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Murder trial for WA officer postponed; family protests delay

April 29, 2022 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — A King County judge said Friday that the murder trial of a suburban Seattle police officer will be delayed again.

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

Phelps said a new trial date will be set next week in what will be the first test of a new state statute on police use of deadly force.

The judge said she hopes the case can be rescheduled in September but concedes it could be pushed into 2023, more than three-and-a-half years after Jesse Sarey was killed.

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The judge’s statement prompted a plea by Elaine Simons, Sarey’s foster mother, who said the family has been patiently waiting for resolution and justice.

“We’ve been waiting 18 months,” Simons said in court. “This is a real hardship for the family. The public has been waiting for this trial.”

Nelson, who joined the Auburn Police department in 2008, shot and killed 26-year-old Sarey outside a convenience store in 2019 while trying 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 voters in Washington passed legislation in 2019, which was amended by the Legislature, that makes it easier to prosecute police for using deadly force.

Previously, prosecutors had to prove the officer acted with malice — an almost impossible standard, and one no other state had. Under the new law, prosecutors must demonstrate that another officer acting reasonably would not have found deadly force necessary.