By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — The Washington Supreme Court has denied a request to pick a new trial judge in the death-penalty cases against two people charged with killing a family of six in Carnation in 2007.
In a unanimous decision announced late Thursday afternoon, the court also reversed a trial court’s order that would have compelled the prosecutor to amend charging information concerning the case against Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe.
This is the third time the Supreme Court has reversed the judge’s rulings in this case.
The request for a new judge came from the prosecutor’s office, which cited troubling rulings by King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell.
Anderson and McEnroe have pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated first-degree murder in the slaughter of Anderson’s family — her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and her young niece and nephew.
In the opinion written by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, the court notes that the trial judge sought the change about five and a half years after the state filed its notices of intent to seek the death penalty.
The trial court judge ruled in January that the state’s charging information was missing an element required by state law for death-penalty cases. The judge said if the state did not amend its charging information, he would entertain a defense motion to dismiss the state’s notices of intent to seek the death penalty.
The justices agreed with the state’s argument that there are no constitutional requirements for a certain approach in the charging document.
On the question of having the case reassigned to a new judge, the court pointed out that the prosecutor never asked the judge to recuse himself from the case.
“The recusal procedure allows the parties to develop a record adequate to determine whether ‘the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be question,’ “ McCloud wrote.
The justices ruled that this case does not involve any exception to the usual way of asking for a new judge.
Legal errors are not evidence of bias, the court noted.