Courtesy photo
Photo of Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson after he shot and killed Jesse Sarey on May 31, 2019.

Courtesy photo Photo of Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson after he shot and killed Jesse Sarey on May 31, 2019.

Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s murder trial postponed again

The defense said it needs more time to gather evidence.

At the request of his defense, Auburn Police Department Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s trial for the assault and killing of Jesse Sarey has been delayed until Nov. 28, 2022, according to a May 3 decision by Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps.

This is the third time Nelson’s trial has been postponed. Prior to last week, the trial was scheduled to take place this June.

The decision to postpone the trial again came after Nelson’s defense team said they needed more time to gather evidence from public disclosures and expert testimony. The prosecuting attorneys wanted the case to begin in August 2022.

“We can try to be ready by the end of August, but I still don’t think that we’re going to be ready at that point,” said Emma Scanlan, Nelson’s defense attorney.

Scanlan explained that she and Nelson’s other attorney, Kristen Murray, are still receiving responses to public disclosure requests regarding Nelson’s police training. Once they receive those records, they need their experts to examine the records, which will also take time, Scanlan said.

Nelson’s defense would be ready for trial by October, but Murray is involved in another trial that begins on Sept. 12 and is expected to last eight weeks, Scanlan said.

After hearing the defense’s arguments, Judge Phelps agreed to begin jury selection on Nov. 28, 2022, and to start opening statements beginning the week of Jan. 2, 2023.

Judge Phelps confirmed that Nelson is on electronic home monitoring house arrest. Phelps also said that people who are on electronic home monitoring are not given priority for trial dates over people who are incarcerated in jail if a scheduling conflict arises like in the case of Murray’s other client.

In May 2019, Nelson shot and killed Jesse Sarey after attempting to arrest Sarey for jaywalking. Over a year later in 2020, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg filed assault and second-degree murder charges against Nelson for the killing of Sarey. Nelson is the first officer in Washington to be charged with murder since the passage of Initiative 940, which changed the standard for holding police criminally liable for excessive use of force.

Prior to Initiative 940, prosecutors had to prove a police officer acted with evil intent when they killed someone in the line of duty in order to charge that officer with murder — essentially an impossible standard to meet, Satterberg said. Under Initiative 940, prosecutors now have to prove that a different, reasonable officer would not have used deadly force in the same situation.


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