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Thursday morning's headlines

The ink is barely dry on these signs at a WSDOT facility. Now they may soon apply to carpool lanes on I-405 as well.
The ink is barely dry on these signs at a WSDOT facility. Now they may soon apply to carpool lanes on I-405 as well.

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Carpool Tolls Likely on I-405
  • Not Guilty Plea in Prison Guard Murder Charge
  • Grand Jury Request by Woodcarver's Family

I-405 Carpool Tolls Coming?

As drivers get ready to pay new tolls this spring to cross the Highway 520 floating bridge – more tolls could be on the way.  State lawmakers have proposed charging cars with only one or two people in them to use carpool lanes on I-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue. 

The plan is part of an effort to put tolls throughout the state to reduce congestion and boost revenue, according to the Seattle Times' Mike Lindblom:

"We're seeing this work in other places, and we think this is our future," said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond at a Senate hearing in Olympia on Wednesday, on a bill to launch I-405 tolling in 2014. The House already approved the legislation.

The price of the proposed tolls on I-405 hasn’t been decided yet.  Similar tolls on Highway 167 south of Renton average just under $1. 


Scherf Pleads 'Not Guilty'

He's accused of murdering Monroe Reformatory prison guard Jayme Biendl in late January, and has stated previously he planned to plead guilty.  Yesterday convicted rapist Byron Scherf made a plea of  'not guilty' of strangling Biendl in the Reformatory's chapel on January 29.

The Herald of Everett's Diana Hefley reports defense attorneys say they are concerned Snohomish County prosecutors are trying to influence public opinion against Scherf before trial begins:

"The prosecutor's office is attempting to create an expectation in the public (and possibly in Mr. Scherf himself) that Mr. Scherf has a responsibility to plead guilty and throw himself on the executioner's slab for final condemnation...," defense attorney Jon Scott submitted in a written statement.

Prosecutors want to seek the death penalty for Scherf if he's found guilty. He was already facing a life sentence and had served 14 years in prison prior to Biendl's murder.


Woodcarver's Family Wants Grand Jury Review

The family of native woodcarver John T Williams wants a grand-jury to decide whether criminal chargesshould be brought against the former Seattle police officer who shot and killed him.  Ian Birk shot Williams to death in August, a shooting was found “unjustified” by the Seattle Police Department’s Firearms Review Board.  

KIRO-TV reports the request comes days after King County Prosector Dan Satterberg said he would not bring charges against Birk:

The request by the Williams' family would require Satterberg to turn the case over to the Superior Court of King County. If a majority of judges agreed, they could summon a grand jury into the shooting to decide whether Birk should be charged with murder.

Attorneys for the family filed a grand jury petition in King County Superior Court on Wednesday.  Judges could approve it if they decide “the public interest so demands” and find “sufficient evidence of criminal activity.”