This morning roughly 50 people, many of them representing local and national Native American tribes, packed into a King County Courthouse overflow room to witness the first day of a public inquest hearing into the August 30 shooting death of 50-year-old First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams at the hands of SPD officer Ian Birk. Two clear goals unite the people assembled here: They want to hear Officer Birk testify and they want to see Birk tried for Williams' murder. Neither scenario is guaranteed—as of this morning, Birk wasn't confirmed to testify and public inquests are different beasts than criminal trials—but for the people assembled here, this is their best shot at finding some peace.

As King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman began whittling down the jury pool from 30 to six in a packed courtroom one floor below, friends and supporters of Williams prayed together in the dimly lit overflow room "for the outcome we all desire," said Jay Hollingsworth, co-chair of the John T. Williams organizing committee, a group committed to seeking greater police accountability following Williams' death and a number of other high profile use-of-force cases involving SPD and minority suspects. Flanked by two large projector screens and spotty audio, those assembled prayed for justice—that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg would file "at least manslaughter if not second degree murder charges against Officer Birk," stemming from the inquest.

But the inquest hearing won't deliver the immediate justice they crave—the jury won't be tasked with condemning or exonerating Birk's actions.

More after the jump.

"This is not a criminal trial," stressed Judge Chapman. "[Jurors] will not determine anyone's guilt or innocence, or civil liability." Instead, jurors will listen to testimony, watch in-car footage (mostly audio) of the incident, and consider evidence already familiar to most people following this case—namely, that Williams was partially deaf and that Officer Birk failed to follow standard police procedure and call for backup before confronting Williams. As agreed by the court, the jury won't hear about the SPD's preliminary internal findings that Williams shooting was unjustified.

By weeks end, the jury will decide whether the cause of John T. Williams's death by answering 'yes,' 'no,' or 'unknown' to a series of 15 questions*. Williams supporters hope that Satterberg will seek charges against Birk stemming from the facts outlined in the inquest.

Here are the questions the jury will be tasked with answering:

On August 30, 2010, did Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk observe John T. Williams crossing the street?
Was John T. Williams carrying an open knife at the time he was observed?
Did Officer Birk get out of his patrol car to contact John T. Williams?
Did Officer Birk attempt to stop John T. Williams?
Did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand when he was contacted?
Did Officer Birk tell John T. Williams to drop the knife?
If yes, did John T. Williams comply with that order?
Did Officer Birk believe that John T. Williams posed an imminent threat of serious physical harm to himself or others at the times he fired his weapon?
Did John T. Williams die in King County, Washington on August 30, 2010?
Did Officer Birk fire his service weapon at John T. Williams on August 30, 2010?
If yes, did John T. Williams die from the gunshot wounds caused by Officer Birk?
When Officer Birk fired his service weapon, did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand?
If yes, was John T. Williams' knife open when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
Was John T. Williams facing Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
If no, was John T. Williams turning towards Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?

But Sheri Day, a spokeswoman for the John T. Williams organizing committee who has witnessed a number of inquest hearings, is not optimistic. "I think its probable that they find Birk justified [in shooting Williams]. If you look at the questions the jury is tasked with answering are very slanted towards a police officer's experience and not an objective review of the facts. Police policies and procedures are written in such a way that they protect the police."

Day, like many others, wants to see Birk testify about what happened that day on the corner of Boren Avenue and Howell Street. Many in the room memorialize Williams's death with headbands and other tokens that read, "4 Seconds to Death," referring to the short time between when Officer Birk issued three rapid-fire orders for Williams to drop his carving knife and when he opened fire.

"I want to hear straight from his mouth what happened," said Vellova Blackbear, who protested outside the courthouse this morning with a sign that read Brutality! Charge Officer Birk with Murder! He owes everyone who loved [Williams] and everyone who's suffered from police brutality that much."

*This post has been updated.