Murder trial for WA officer postponed; Family protests are delayed

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A King County judge said Friday that the murder trial of a suburban Seattle police officer would be postponed again.

Superior Court Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps said Friday a high caseload and resolution of complex legal issues surrounding Officer Jeff Nelson’s trial forced the court to abandon a trial date in late June, the Seattle Times reported.

Phelps said a new trial date will be set next week for what will be the first test of a new state law governing the use of deadly force by police.

The judge said she hoped the case could be postponed in September, but acknowledged it could be pushed back to 2023, more than three and a half years after Jesse Sarey’s death.

The judge’s testimony prompted a plea bargain from Elaine Simons, Sarey’s foster mother, who said the family had been patiently awaiting resolution and justice.

“We’ve waited 18 months,” Simons said in court. “It’s a real strain on the family. The public has been waiting for this process.”

Nelson, who joined the Auburn Police Department in 2008, shot and killed 26-year-old Sarey outside a convenience store in 2019 while attempting to arrest him for disorderly conduct in an interaction that lasted just 67 seconds.

Nelson has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and assault.

The case was the first filed against an officer since Washington voters passed legislation in 2019 that the legislature changed, making it easier to prosecute police for using deadly force.

Previously, prosecutors had to prove that the officer acted intentionally – an almost impossible standard that no other state had. Under the new law, prosecutors must show that another reasonable officer would not have found lethal force necessary.

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