Appendix 1 - Conducting Inquests in King County
Appendix 1 of PHL-7-1-2-EO, Conducting Inquests in King County, October 3, 2018.
1.0. SUBJECT TITLE
Conducting Inquests in King County.
2.1. To establish policies and procedures for conducting reviews into the facts and circumstances of any death of an individual involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of the member’s duties [and/or the exercise of member’s authority], and occasionally in other cases, as determined by the County Executive.
2.2. The purpose of the inquest is to ensure a full, fair, and transparent review of any such death, and to issue findings of fact regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the death. The review will result in the issuance of findings regarding the cause and manner of death, and whether the law enforcement member acted pursuant to policy and training.
2.3. The purpose of the inquest is not to determine whether the law enforcement member acted in good faith or should be disciplined or otherwise held accountable, or to otherwise find fault, or to determine if the use of force was justified, or to determine civil or criminal liability. It is acknowledged that the facts determined in the course of the inquest may sometimes have an indirect bearing on such determinations.
3.0. ORGANIZATIONS AFFECTED
King County Department of Public Defense; King County Executive; King County Prosecuting Attorney; King County Superior Court; King County Medical Examiner’s Office; King County Department of Executive Services; Law Enforcement agencies within King County.
4.1. RCW 36.24 Counties; County Coroner.
4.2. King County Charter, Section 320.20 – The Executive Branch, Powers and Duties.
4.3. King County Charter, Section 895 – General Provisions: Mandatory Inquests.
4.4. King County Code 2.35A.090(B).
5.1. “King County Executive” or “County Executive” means the official, or the designee of the official, who is elected and serves as the County Executive of King County pursuant to Article 3 of the King County Charter.
5.2. “King County Prosecuting Attorney” means the official, or the designee of the official, who is elected and serves as Prosecuting Attorney for King County pursuant to Article XI, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution.
5.3. “Inquest” means an administrative, fact-finding inquiry into and review of the manner, facts and circumstances of the death of an individual involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of his or her duties [and/or the exercise of his or her authority], and occasionally in other cases, as determined by the County Executive, where death occurs in the custody of or in the course of contact with other non-law enforcement government agencies or employees.
5.4. “Law enforcement agency” means any agency having police powers as authorized under Washington State law. For the purposes of this policy, “a member of any law enforcement agency” shall mean commissioned officers and non-commissioned staff of all local and state police forces, jails, and corrections agencies.
5.5. “Attorney representing the family of the deceased” means a privately-retained or publicly funded attorney, pursuant to KC Ordinance 18652.
5.6. “Rules of Evidence” means the evidentiary rules adopted by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington governing proceedings in the courts of the State of Washington, and such rules as may be adopted by the King County Hearing Examiner pursuant to KCC 20.22.
5.7. “Voir dire” means an examination of a prospective panel as defined below.
5.8. “In camera review” means an examination of materials by the administrator in private proceedings to rule on admissibility and use.
5.9. “Panel” refers to the jury of inquest provided by Superior Court pursuant to RCW Chapter 36.24.
5.10. “Administrator” means the presider of the inquest proceeding, selected from a roster approved by the County Executive, who presides over a particular inquest proceeding.
5.11. “Manager” means the staff assigned to oversee the inquest program, to assign an administrator and pro tem attorney to a particular inquest, to provide clerical support to the administrator and pro tem attorney, and to report annually to the County Executive.
5.12. “Pro tem attorney” means the pro tem attorney assigned to assist the administrator and to facilitate an inquest.
6.1. There shall be an inquest into the manner, facts, and circumstances of any death of an individual involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of his or her duties, [and/or the exercise of his or her authority], and in any other case as occasionally determined by the County Executive where death occurs in the custody of or in the course of contact with other non-law enforcement government agencies or employees.
6.2. While the term “involving” is to be construed broadly, there may be circumstances in which law enforcement’s role is so minimal as to not warrant an inquest, or where for other reasons an inquest would impede the administration of justice. Factors to be considered include: whether a decision to prosecute has been made; whether the death was the result of a condition existing prior to and/or apart from the law enforcement involvement; whether the individual was in custody at the time of the death; whether the family of the deceased desires an inquest; and any other factor that touches on the connection between the manner of death and the actions of law enforcement. However, the public has a strong interest in a full and transparent review of the circumstances surrounding the death of an individual involving law enforcement, so an inquest will ordinarily be held.
6.3. At the discretion of the County Executive, in exceptional circumstances there may be an inquest into the causes and circumstances of a death involving an individual in King County other than a member of a law enforcement agency.
7.1. The King County Prosecuting Attorney shall inform the King County Executive whenever an investigation into a death involving a member of any law enforcement agency in King County is complete and also advise whether an inquest should be initiated pursuant to the King County Charter. If the King County Prosecuting Attorney advises that an inquest may be initiated, the King County Prosecuting Attorney and the pro tem staff attorney shall (a) supply a complete copy of the investigative file to the manager; (b) respond to public records requests for the investigative file; and (c) issue subpoenas to witnesses and/or for records at the administrator’s request.
7.2. The King County Executive shall determine whether an inquest will be held. If an inquest is to be held, the Executive shall direct an administrator conduct the inquest on the Executive’s behalf. The County Executive shall also request that the King County Superior Court facilitate the inquest by supplying (a) jury, which shall be referred to as a panel; and (b) appropriate facilities, including a courtroom, bailiff, reporter, and any necessary security. The inquest shall be conducted pursuant to this Executive Order and to RCW 36.24, as amended.
Action By: Prosecuting Attorney
8.1. Receives information from a law enforcement agency within King County of a death of an individual involving law enforcement that may require an inquest.
8.2. Promptly informs the County Executive of such a death.
8.3. Reviews the information and the investigative file and advises the County Executive as to whether an inquest should be held.
8.4. Upon request of the County Executive, forwards the investigative file to the manager.
8.5. Upon request by an administrator, issues subpoenas for witnesses and/or documents; except that a subpoena shall not be issued to the individual law enforcement officer who was directly involved in an individual’s death while in the performance of his or her duties [and/or the exercise of his or her authority].
Action By: County Executive
8.6. Upon receiving the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s advisory opinion, determine whether to hold an inquest.
8.7. If an inquest is to be held, direct the manager to proceed with the inquest.
Action By: Manager
8.8. Select an administrator to preside over the inquest and a pro tem staff attorney to assist.
8.9. Support the administrator in scheduling a pre-inquest conference and with clerical tasks.
Action By: Administrator
8.10. Hold a pre-inquest conference.
8.11. Conduct the inquest according to the procedures in Appendices 1 and 2.
Action By: Department of Public Defense
8.12. Assign counsel for the family of the decedent unless the family indicates they have retained other inquest counsel or do not wish to be represented by the King County Department of Public Defense. The Department of Public Defense will not be assigned in inquests where the family is to be represented by private counsel.
Action By: Superior Court
8.13. If an inquest is to be held, the Superior Court shall coordinate with the manager and administrator to supply a panel, recorder, and facilities pursuant to RCW 36.24.020.
Procedures for Conducting Inquests.
10.0. PRIOR ORDERS
This Executive Order rescinds and replaces PHL 7-1-1 (AEO), “Conducting Inquests in King County,” dated March 16, 2010.