Inquest into killing of Isaiah Obet delayed due to officer’s murder trial

The order issuing the delay cited overlapping evidence as the reason

The King County Coroner’s inquest into the killing of Isaiah Obet by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2017 will be postponed until the conclusion of Nelson’s murder trial for the killing of Jesse Sarey in 2019.

Michael Spearman, the administrator of the inquest, issued the order to postpone the inquest due to an overlap in evidence between the murder trial and the inquest.

“It does not appear to be in dispute that evidence of some of the events surrounding Mr. Obet’s death may be presented as evidence in support of the charge against Officer Nelson,” the order said. “There is also an issue as to whether evidence of facts related to the incident that resulted in the charge of murder against Officer Nelson will be presented at the inquest.”

Due to the overlap in evidence and a high level of public interest, Spearman decided to exercise his authority to delay the inquest.

Spearman acknowledged that Obet’s family has waited a long time for the inquest, which has been delayed several times for different reasons. If there are further delays with Nelson’s murder trial, however, Spearman said he might not continue the stay on this inquest.

“In the event the trial date in the murder case is continued again, I would not be inclined to continue the stay,” Spearman wrote.

Coroner’s inquests are required by the county anytime a person is killed by a law enforcement officer, according to the county. The purpose of inquests is to “shed light, in an open public forum, on the facts surrounding a death at the hands of law enforcement,” according to the county.

In August 2020, the city of Auburn paid Obet’s family $1.25 million in a settlement for a lawsuit over Obet’s killing by Nelson. On the same day the attorneys representing Obet’s family announced the settlement, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced charges against Nelson for the killing of Sarey.