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Inquest process

Inquests are managed by the Department of Executive Services (DES). They are conducted by Inquest Administrators who oversee the proceedings. These Administrators conduct inquests by following the guidelines provided in an executive order. The Administrator determines the scope of the issues and decides who will be called to testify. An Inquest Program Attorney will assist the Inquest Administrator during the proceedings.

After a death occurs in the course of law enforcement or corrections duties, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (PAO) receives materials from the law enforcement or corrections agency investigating the incident. Once the PAO receives these materials, it makes a recommendation to the King County Executive about whether an inquest should be held. The County Executive then determines whether an inquest will be held. Once the Executive orders an inquest, an Inquest Administrator is assigned.

The Inquest Program Manager, based in DES, supports the operational and procedural requirements of the inquest.

Other persons involved in the inquest may include:

  • The family of the deceased, who may be represented by a King County Public Defender or private counsel if they so choose.
  • The law enforcement or corrections officer(s) involved who may be represented by counsel.
  • The law enforcement or corrections agency that employs the officer(s) involved who may be represented by counsel. The agency chief/director or their designee is required to testify regarding training and policies relevant to the incident.
  • An inquest panel (jury) of up to eight persons, as required by state law.
  • Witnesses to the incident, subject matter experts, or others with knowledge of the incident as determined by the Inquest Administrator will be summoned to provide testimony.

At the conclusion of the inquest, under direction of the Inquest Administrator, the inquest panelists answer questions called interrogatories. The purpose of the interrogatories is for the jury to render verdicts setting out who was killed, when, where, how, by whom, whether the killing was by criminal means, and to make relevant factual determinations including, but not limited to, whether the law enforcement or corrections officer(s) complied with training and policy.

The participating attorneys have the opportunity to make a statement of summation if they so choose. Statements will be pre-written and screened by the Inquest Administrator to ensure they are properly within the scope of the inquiry. At the end of the inquest, each member of the inquest panel will answer each interrogatory posed. The Inquest Program Manager will send all of this information to the County Executive and the PAO, and ensure that it is made available through the Inquest Program website.