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Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

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Earlier this month, nearly half the inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla staged a hunger strike. It ended after five days. The inmates were protesting the quality of prison food.

It’s an issue that has been simmering in Washington prisons for years.

The owner of a seafood processing company in Pierce County, Washington, has pleaded guilty in a case involving the illegal sale of sea cucumbers, leathery creatures that are considered a delicacy to eat in some cultures.

Elaine Thompson / AP

A federal judge in Seattle says the Trump administration still has to prove its ban on transgender troops is constitutional. The judge says people who are transgender can continue serving for now.

Snohomish Co. Sheriff's Office via AP

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Authorities in Washington state on Wednesday released composite sketches based on DNA evidence of a suspect in an unsolved, 30-year-old double slaying of a young Canadian couple.

A bipartisan effort to repeal the death penalty fell short in the Washington Legislature this year. But a separate effort to overturn the state's capital punishment statute through the courts is ongoing.

The constitutional challenge to the death penalty in Washington involves the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, 45, who was sentenced to die for the 1996 rape and murder of Geneine Harshfield in Tacoma.

Three years ago, Betsy Deane's son was killed in an automobile accident. Now, the Pasco, Washington, grandmother hopes a new state law will allow her to reunite with the granddaughter she hasn’t been able to see since.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Thursday a bill aimed at shedding light on the cases of missing or murdered Native American women. 
 At the bill signing ceremony, Native women in traditional regalia performed a women’s honor song.

Activists across the country say they are being targeted by federal immigration authorities for speaking out at protests and accusing the government of heavy-handed tactics.

The Trump administration has warned that anyone in the country illegally could be arrested and deported under tough new enforcement rules. And federal officials deny allegations of retaliation.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups say they have documented two dozen cases of immigrant activists and volunteers who say they have been arrested or face fines for their work.

Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET

The Justice Department is suing California and two top state officials, accusing them of interfering with federal immigration efforts by passing and enforcing state laws that hinder U.S. operations against undocumented people.

The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., points out that the Constitution gives the U.S. government sweeping authority over immigration.

An initiative backed by families of people who’ve been shot by police may not appear on Washington’s November ballot after all. That’s because sponsors of Initiative 940 and police groups have agreed on a new good faith standard for the use of deadly force.

As the Washington Legislature enters its final week, a deal may be coming together to change the state’s law regarding police use of deadly force. Back-to-back public hearings on a new bill have been hastily scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in the House and Senate.

A new Washington state law designed to crack down on felons, domestic abusers and others who lie and try to buy a gun is already resulting in prosecutions.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

More than 18,000 foreign workers, most of them from Mexico, traveled legally to Washington last year to labor on the state's farms, largely in the apple, pear, and cherry industries.

Recent high-profile lawsuits have thrust the state into a debate about the benefits and shortcomings of the H-2A visa program, which allows farmers to import temporary workers from other countries to make up for labor shortages at home.

Updated at 5:27 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and asylum seekers, do not have the right to periodic bond hearings.

Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about whether emails stored overseas are subject to a U.S. warrant. It all revolved around a 1986 law, five years before the "World Wide Web" even existed.

It was the cloud and robots meet Marty McFly.

And the justices didn't seem to be buying arguments from Microsoft, an American tech company headquartered in Redmond, Wash., which is trying to protect the data.

"OUTSIDE NWDC" BY SEATTLE GLOBALIST IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0 http://bit.ly/2EN7Dav

A guard punched a detainee at a Tacoma detention center for immigrants facing deportation in retaliation for a hunger strike, a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington claims.

Anytime someone is booked into a county jail for a crime in the U.S., his or her fingerprints are automatically sent to federal authorities. If the suspect happens to be an undocumented immigrant, what happens next could depend on where the jail is located.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement often asks jails to hold undocumented people, so federal agents can pick them up and put them into deportation proceedings.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

SEATTLE (AP) — Sixteen years after federal prosecutor Thomas Wales was shot to death in his Seattle home, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Wednesday the unsolved case remains a top priority of the Justice Department.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Dozens gathered in Olympia Tuesday night for a joint Senate Law and Justice Committee and House Public Safety Committee hearing on Initiative 940, known as “De-escalate Washington.” The initiative would make it easier to prosecute police for misuse of deadly force and require more training for officers.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

A man who worked as an educational aide in nine Seattle public schools has pleaded not guilty to child rape and molestation charges.

Albert Virachismith was employed at John Muir Elementary School in the Mount Baker neighborhood in the 2016-17 school year. That’s where he’s alleged to have sexually assaulted a student in the bathroom multiple times.

Last month, a Washington state resident was fined more than $8,000 for poaching three wolves in 2016. DNA evidence linked him to three separate kills, but other poaching cases remain unsolved. 

British Columbia is taking the next step in a decade-long battle over native tribal rights. The province has filed paperwork to appeal a decision that granted Washington state tribal members rights to their ancestral lands in Canada.

Driving with a suspended license is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state and can lead to hefty fines and even jail time. But some say those fines are a burden that low-income drivers can’t bear.

Now, lawmakers are considering lowering the penalties.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

(This story clarified at 12:54 pm, January 29, 2017, to reflect what less-lethal training King County Sheriff deputies have received and remarks made by the Director of Law Enforcement Oversight, Deborah Jacobs, regarding implicit-bias training.)

Soon, all King County patrol deputies will have gone through violence de-escalation training. The King County Sheriff’s Office says non-patrol officers will also be trained. It’s part of a broader initiative to promote anti-biased policing in the department.

Momentum may be building to repeal the death penalty in Washington state. The Senate Law & Justice Committee is expected to pass a repeal measure—something that hasn’t happened in modern times. That follows an impassioned public hearing Monday.

The prosecutor of Washington’s most populous county is calling for the repeal of the death penalty. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg plans to testify Monday in favor of a proposal to replace capital punishment with life without the possibility of parole. 


A coalition of news outlets have won a partial victory in a public records lawsuit against the Washington Legislature. In a ruling Friday morning, a judge in Thurston County said lawmakers are subject to the state’s public disclosure law.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

We aren’t aware of our subconscious prejudices and how they affect our actions. Researchers say this implicit bias plays a role in policing, helping to explain why people of color often receive harsher treatment from police than whites. Some police departments are trying to address the problem through training courses.

Paula Wissel / knkx

A federal lawsuit has been filed over the shooting of 20-year-old Tommy Le last June by King County Sheriff's Deputy Cesar Molina in Burien.  

Elaine Thompson / AP File Photo

Port of Seattle officials say they’re taking greater steps to address human trafficking. That includes a public awareness campaign at Sea-Tac Airport.

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