think I'd resort to this kind of rhetoric, but I can't help it: SPD is an occupying army of steroid-crazed thugs who think Seattle is Baghdad and every pedestrian is a terrorist. If Birk is not charged, we're in crazyland, and everybody in town should be very, very scared. I puke on Diaz, O'Neill, Satterberg, and every other malicious pimple who is permitting this gross injustice to go unpunished.
29
lets look at the facts, a man with a knife turned away from you around 5 yards or steps is shot to death. 4 bullets hit the man in the back and side, no shot hit him in the front of his body. There was no warning shot fired, no warning of stop or I will shoot, nothing but drop the knife to a man possibly drunk, definitely old, and hard of hearing though the officer could not possibly know that. A warning shot would have stopped 99% of people in their tracks and had them hitting the ground, even those not addressed by the officer.

The question of evil intent is proven beyond any reasonable doubt by every shot fired after the first one. A man shot by a pistol round that close to him was going down, the first shot could possibly be construed as legitimate but questionable. The successive shots show a demonstrable evil intent and public safety, never legitimately in question in the first place was, pretty much covered by a shot man on the sidewalk bleeding. My family has been in Law Enforcement for more than 70 years, and I am currently a chaplain for the 3rd largest County police force in the State of Georgia I usually take the police position and defend it when even remotely possible. In my opinion this was murder under the color of authority!
30
There is a call spreading around facebook for a protest at Westlake at 6 PM. The October 22nd Coalition, if that's your style, is doing their own thing at 4 PM in front of City Hall. Is anyone surprised that the system works to protect cops? If you want to change anything, or even if you just want to express outrage, EVERYONE TO THE STREETS!
31
There is a gathering at 9 a/m in front of city hall. There are other gatherings, but anyone connected with the family themselves are avoiding the October 22nd people because they tend towards violence, and the family is wanting to avoid that. The young anarchists, however, may be the ones to start the firestorm that possibly needs to happen. Maybe the town needs to burn to let them know people are serious, they don't like being victimized by the people who are supposed to 'protect' them.
32
I'd say the key word there is "and". As in it has to be without malice AND a good faith belief that the act is justifiable. Wouldn't that seem to imply that they could argue he was acting out of negligence rather than good faith to pursue charges of negligent manslaughter?
33
Cienna: What venomlash said above... Malice is *not* a requirement. I've been saying this for weeks now, ever since Miletich over at the Times has been trumpeting the "malice is required" song. I also spoke with Dominic Holden on the phone 2 weeks ago about it, and emailed him the following day with full details, links, and logic.

As venomlash stated, simply look at the logic: two criteria are required for a cop to gain protection from liability -- there has to be (1) good faith AND (2) no malice... simply prove a lack of good faith, and Birk is fair game.

Why does the media let the prosecutor get away with distorting what the law says so badly, without countering it? Is there some reason you can't reply "wait, that's not what the law clearly states"?
34
@24, you say "...the burden is on the prosecutor to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. So I would interpret that sentence to mean that the prosecutor would have to disprove lack of malice and lack of good faith. Even if that's not the right interpretation, though..."

Can you explain how you arrive at your interpretation? To disprove that an AND construct is true (as the law is written), one need only disprove one element (beyond a reasonable doubt), and the entire AND construct fails. How do you jump from that, to needing to prove both? You state it, but don't explain the illogical leap. I guess that explains your "Even if that's not the right interpretation, though..." ?
35
In addition, the explanation provided in this article and provided by the prosecuting attorney of what "malice" actually means in law is pretty questionable. Take a few seconds to look up "malice" in a legal dictionary and decide for yourselves whether Birk's actions fall in to that definition or not.