Jury Splits On Whether Williams Was a Threat

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee January 20, 2011

The jury in the John Williams shooting inquest has come back with their findings:


6b: Did John T. Williams have sufficient time to put the knife down after Officer Birk's order?
YES: 1. NO: 4. UNKNOWN: 3.

6c: Did John T. Williams try to put the knife down after Officer Birk's order?
YES: . NO: . UNKNOWN: 8.

6d: Did John T. Williams put the knife down before Officer Birk began to fire his weapon?
YES: . NO: 8. UNKNOWN: .

7. Was the front of John T. Williams' upper body partially turned towards Officer Birk when Officer Birk began to fire his weapon?
YES: 2. NO: 5. UNKNOWN: 1.

7a: If no, was John T. Williams turning towards Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his weapon?
YES: 5. NO: . UNKNOWN: .

Jurors agreed that Williams had a knife in his hand when Officer Ian Birk opened fire, but split on whether the knife was open, with four jurors stating they believed it wasn't, and four saying they didn't know.

Either way, the jury couldn't agree on whether Williams had sufficient time to drop his knife.

The jury also split on whether Birk believed Williams posed "an imminent threat" when he opened fire (4 votes yes, 4 unknown).

However, only one juror stated they believed Williams actually posed a threat to Birk. 4 jurors believed he wasn't, and three were undecided.

I don't think these findings will sway the prosecutor's office either way in their decision over whether to charge Officer Birk.

As I posted yesterday, I very much Birk will face charges, but will likely face stiff discipline from the Seattle Police Department.

UPDATE-The prosecutor's office just released this statement:

The inquest into the death of John T. Williams has been completed. The inquest jury has answered the interrogatories examining the facts surrounding the death of John T. Williams on August 30, 2010. With the inquest now completed, the King County Prosecutor's Office will conduct an independent review of the evidence brought forth during the inquest and will consider the findings of the jury to determine whether or not criminal charges are warranted against Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk. Prosecutors expect to finish this review in mid-February.

Update x2: And now a statement from SPD:

The King County Inquest is a process that is independent of the police department and held to assist the prosecuting attorney.  We respect and support that process and Chief Diaz would personally like to thank the jury for their participation.  We are confident that the prosecuting attorney’s office will make a full, fair and objective assessment based on the information that has been presented to them.

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