by Carolyn Bick
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A panel of six jurors reached conclusions in a series of yes-or no-style questions posed in the inquest into the 2018 death of Wangsheng Leng. The conclusions—delivered on Feb. 7, after two-and-a-half days of deliberations this week, following three days of testimony last week, were largely unanimous—did not appear to completely absolve the responding Issaquah Police Department (IPD) officers of wrongdoing in the minds of the jury.
Leng, 66, died of pneumonia in September 2018, about a month after an encounter in his home with IPD officers Michael Lucht and Kylen Whittom. It was this encounter—specifically, the way the officers treated Leng, while handcuffing him—that Leng’s wife, Liping Yang, believes ultimately resulted in Leng’s death. A jury ultimately sided with the officers in the civil case against them and the City of Issaquah, and a federal court denied the family’s motion for a new trial.
The inquest administrator did not read the jurors’ reasoning into the record, but did deliver their answers for all 65 questions posed to the panel. Readers may find the complete list of questions here, as well as each juror’s explanation for some of their answers.
A majority of questions received unanimous “yesses or “nos, but a few found the jurors split in significant ways.
One question asked whether Leng moved towards the officers. Three jurors said yes, and three said “unknown.”
Another question asked jurors when the officers knew Leng suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The jurors were unable to come to a consensus about whether that happened during the officers handcuffing Leng, or after. Still another question asked whether the scrapes observed on Leng’s body were a result of his encounter with the officers, on which the jury was split: Three said yes, and three said “unknown.”
While the jury answered four-to-two—four said yes, and two were uncertain—that the force Lucht and Whittom used against Leng caused or contributed to his death, five jurors agreed that the degenerative spinal cord disease from which Leng suffered also played a part. Only one juror said they were uncertain. All six jurors said that Leng’s Alzheimer’s disease contributed to his death.
The jury was also split three-to-three on whether Lucht and Whittom complied with the department’s Use of Force policy that was in place at the time, and whether either officer complied with their training on it. Similarly, the jury was split four-to-two between “yes” and “uncertain,” regarding whether the officers complied with department policy on crisis intervention, and three-to-three between “yes” and “uncertain,” regarding whether the officers complied with department policy on biased-based policing, and their training in that area.
Finally, the jurors were split two-to-four—again, “yes” and “uncertain,” respectively—regarding whether Lucht and Whittom complied with the department’s Limited English Proficiency Services policy, and their training in this policy.
Readers who are interested in watching the full inquest proceedings, including testimonies, may find those recordings here.