The state Supreme Court granted a temporary stay in the death-penalty trial of Joseph McEnroe late last week, postponing opening statements by at least a week and potentially into early February in a case that has already taken more than seven years to get to trial.
Openings had been scheduled to begin Monday morning.
McEnroe and his former girlfriend, Michele Anderson, are each charged with six counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Christmas Eve 2007 shooting deaths of Anderson’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, 5-year-old niece and 3-year-old nephew at the parents’ home near Carnation.
A 16-member jury was selected to hear the case against McEnroe, 36, on Dec. 19 and opening statements were scheduled for Monday.
The same day the jury was chosen, McEnroe’s defense team filed a notice of discretionary review, seeking the Supreme Court’s review of an Oct. 31 ruling by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell that denied a defense motion to allow McEnroe to change his not-guilty plea to a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Ramsdell had previously denied similar motions to allow McEnroe to change his plea, ruling that there wasn’t a sufficient basis to allow it and that the defense had waited too long to do so.
On Wednesday, the defense team — attorneys Katie Ross, Leo Hamaji and Bill Prestia — filed its motion for discretionary review on the plea issue. Two days later, the defense filed an emergency motion for a stay of trial proceedings until review is granted or denied on Feb. 3 or an immediate stay of opening statements for a few days to allow greater argument regarding the stay, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling that granted a temporary stay.
While the state opposes McEnroe’s motion, King County prosecutors requested a stay of trial court proceedings for one week to allow the Supreme Court time for careful review of the implications of McEnroe’s motion for discretionary review, the ruling says.
“The jury trial is temporarily stayed for a period of one week, subject to further order of this court,” it says.
“We think the judge made the right call,” said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole, but said the state agreed to the stay because it needed time to respond to the defense’s motion for discretionary review.