A Lawsuit Won’t Determine the Fate of Ed Murray. The Electorate Will.

Voters become jurors in cases like this. It’s a job that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Last Thursday at 2 p.m., Mayor Ed Murray was scheduled to hold a press conference to discuss a federal police monitor’s findings that the Seattle Police Department was in compliance with a consent decree aimed at reducing unnecessary use of force by local officers.

It was sure to be a triumph for the mayor. Just two days prior, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had suggested he would be reeling back use-of-force investigations by the Department of Justice, a move sure to please police departments that felt under siege by federal investigators. But the data released Thursday by federal monitor Merrick Bobb seemed to tell a clear picture: Five years after a federal investigation into Seattle policing prompted the consent decree, use of force by Seattle police was down “even as officer injuries have not gone up and crime, by most measures, has not increased.” In short, the consent decree was working, and the report offered Murray a perfect opportunity to restate the now-familiar refrain that Seattle stands as a shining counterpoint, a living rebuke, to Trump’s America.

Then the press conference was suddenly cancelled. Then The Seattle Times published the biggest local political story in recent memory: Three men claim Murray sexually abused them as underage teens in the 1980s, accusations Murray vigorously denies. Then the city found itself in a very unfamiliar place.

This all happened over the course of about four hours, but there has been little clarity in the six days since the story was published. After Seattle Weekly went to press on Tuesday, the case was thrown into even more confusion when Murray’s lawyer produced a doctor’s note that seemed to suggest the mayor did not have a mole on his genitals, as his accusers have claimed.

Since the story broke, pundits and politicians alike have seemed uninterested in commencing the political dogpile that often accompanies such scandals. Nikkita Oliver, to date Murray’s most formidable opponent in the 2017 election, released a statement saying she would not be addressing the allegations directly. City Council President Bruce Harrell, who would become mayor if Murray chose to step down, did the same. Even the slate of campaign operatives whom reporters keep on speed dial have been highly cautious about going on the record to talk about the accusations’ obvious political ramifications.

Whether it is the product of political fear or calculation, or of a sense of fairness for the mayor or respect for the accusers, the contemplative approach being taken is commendable. That Seattle’s political class has been able to hold its fire suggests that this city, for all its ambition, has retained some of the small-town civility it prides itself on. But that will change. When it does, it is important to keep this in mind: While one of Murray’s accusers has filed a lawsuit against him, this is most likely not a case that will be decided by a court of law, at least not initially. It will be decided first by us, the voters. We will each be asked, in essence, whether we find the accusations credible. If so, we cannot in good conscience support him. If not, then it will fall to the more common metrics of performance and platform to determine whether the mayor deserves a second term.

Even after Tuesday evening’s development, voters are still contemplating this decision with incomplete information. But more will come. As it does, we must all approach this information with minds unclouded by prejudice, just as any jury would. And we must be unafraid to talk about it, ending this relative silence with conversation that reserves judgment and recognizes—without falling into the trap of victim-blaming—that, given the mayor’s forceful denial, one may reasonably question accusations that date back to the 1980s, as these do; and—without falling into the trap of presumed guilt—that one may reasonably question why a person would perjure himself to make such an accusation, and why two other men would go on the record with similar charges.

We’re not prepared here to advise one way or another of thinking about the matter. What we can say is that the case calls for careful deliberation, not cheap speculation. The accusers, and the mayor, deserve no less.

editorial@seattleweekly.com




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”

Most Read