Paula Wissel | KNKX

Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KNKX: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

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King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

The year 2020 was deadly in more ways than one. In addition to coronavirus deaths, the murder rate spiked. And there’s no indication things are getting better. King County, for example, is on pace to set another deadly record for gun violence in 2021. And the victims are overwhelmingly young people of color.


Children and their mom walk through a park in Seattle on Feb. 26, 2018.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

As expected, the King County Council has put a levy focused on children and families on the August primary ballot.

The Best Starts for Kids $800 million levy is a renewal of a measure first passed in 2015. It would cost the owner of a median-priced home in Seattle about $114 a year.

People take part in a rally against hate and the rising violence against Asians living in the U.S., at Columbus Park in the Chinatown section of the Manhattan borough of New York, on Sunday, March 21, 2021.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / The Associated Press

The King County Council will soon consider setting up a Hate Crimes Task Force. It would include a new four-person unit in the King County Sheriff’s Office dedicated to investigating hate crimes and two deputy prosecutors working full time on hate and bias crimes.

Boxes of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on April 13, 2021.
Szilard Koszticsak / MTI via AP

The Washington Department of Health is immediately pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following reports of blood clots.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

The decades-long battle over the missing link on the popular Burke-Gilman Trail will drag on even longer. Because of the City of Seattle’s loss in several recent court cases, the completion of a stretch of the trail in the Ballard neighborhood likely won’t happen next year as planned. 

That survey you got in your email or via text might be a scam.
Jenny Kane / The Associated Press file

Scammers are always looking for opportunities. Lately, they’ve been targeting people who’ve been vaccinated against COVID.

Tens of thousands of women in Washington who have vaginal mesh implants will qualify for some restitution. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has reached an $8.8 million settlement with Boston Scientific, one of the makers of the devices. This follows similar agreements struck with other manufacturers in the past few years, including Johnson & Johnson.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has issued an emergency order preventing companies from using your credit score to increase your home and auto insurance.
Richard Drew / The Associated Press file

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has issued an emergency order preventing companies from using your credit score to increase your home and auto insurance. The order will remain in place for three years after the pandemic is declared over.

Misinfo Day 2019 at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.
UW Center for an Informed Public

As you scroll through your social media feed, how often do you stop and think, “Is that really true?” It’s a question students in middle and high school are being asked to ponder this week as part of Misinfo Day.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

There’s an election going on in King County that lets you vote with a few clicks on your phone or tablet. It’s the second year the King Conservation District is relying on mobile voting. Last year, it was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to try it, and the number of people casting votes doubled in what is usually a very obscure election.

Customer Kyung Kim, right, and her daughter Alexa Oh, 9, are handed their purchased baked goods through an open door by cashier Donna Te as they maintain social distance and wear masks Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Workers at supermarkets in unincorporated King County will begin receiving hazard pay in a couple of weeks. The King County Council voted Tuesday to require large grocery stores to pay an extra $4 an hour to employees.

The facade of the building that housed the Fenix Cafe in Seattle's Pioneer Square crumbled following an earthquake Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

Twenty years ago Sunday, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the Puget Sound region. If you went through the Nisqually quake, you probably have a story to go with it.

In this March 11, 2020, photo, a laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, in Lake Success, N.Y.
John Minchillo / The Associated Press file

The coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa has now been discovered in King County. It’s the first time the variant, which is more contagious, has been identified in Washington. 

Tonya Isabell speaks June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles, pictured at right.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The Washington State Court of Appeals says a lawsuit filed by the family of a Seattle woman shot to death by police can go forward. On June 18, 2017, Charleena Lyles was killed in her home by two police officers who said she had lunged at them with a knife.

Gavels and law books are shown in the office of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George at his office in San Francisco, Calif., in July 2010.
Jeff Chiu / The Associated Press file

Hundreds of students, professors and deans at Washington law schools say recent graduates should be granted "diploma privilege" -- meaning they wouldn't have to take the bar exam to become members of the bar. The privilege was granted to students at Washington law schools last year, but the state Supreme Court has decided not to extend it for the winter exam this month.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Early in the pandemic, King County worked to limit the number of people in jail as a way of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. To help meet that goal, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg pledged to limit case filings to the serious felonies. Now, the prosecutor has increased filings for a broader array of crimes. He says the growing backlog left him with no choice. 

Some domestic violence survivors say they face abuse in the courts, even long after they’ve severed ties with their partner. A new Washington law, which took effect Jan. 1, seeks to stop what’s known as “abusive litigation.”

The Associated Press

The demand for COVID vaccines is great - but the rollout here in Washington is slow going. It's been a month since the first shipment of vaccines arrived, and the state has only used a quarter of its doses.

U.S. Air Force Veteran Robert Aucoin, 78, gets his temperature checked prior to receiving his COVID-19 vaccine at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass., on Dec. 29, 2020.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican via AP, Pool

Washington veterans homes are giving COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff in the Puget Sound region this week, at facilities in Orting and Port Orchard. But David Puente, deputy director of Washington’s Department of Veterans Affairs, said at state veterans homes in other parts of the state, not everyone chose to get the shot.

Famartin/Wikimedia Commons

Employee break rooms can be danger zones when it comes to the coronavirus. Public health officials warn that the nature of the space and our behavior when we go on break make the spread of the virus more likely in a break room.

One of the glass works hidden in this year's Monkeyshines event.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

Author's note: I was reluctant to venture outside in the middle of the night with the rain coming down in sheets, knowing I’d be traipsing through muddy playgrounds and parks in the dark. But I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun doing a story. The “secretive” mission I was following was all about spreading a little joy to others. This was back in February, before COVID-19 took over our lives, and before we all realized how much we would need some of that joy to get us through dark times. (This story originally aired Feb. 11, 2020.)

The pirate ship display is among the most popular attractions at Fantasy Lights.
Fantasy Lights / Pierce County Parks

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is attracting a record number of visitors this year. Jennifer Spane, Pierce County Parks & Recreation supervisor, says on weekends wait times can be up to three hours. She said the holiday tradition, now in its 26th year, is perfectly suited for a pandemic because it’s something you experience without ever leaving your car.

If you’ve seen Disney’s family film “The One and Only Ivan,” you know it tells the story of a lovable gorilla who lives in a shopping mall with other talking animals but longs to return to the natural world to be among other gorillas. As you might guess, he gets his wish. Believe it or not, the movie was inspired by real events that actually played out in our area, in south Tacoma.

Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

The first shipment of COVID vaccine for Washington state arrived at Sea-Tac Airport Monday morning. For hospitals, it was a moment for some celebration.

John Locher / AP Photo

The attempt by President Donald Trump to overturn the election seems to have spurred interest among students in learning more about election law. A winter-quarter class on the topic at the University of Washington School of Law has double the usual number of registrants.

A tent stands at the emergency entrance to Seattle Children's Hospital. As health officials across Washington state prepare for the latest COVID-19 surge, rural hospitals face unique challenges.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Rural hospitals are feeling the effect of the surge in coronavirus cases in Washington. Unlike earlier in the pandemic when urban areas felt most of the impact, this time small town hospitals are also being slammed with cases. And this is happening as some of the same hospitals are dealing with an influx of patients from out of state.

KNKX photo

King County will no longer be electing its sheriff. Voters approved a charter amendment that directs the county to appoint its top law enforcement officer. The County Council is planning how to go about making the change.

Charles Krupa / The Associated Press

Making the transition from being in the military to living and working outside of it can be challenging. COVID-19 has made it even harder.

When civic leaders wanted to tear down Pike Place Market in the 1970s, people rallied to save it. Pictured here is a demonstration from 1971.
MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.54096.1, photo by Tom Brownell

Sometimes in the heat of an election, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But there are lessons to be learned from taking a step back and putting it in context.

An online exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI, in Seattle does that. It looks at how democracy has played out in Washington state over the years, from how we cast our ballots to our use of the initiative process to our history of protesting.

Nurses put on PPE outside Harborview on April 2, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A major expansion of Harborview Medical Center is on the ballot in King County. It’s listed as King County Proposition 1. If approved, the $1.7 billion, 20-year bond would pay for a new 10-story medical tower along with upgrades to emergency and behavioral health facilities, as well as earthquake proofing.