Justices weigh death penalty in Carnation killings

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state Supreme Court is considering whether prosecutors should be allowed to seek the death penalty against two people accused of killing a family of six in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007.

In arguments before the justices Thursday, the King County Prosecutor’s Office argued that Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell overstepped his authority by taking capital punishment off the table, The Seattle Times reported.

Ramsdell ruled in January that in making their decision to seek execution, prosecutors should only have considered whether mitigating evidence warranted leniency for the defendants, Michele Anderson and her former boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe. Instead, they also considered the strength of their case, the judge said.

Senior deputy prosecutor James Whisman argued that Ramsdell didn’t have access to all of the mitigation evidence his office considered, and he said decisions to seek the death penalty are not reviewable by the judiciary because they are charging decisions, which rest with the elected prosecutor.

Anderson and McEnroe are charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the slaughter of Anderson’s family — her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and her young niece and nephew. The only possible penalties for aggravated first-degree murder are life without release and the death penalty.

Under state law, mitigating factors in potential death-penalty cases can include evidence of an extreme mental disturbance or impairment. Leniency also can be merited if a suspect acted under duress or domination of another person.

Attorney Kathryn Ross, who represented the defendants before the Supreme Court, argued that the state’s death penalty statute is unique in that prosecutors are directed to impose it only if there isn’t sufficient evidence of mitigating factors to merit leniency.

“I guess that’s why we’re here — to decide how to read that statute. Is mitigation the only thing they consider” in deciding to seek the death penalty, said Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.

Outside the courtroom, Pam Mantle — whose daughter Erica Anderson and grandchildren Nathan and Olivia were among those killed — said the constant delays in the case have taken a toll.

“Everything has been put on hold. You just wait and wait and nothing happens,” she said.

Three weeks after Ramsdell issued his ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler tossed the death penalty in another high-profile case: the 2009 killing of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton. Kessler ruled that prosecutor Dan Satterberg abused his discretion by relying on a flawed investigation into mitigating factors that could have merited leniency for the defendant, Christopher Monfort.

The Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in Monfort’s case June 27.

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has asked for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-run cases in the state.

Everett man killed at bar had criminal history, gang ties

A bar employee reportedly shot Matalepuna Malu, 29, whose street name was “June Bug.”

There’s plenty to cheer in overdue capital budget

In Snohomish County, there’s money for a number of projects.

Parking a constant problem at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

Front Porch

EVENTS Autoharpist in Everett Folksinger, storyteller and autoharp virtuoso Adam Miller returns… Continue reading

Most Read