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Supreme Court to decide on death penalty for Carnation murder case
Trials for the man and woman accused in the 2007 Carnation Christmas eve slayings were scheduled to begin later this year, but following a recent judge's decision, they could be delayed for years longer.
Joseph McEnroe and Michele Anderson, both 34, would have faced the death penalty in their trials, for the aggravated murder of Anderson's parents, Wayne and Judy, her brother and sister-in-law, Scott and Erica, and her niece and nephew, at her parents' Carnation home on Christmas Eve. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg deliberated extensively before determining in 2010 that they would face the death penalty.
However, King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell announced two weeks ago that he was taking the death penalty off the table in the trials, because the prosecution had made an error in deciding to pursue the death penalty on the strength of the evidence against the accused.
The strength of the evidence, Ramsdell wrote in his decision, is not relevant at the penalty phase of the trial, because the jury has already determined guilt, and begins considering mitigating factors.
"The decision (to pursue the death penalty) relates solely to the potentially applicable punishment and the State's ability to prove the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt," Ramsdell concluded.
Satterberg's office filed an appeal of Ramsdell's decision in early February, and after the state Court of Appeals reviewed the case, it was forwarded to the Supreme Court.
It's not clear when the Supreme Court will hear the issue, but the situation is expected to delay the trials.
McEnroe was scheduled for trial Feb. 25. His defense attorneys have stated that he would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.