Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett responded to Governor Inslee’s press release tonight regarding the Manuel Ellis investigation with the following:
Twice this week Gov. Inslee spoke on television about the possibility of another investigation or review of the Manuel Ellis case. He said Thursday that he was contemplating involving the Attorney General in this case to ensure independent investigation and review. It was not until late this morning that the Governor’s Office called me to say they were considering letting our local independent review process play out, and then decide later about calling for a separate investigation or review.
I informed the Governor’s Office I thought the best course is to grant the Attorney General concurrent jurisdiction on this case. Instead, his office tonight issued a press release stating his intent to let the local process play out, and then grant the Attorney General concurrent jurisdiction at a later date. I believe this is a mistake, and I told the Governor’s Office it is a mistake. The obvious question is: Why wait?
The Ellis family wants answers, and the greater community has great interest in this case. If the Attorney General were granted concurrent jurisdiction now:
- The Attorney General would be able to review the same evidence as me and be involved in the briefing I will get next week from the Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Examiner on their investigations. [It should be noted, I have invited the Mayor of Tacoma to this briefing.]
- At that briefing, the Attorney General will be able to ask questions of those directly involved – the detectives, the Sheriff, and the Medical Examiner.
- By viewing the available evidence and asking questions of the investigators, he could more quickly ascertain if he believes additional investigation is warranted and begin his review.
It remains true that the best path forward is for the Attorney General to be granted concurrent jurisdiction in this case now. Taking a wait-and-see approach will mean he does not have the “complete picture” and full information he needs to make decisions about this case going forward. That will inevitably, despite reassurances I have been given to the contrary, delay this matter further.
The Governor has clearly stated that he intends to give the Attorney General concurrent jurisdiction in this case only after my review. The Attorney General’s determination about further investigation and review in this case should be based on the same evidence that I review. That is the proper way to reach such a decision. The structure of what has been suggested by the Governor looks like it sets up a Monday morning quarterbacking situation. That is not engaged leadership and it is not the way things should work in our criminal justice system.
I am disappointed that I have not heard directly from the Governor on this issue. I remain prepared to work with the Attorney General on the legal analysis, examine the evidence and investigation closely, and collaborate on the best path forward. The best option still remains granting the Attorney General concurrent jurisdiction now so the justice process is not delayed.