Jury selection begins in Auburn police officer’s trial

Jeffrey Nelson faces charges of murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree for 2019 killing of Jesse Sarey.

The trial of an Auburn Police Department officer charged with murder for the shooting death of a 26-year-old man began April 22 with the selection of jurors.

Jeffrey Nelson faces charges of murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree in King County Superior Court for the shooting death of 26-year-old Jesse Sarey while on duty on May 31, 2019.

According to King County Superior Court documents, the court expects the testimonial portion of 44-year-old Nelson’s trial to conclude in late June or early July. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will deliberate until a verdict is reached.

The court requested the availability of jurors from April 22 through July 31, specifying that the timeframe served as precautionary because the court does not anticipate the trial will last until July.

Nelson’s trial will be in session Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during the length of the proceedings at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

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. Nelson remains under house arrest while the city of Auburn and its taxpayers continue to pay him $100,000 a year.

A jury questionnaire designed to help select jurors asked questions including where jurors obtained their news and the occupations of each person residing in a potential juror’s household.

Additional proceedings against Nelson involving a three-count complaint from Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission — subjecting Nelson’s certification as a peace officer to review and potential decertification — will proceed after the completion of Nelson’s trial.

The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission filed a three-count Statement of Charges against Nelson on Dec. 18, 2023, stating Nelson committed a felony of murder in the first degree, engaged in a “pattern of acts showing an intentional or reckless disregard for the rights of others” and “engaged in conduct that failed to meet the ethical and professional standards” required of a peace officer.

According to a Washington Office of Administrative Hearings document, Nelson requested a continuance regarding his decertification pre-hearing conference as a result of a “pending legal matter.”

According to the document, Nelson’s trial “will commence in April 2024 and not be completed until July 2024.”

The Office of Administrative Hearings scheduled a pre-hearing conference for July 26 for Nelson’s decertification proceedings.

Regarding the revocation of Nelson’s peace officer certification, an administrative law judge will preside over a hearing with a five-person panel composed of two civilians, two members of law enforcement, and one Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission commissioner.