The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will seek an emergency appellate review of yesterday’s decision by a King County judge who ruled prosecutors can’t seek the death penalty against two people accused of killing six members of a Carnation family in 2007.
“The court ruled that the Prosecuting Attorney improperly considered the strength of the evidence of a case when deciding whether to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty,” according to a statement issued today by Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “We are seeking an emergency review by the Court of Appeals because we believe that ruling is simply wrong. Our argument will be filed with the Court shortly and we will make our position on the matter quite clear.”
In a 13-page order, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell wrote that prosecutors should only have weighed if mitigating circumstances existed in guiding their decision to seek the death penalty against Michele Anderson and her former boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe. He said that considering the strength of the evidence to prove guilt cannot be applied in deciding to seek the death penalty because that could produce disparate results from case to case and violate equal protection under the law.
McEnroe and Anderson are each charged with six counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of her parents, Wayne Anderson, 60, and his wife, Judith, 61; her brother, Scott, and his wife, Erica, both 32; and the couple’s children, Olivia, 5, and Nathan, 3.
In his decision, Ramsdell wrote that if a prosecutor may consider the strength of evidence in deciding to seek the death penalty, then “two identically situated defendants presenting the same compelling mitigation could be treated differently by the same prosecutor.”
But that decision “relates solely to the potentially applicable punishment and the State’s ability to prove the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge added.