DID AN ATTORNEY violate a court order regarding pretrial publicity in the Aaron Roberts case? That's what the opposing counsel for two police officers has told a King County judge, asking for a hearing on the matter.
In an e-mail request to District Court Judge Barbara Linde last week, the cops' attorney, Linda Marchese, says Seattle Weekly's Aug. 9 publication of an autopsy photo of Roberts, 37, "appears to be a direct violation of the court's ruling regarding the dissemination of discovery to the media." She blames the Roberts' family attorney, Doug Wilson, for breaking the rule by providing the morgue photograph for publication.
Marchese, a former prosecutor, and attorney Ted Buck, of the Stafford Frey Cooper law firm, represent the white police officers involved in the May 31 killing of Roberts, an African American. Police say officer Craig Price was forced to kill Roberts after the motorist inexplicably grabbed the arm of officer Greg Neubert and tried to drive off following a traffic stop at 23rd and Union.
An Oct. 1 coroner's inquest into the killing is shaping up to be the most publicized and politicized such hearing in years, and both sides have used the media to air their claims. Earlier, Wilson accused Marchese of misconduct, charging that she was the first to begin trying the case in the press.
Judge Linde ordered the two sides on July 24 to stop disseminating information to the media. Previously, Marchese had announced that Roberts was under the influence of drugs during the stop, and Wilson had handed out witness statements and the death photo.
The photo was never published until Seattle Weekly used it last week. Marchese suggests the picture therefore must have been obtained about the same time. "I do not know when the photograph was given to the Weekly," she told the judge, "but the article clearly was written after the court entered" the no-publicity order.
No hearing had been set as of press time. But Wilson says he didn't violate the order—he had distributed the photo before the order was in effect, and Seattle Weekly belatedly requested a copy. "I'm not worried about it," he says.