A King County juror was excused Thursday after a video chat with his mom, who blurted out information the juror wasn’t supposed to know about the aggravated first-degree murder case against Michele Anderson.
A juror who was excused Thursday from Michele Anderson’s aggravated first-degree murder trial can likely blame his mother for getting him booted from the jury.
The juror had alerted King County Superior Court officials to a recent video chat he had with his parents in which his mother asked about the trial, although jurors are under strict orders not to speak to anyone or read media accounts about the case.
He was questioned about the conversation on Wednesday outside the presence of other jurors by trial judge Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell and the attorneys involved in the case.
The juror explained that he hadn’t spoken to his parents for some time before their video chat Tuesday night. They knew he had been seated on a jury, but he had never told them which case, per the court’s instructions, he said.
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His mother guessed correctly that he was a juror in Anderson’s trial and before he could stop her, she blurted out information about the case he wasn’t supposed to know.
“I could see my mom’s eyes — she said she knew they’d found him guilty and questioned why” Anderson was going forward with her trial, the juror said.
He said he assumed his mother was referring to Joseph McEnroe, who was convicted last year of the same homicides, “but I didn’t know where she got her information.”
Anderson is accused of fatally shooting six members of her family on Christmas Eve 2007 in her parents’ home near Carnation. McEnroe, her former boyfriend, was convicted of the same crimes last year and is serving six life terms.
“Did you ever see that Geico commercial with the spy?” asked King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole, referring to a TV commercial for an insurance company in which a spy’s mother phones him and blithely complains about his father’s vendetta against squirrels while her son is busy fighting armed assailants.
“It sounds like your mom was being a mom, being curious,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the incident “seems inadvertent” and said he saw no reason to excuse the man but he deferred to Anderson’s defense team.
Defense attorney David Sorenson said the juror appeared to be “very conscientious, very scrupulous.” Still, the defense had concerns about preserving Anderson’s right to a fair trial:
“He has received from his mother information that isn’t admissible in court. We need to ask that he be excused,” Sorenson said.
Ramsdell decided Thursday morning to excuse the man.
This is the second Anderson juror to be excused — the first was excused for financial hardship on the eve of trial — leaving 14 jurors to hear the case. Provided no one else is excused, two alternates, instead of four, will be chosen at the end of trial, leaving 12 to deliberate. Alternates can be called into deliberations if one of the 12 is excused before a verdict is delivered.
Alternates are typically chosen in high-profile and lengthy trials to avoid the time and expense of having to reseat an entire jury and start a trial from the beginning if there are not 12 people to deliberate. Jurors can be excused for a variety of reasons, including illnesses or family emergencies.
In a 2014 trial before a different judge, a juror came forward to say he’d inadvertently overhead two people talking about the murder trial of Dinh Bowman, who was later convicted of fatally shooting motorist Yancy Noll. The juror said his bike broke down on the Burke-Gilman Trail and as he stopped, two people rode by and he heard snippets of their conversation.
In that instance, the juror was not excused from the jury.