The trial of Joseph McEnroe, 34, expected to begin in March, will be the county's first potential death-penalty case since Conner Schierman was convicted of killing four members of a Kirkland family and sentenced to death in May 2010.
Three thousand jury summonses have been mailed to King County residents for the upcoming trial of a man accused of killing six members of a Carnation family on Christmas Eve 2007.
The trial of Joseph McEnroe, 34, expected to begin in March, will be the county’s first potential death-penalty case since Conner Schierman was convicted of killing four members of a Kirkland family and sentenced to death in May 2010.
Despite the large number of summonses sent out Friday for McEnroe’s trial, Greg Wheeler, King County’s jury manager, said he expects only about 500 people will show up for jury selection. The majority of the summonses will likely be sent to bad or old addresses, to someone who is not a registered voter, noncitizens or non-English speakers, or will be ignored.
Wheeler said that, on average, about 20 percent of those who receive a jury summons won’t respond. Failing to respond to a jury summons is against the law, but Wheeler said the county does not have the resources to enforce it.
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Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, who will preside over McEnroe’s trial, will decide how many jurors and alternates will be seated.
McEnroe and his former girlfriend, Michele Anderson, are accused of killing Anderson’s parents, her brother and sister-in-law and her young niece and nephew at her parents’ home. Prosecutors contend the defendants, who lived in a trailer on the elder Andersons’ wooded Carnation-area property, planned the shootings because Anderson felt slighted by her parents and was upset they wanted her to pay rent.
McEnroe and Anderson are each charged with six counts of aggravated murder for the deaths of Wayne Anderson, 60, and his wife, Judith, 61; Michele Anderson’s brother, Scott, his wife, Erica, both 32, and the couple’s two children, Olivia, 5, and Nathan, 3.
Ramsdell has ruled that McEnroe will be tried first.
On Thursday afternoon, Ramsdell set out a detailed timeline for the prosecution and defense leading up to jury questioning, or voir dire, on March 4. Before then, the lawyers will have to get their pretrial motions filed, create a questionnaire for potential jurors and sort through juror excusal requests.
While neither the court nor the lawyers have said when they expect opening arguments to begin or how long the trial is likely to last, McEnroe’s defense team plans to call only one witness during the criminal trial, King County sheriff’s Detective Scott Tompkins, the lead investigator, according to a case filing.
The prosecution plans to call 59 witnesses, according to a separate court filing.
If McEnroe is convicted of aggravated murder, his trial will enter a “penalty phase,” a second trial before the same jury to determine whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
A trial date has not been set for Anderson, who told The Seattle Times in a 2008 jailhouse interview that she committed the killings and wanted to die. She has since pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, Anderson could become the first female on Washington’s death row.
The county has spent $5.1 million to defend McEnroe and Anderson and another $725,000 to prosecute the pair, according to the Office of Public Defense and the prosecutor’s office. Total cost of McEnroe’s defense is at $2.4 million.
By comparison, more than $2.5 million in has been spent on the defense of Christopher Monfort, the third person in King County currently facing a potential death penalty, according to the Office of Public Defense. Monfort is accused of ambushing two Seattle police officers, killing one, on Halloween night 2009. His trial could begin as early as this fall.
The amount spent on the Carnation case is the largest in prepping for a potential death-penalty case since the prosecution of Green River killer Gary L. Ridgway, according to prosecutors. Between 2001, when Ridgway was identified as a suspect in the serial killings, and 2003, when he pleaded guilty to dozens of counts of aggravated murder, the county spent nearly $12 million on the extensive investigation, as well as prosecution and defense, county officials said.
Kathryn Ross, who is part of the three-lawyer team representing McEnroe, has repeatedly said he is willing to plead guilty to the murders in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.
Ross, in court Thursday, blamed King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg for the exorbitant trial costs, but she did not go into detail about her client’s willingness to plead guilty.
Satterberg declined to comment for this story, but in 2011 he defended the county’s filing of death-penalty cases despite the high cost. He blamed much of the increased costs on what he calls an “industry” that has been created by death-penalty defense attorneys.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.