We recently reported on the violent altercation that took place outside of Murphy’s Pub in the heart of Wallingford, along with the subsequent arrest of the accused perpetrator in Meridian Park. While these kinds of incidents in our neighborhood make all of us uneasy, it occurred to the editors at Wallyhood…well, one of them, anyway…that it also provided an opportunity to learn about the process of criminal justice in Seattle, and how it (literally) is prosecuted.
My original idea was to follow this case from beginning (the confrontation and arrest in the heart of the neighborhood) to end (resolution in the courts). It seemed to me that unless a case is really big and infamous, we rarely hear about what happens in between the two points. Moreover, it frequently takes a very long time for the process to play out. To give some insight into that apparent void, our plan was to provide updates on developments as they occurred in court, with the informed guidance of Casey McNerthney, Director of Communications for the King County Prosecuting Attorneys. Mr. McNerthney generously offered to keep us abreast of, and explain, the legal proceedings in a way that a lay audience (i.e., a Wallyhood editor) could understand.
We are going to do what I’ve described above. But not quite in the way originally anticipated.
The person who was taken into custody at Meridian Park after the fight was held in the King County Jail after a judge found probable cause. The next step in the legal process was for the King County Prosecutors to decide whether to file charges. In order to do this, they relied on further information provided by the Seattle Police. This week, that information was provided to the prosecutors by SPD investigators. What follows is the narrative from the case detective.
[Suspect] said he was down at Bartell’s with his cart. [Suspect] said another male who he doesn’t know assaulted him and tried to take his cart. This male sprayed [suspect] with mace according to [suspect], [suspect] said the male was armed with a knife. [Suspect] said he took the knife from the male. [Suspect] said he stuck the male with the knife, every time he reached. [Suspect] said he left his cart behind and just wanted to get away from the guy. [Suspect] said he tried for about five minutes to close the blade to the folding knife. [Suspect] said he was unfamiliar with the knife and just put it in his pocket with the blade open. Officers recovered a folding knife with the blade open from [suspect’s] back pants pocket.
Seattle Fire Department responded and treated [victim] for a laceration to bis abdomen and a bloody nose. [Victim] was transported to Harborview Medical Center for additional treatment. [Suspect] was transported and later booked into King County Jail.
Casey McNerthney provided the summary and analysis below by a deputy prosecuting attorney who reviewed that case (D is defendant, the Suspect above; V is Victim):
- 12/3/21 – D walking down the street with a shopping cart, V comes up behind D and pepper sprays him. V and D end up fighting on the ground. D able to get up at one point and V went after him again and they ended up back on the ground. While on the ground D stabbed V.
- Witness who was outside of a pub on the phone saw the whole thing
- Police contact D, talks about being jumped. He said the male, who he did not know, assaulted him and tried to take his cart. The male pepper sprayed him. He said the male also had a knife, which he was able to take from him, said he struck the male with the knife. He said he left the cart behind and just wanted to get away from the guy. Had the knife in his pocket. He said he was unfamiliar with the knife and could not close it (blade was indeed open)
- V taken to HMC for treatment – laceration to abdomen and a bloody nose
It is clear that the defendant used self-defense here. The victim attacked him and possibly brought the knife in to the fight. The defendant tried to get away and the victim pulled him back in to the fight. We will be unable to prove this was not self-defense and therefore we are declining to file this case.
Mr. McNerthney summarized:
(B)ased on the additional information that showed how the incident began and how it unfolded we could not prove an assault charge beyond a reasonable doubt. (And we’re ethically bound to only bring cases that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.)
I looked to see if there was a case referred against the person listed as the victim who allegedly pepper sprayed the other man and went after him again. A case referral for that person listed as the victim was not sent to us for a charging consideration.
As a result, Wallyhood’s Forensic Files case study will have a rather abbreviated run. If nothing else, it provides some insight into the initial legal procedures and a few of the steps that take place as the county prosecutors work with the police to decide whether to pursue a case. Given other recent events and my own biases and perceptions, I couldn’t help but think of these two words after following the local developments: Kyle Rittenhouse.
Kudos and many thanks to Casey McNerthney for providing access and a look behind the curtains of the criminal justice system.