Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birk's inquest questions

Here are the questions which supposedly will be asked at Ian Birk's inquest hearing on January 10th.

1. On August, 30, 2010, did Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk observe John T. Williams crossing the street?
2. Was John T. Williams carrying an open knife at the time he was observed?
3. Did Officer Birk get out of his patrol car to contact John T. Williams?
4. Did Officer Birk attempt to stop John T. Williams?
5. Did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand when he was contacted?
6. Did Officer Birk tell John T. Williams to drop the knife?
7. If yes, did John T. Williams comply with that order?
8. Did Officer Birk believe that John T. Williams posed an imminent threat of serious physical harm to himself or others at the times he fired his weapon?
9. Did John T. Williams die in King County, Washington on August 30, 2010?
10. Did Officer Birk fire his service weapon at John T. Williams on August 30, 2010?
11. If yes, did John T. Williams die from the gunshot wounds caused by Officer Birk?
13. When Officer Birk fired his service weapon, did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand?
14. If yes, was John T. Williams knife open when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
15. Was John T. Williams facing Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
16. If no, was John T. Williams turning towards Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
Our analysis:

Several of the questions listed are simple legal procedure to verify facts everyone already knows. However, some questions do offer an idea of how the prosecution is approaching their case against Birk. Firstly, it is worth noting that the document is fairly sloppy for a legal one in such a high profile case. If you noticed that I went directly from question 11 to 13 and are wondering where 12 is, the answer is 12 doesn't exist. In the actual document, the numbers jump from 11 to 13. Also, the unnecessary extra comma before "30" in the first question is a very small imperfection but shows further lack of attention to detail.
However, all nitpicking aside, the questions themselves lack much force and are worded so as to cast Birk's actions in the most positive light possible. Question 8 offers Birk an opportunity to justify his murderous actions based on his "belief" regarding Williams' potential threat. This is a ludicrous question given the fact that no credible U.S. court would recognize "believing someone to be dangerous" as a justifiable cause for murder. If that were the case no murder would be prosecutable because anyone could claim they "believed themselves in danger."
Questions 14 and 15 are probably the strongest of the bunch, as they question whether Williams was even facing Birk or holding an open knife at the time of the shooting, but their potency is sapped by the final question, #16, which offers Birk yet another route of excuse. By asking whether Williams was turning to face Birk at the time of the shooting, the prosecution hints further at a ghostly rationale for Birk's actions, as though maybe the act of turning to face a police officer might be threatening enough on its own to warrant murder.

Here is a link to the actual pdf document.

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