A King County Superior Court judge on Tuesday denied a defense motion to provide Michele Anderson with a TV or radio and an extra hour out of her jail cell each day in what appeared to be a desperate, last-ditch attempt to compel her to cooperate with her attorneys before she stands trial for the shooting deaths of six family members.
Anderson, who along with her former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe is accused of killing six members of Anderson’s family on Christmas Eve 2007 in Carnation, has refused to speak to her attorneys for about a year and also has refused to be interviewed by a defense psychologist for the past five years.
Her defense attorneys, David Sorenson and Colleen O’Connor, filed a motion last month asking Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell to order jail officials to provide Anderson with a television or radio and to allow her an additional hour outside her cell each day.
On Tuesday, a teary Anderson was overheard in court telling O’Connor, “I don’t want a TV or radio. … Why would you say something I didn’t even say?”
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Sorenson acknowledged in his remarks to Ramsdell that “this is not Ms. Anderson’s request, this is counsel’s request.” He argued that Anderson has received “inadequate external stimulation” in the nearly six years she’s been awaiting trial, which has not helped her “fragile” mental state.
He said it is the defense’s hope that additional mental stimulation and exercise will stabilize Anderson’s mental health, which in turn will make her more willing to assist her attorneys in preparing a defense.
King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole pointed out that Anderson has twice been found competent to stand trial and that a third competency evaluation is under way. He called it “incredible” that a defense expert, forensic psychologist Mark Cunningham, would opine that “watching ‘Sponge Bob’ or ‘Jersey Shore’ ” could have a positive impact on Anderson’s mental health.
“There’s no factual basis for it,” O’Toole said, adding that it is best for jail officials with “hands-on, eyes-on experience” to determine an inmate’s conditions of confinement.
Ramsdell also heard that Anderson — who has been segregated away from the general population for the majority of her stay in the jail — was recently given the option of moving into the jail’s general population.
But Anderson asked to stay where she is because she didn’t like the treatment she received from other inmates during a short stint in general population, said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Nancy Balin, who represents the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.
Sorenson conceded that the defense learned only on Monday that Anderson had declined a spot in general population, which would have given her access to a TV.
According to Balin’s response to the defense motion, Anderson has a corner cell that has substantial natural light and affords her a view of the Seattle skyline. Anderson also regularly chats with jail officers, a jail chaplain and an inmate whose cell is across from her own, the written response says.
Anderson enjoys reading novels and “Bible study materials,” walks briskly in the yard during the hour she spends outside her cell each day, keeps her cell neat, regularly bathes and trims her hair with a pair of nail clippers, according to the response.
Ramsdell, noting that Anderson also refused to engage her previous defense attorneys, told Sorenson and O’Connor that he understands they are “somewhat desperate” to compel Anderson’s cooperation, “and I’m sensitive to your plight.”
“I admire your advocacy and tenacity and I know you’re grappling with this problem,” he said. Still, Ramsdell said there was no factual or constitutional basis for him to grant the defense request.
Anderson and McEnroe were to stand trial in June for the shooting deaths of Anderson’s parents and her brother and sister-in-law and their two young children.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s decision to seek the death penalty against the two was tossed after Ramsdell ruled in January that while Satterberg properly considered the “facts and circumstances” of the crimes, the prosecutor erroneously considered the strength of the state’s evidence against Anderson and McEnroe in deciding to seek the death penalty.
Satterberg’s office appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the issue in May. The proceedings in Superior Court have stalled as the parties await a ruling from the high court.
Anderson has previously said that she does not want to fight the imposition of the death penalty if she is convicted.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.