In September, attorneys representing the estate of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant African American mother of four who was fatally shot by two Seattle police officers in June, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two officers who killed her. Today the future of this wrongful death suit became uncertain after Lyles' father was found ineligible to represent his daughter's estate because of a felony drug conviction in California from 1990, The Seattle Times reports.
It's up to the new representative for Lyles' estate, retired court commissioner Eric Watness, who was selected by a King County Superior Court Commissioner on Wednesday, to decide whether to continue with the wrongful death suit, withdraw it for a later date, or abandon it.
Charles Lyles, Charleena's father, filed the wrongful death suit in September on behalf of Lyles' four children. The suit alleges that the two officers failed to account for Lyles' known mental illness, didn't use the proper de-escalation techniques, and failed to take into account the safety of her children, who were in the apartment when she was killed. In September, attorneys representing Lyles' estate explained at a press conference that the suit was also intended to get promised answers from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) about the circumstances of Lyles' killing.
Lyles' estate exists only to receive money from a wrongful death suit that would be used to pay legal fees, with any remainder going to her children.
Lyles was shot seven times by the two white Seattle police officers, who were in her apartment responding to her report of a stolen XBox. The officers say she attacked them with a knife.
The Times notes that there's been a "rift between Charles Lyles, who lives in California, and his daughter’s Seattle-area relatives, as well as the disagreement between attorneys on how best to get answers about her death."
Charles Lyles, unlike the other members of Charleena's family, said he wouldn't participate in a King County inquest into her death. The inquest is intended to establish the circumstances and cause of Lyles' death, but not whether the officers were guilty of a criminal or civil violation. Preliminary hearings for the inquest are scheduled for November 13. Karen Koehler, one of the attorneys who filed the wrongful death suit, advised Lyles that inquests are biased in favor of police officers, according to the Times.
Charleena Lyles’ sisters, brother and cousins didn't know that Charles Lyles was filing a wrongful-death suit, according to the attorney representing them in the inquest.
No one who has been convicted of a felony can serve as a personal representative in a lawsuit. Before he acted as personal representative, Charles Lyles was under the impression that he'd been convicted of a misdemeanor for selling drugs in 1990, rather than a felony, according to Koehler. Her office failed to find record of the felony in a background check.