BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES:
A Juror’s Plight
THE CARNATION MURDER TRIAL of MICHELE ANDERSON
December 11, 2015
JUSTICE FOR SIX: Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson.
“THE CALLING OF THE FLOCK”
Four hundred potential jurors would make their way to the Superior Courthouse of King County in Seattle, Washington on a cold, dreary and wet day that was typical for a December, with their 3 x 5 juror notice in hand, to do their civic duty. They were unaware of only being part of the 1600 potential jurors that would eventually be called through early the next week for the trial of Michele Anderson. Of the four hundred who walked through the gates of security that day, only four to six of them would be chosen to be part of a jury that needed up to twenty with alternates included.
The juror notice stated that they were to arrive by 8:30 AM, parking would be available and each notice was marked with an individualized computer number. This notice was to be carried with them to the courthouse and many had the card clutched in their hands as they went through the security process. Although the day was gloomy outside, the court personnel were friendly but studious in their duties. Many wore Seahawks football jerseys, as was the custom on certain days of the week with many employees throughout the city. Football and the Seahawks were interwoven into every fabric of the city and one could hardly miss a #12 flag perched atop many a flagpole, a window or on a vehicle.
The jurors were then lead to a jury assembly room on the first floor and the gleaning of the flock would only begin after each one was accounted for and numbered. Court assistants would be kept busy for the next few hours ensuring that each juror was properly numbered and given their two placards to be carried with them throughout the day. There were many who wanted to ask questions and most were told to follow the direction of the court staff and all would be revealed in due time. Time was spent on certain jurors who explained that jury service would cause them great financial hardship. Most jurors would be patient and some would be content that they were at least being given something to do to occupy their day of civic duty.
I waited upstairs on the ninth floor outside the courtroom where the second two hundred jurors were expected to come through in the next hour. The first parcel of two hundred jurors from the morning session had already been dismissed for the day. I was seated on a hardwood oak bench, feeling as if I were a stranger in a foreign land. On the same bench, toward the other end, a cameraman tinkered on his cell phone. His camera gear bag was perched on the floor between his legs while his TV camera leaned against the bench. Off to my right, adjacent to me, a female reporter from KIRO-TV (Seattle) chatted in hushed tones with a gentleman seated next to her. He was wearing a dark brown subtly patterned suit with a beige shirt and gold and black tie. He seemed confident, affable and professional, but he did not strike me as a reporter.
I did not learn later until that his name was Scott O’Toole, the Prosecutor for Michele Anderson. One year earlier, he had commenced the trial of Joseph McEnroe.
Two ladies could be heard as they walked down the hallway toward us, their high-heeled shoes clicked in almost perfect unison on the marble tiled floors. The four of us waiting patiently immediately perked up. The ladies, looking a lot like schoolteachers, walked up the courtroom doors and taped some papers on the wall.
The man in the brown suit took a deep breath.
“Are you ready?” the female reporter asked him, casually, off the record. Later, I learned her name was Allison Grande of KIRO-TV.
“I am,” O’Toole answered. “Carnation Two-Point-Oh. I’m ready.”
It was not long before I heard a storm of feet sounds as they approached us, exiting from the eight elevators that released the jurors in a rotunda style lobby. We all sat up in anticipation. My heart jumped knowing that this was the beginning of a long journey for a select few. For one, some or all, the experience would affect them for the rest of their lives and in ways that most could never have foreseen. The two schoolteacher-type court assistants beckoned them our way.
I watched them without really looking at them as they were split into two separate queues prior to their entry into the courtroom. For the most part, it was organized and went almost flawlessly as attendance records were matched to the papers clutched in the jurors’ hands. Here and there, members of the flock would be confused, and learn he or she was in the wrong line.
One man, wearing an orange shirt and blue jeans, raised both his arms in unison and looked toward the ceiling. He framed his hands in such a manner as if were a great director, setting a picture for his next great shot, in the scope of the frame of his hands. One of his thumbs twitched involuntarily as he peered deeply into something on the ceiling. Eventually, he lowered his hands, was checked in by the court assistant, and walked into the courtroom.
“Are we going in?” the photographer asked the reporter after the all the potential jurors were in the courtroom.
“No, I don’t think so,” she answered. “We saw it this morning and there’s nothing else to be learned. You’ve seen one round; you’ve seen them all. Instead,” she suggested, “let’s get a shot of the defendant as she’s led in.”
The cameraman busied himself while I got up and approached the court assistants. They recognized me from my reconnaissance trip a few days before and opened the courtroom doors for me. Before I knew it, I was led to the jury box, past two hundred potential jurors seated in the courtroom. I felt like I was walking on hallowed ground as I took my seat in the twenty chair separated area. It had been almost two years since I had last sat in a jury box and it would be an experience that I would never forget. I would not be seated in this jury box had it not been for that experience.
I looked to the left of me and saw two hundred people seated, looking forward, being exceptionally quiet without even a cough to break the silence. Straight ahead of me, I sat perpendicular to the vacant judge’s bench. Slightly to the right of me, a court assistant worked on a computer. Below me, to the left, two long tables each with three empty chairs faced the potential jurors. If one did not know any better, it could have been an auditorium filled those ready to take an SAT test.
The irony and serendipity of my being seated singularly in the jury box did not elude me. It served to remind me of the seriousness and responsibility it took for me to be a juror and the importance of that role in the system of justice. The decisions made collectively in that jury box would always remain seated in the back of my mind after being a death penalty juror in the case of Marissa DeVault and the killing of her husband, Dale Harrell.
Those four months in the jury box, sandwiched with the many hours in the deliberation room, taught me lessons and gave rise to a passion that I did not know I had. Most jurors disappear back into the fabric of society, their civic duty complete, while some, although a scarce few, find stimulation in the drama and the fabric that make a trial. I was one of those few and I respected the seat that I was in as only the few who have been a juror could.
The success of the trial was critically dependent upon each of the seats that were to be filled around me.
The doors opened off to the right of the courtroom and eyes watched silently as the defendant was led into the courtroom, and seated at the table furthest from me, facing the jury pool. She was wearing all black, loose fitting clothes. Her hair was tied back as three armed officers escorted her to her chair. Two lawyers sat down on either side next to her, a mature male to her left and a female to her right. The female attorney rubbed the defendant’s back softly as they sat down.
The defendant, Michele Anderson looked down at the table, instead of at the audience of jurors that were looking at her. They would have seen an overweight girl, downtrodden in her countenance. Her skin has ‘pasty-white’ jailbird pallor, having not been warmed by the sun for almost eight years. Most of the jurors would hardly give her a second look, presuming they would probably not end up on the jury. Some potential jurors, however, would know much about this defendant and the brutal slaying of six members of her family. Some jurors may have witnessed the trial of her accomplice and boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, whose trial ended in a hung jury at his death penalty sentencing phase. He ultimately received life in prison without the possibility of parole. Those jurors would have a more than difficult time starting with a presumption of innocence.
The second table facing the jurors was quickly filled with two gentlemen and one woman. I assumed it to be the prosecution team and recognized the attorney in the subtly patterned brown suit. It was no wonder he had called the trial “Carnation 2.0” as it was his office that had prosecuted Joseph McEnroe the year prior, a reference to Carnation, Washington, the town where the murders took place. Moments later, a judge confidently walked in and sat at the judge’s bench overlooking the span of the courtroom.
“We are here in the matter of the State of Washington vs. Michele Kristen Anderson. My name is Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell. You,” he said referring to the two hundred people watching him, “have been asked to come in as potential jurors in this matter. I have two goals today as we prepare to empanel a jury. The first is the completion of a questionnaire and the second is to explain your obligations as a juror. At this time, I need all of you to stand and be sworn in.”
Two hundred jurors stood as the judge read the jury oath aloud. A confident “I do,” resonated from the gallery as the jurors agreed to the commitment.
Judge Ramsdell waited as the jurors sat before continuing. “Given this is a criminal case, you will see the prosecution team to your left.” “Please introduce yourselves to the jury” the judge instructed the team with a wave of his hand.
The man in the patterned brown suit stood up, “I am Scott O’Toole and this is Michelle Morales, prosecutors in this case,” he said in reference to the female attorney next to him. He motioned toward the third person at the table. “This is Detective Scott Tompkins, Lead Detective.”
The three of them stood briefly and then sat down.
“You will see the defense team at the second table,” Judge Ramsdell offered with a wave of his hand to the adjacent table.
“I am David Sorenson,” a middle-aged attorney said as he stood.
The woman on the other side of the defendant stood. “I am Colleen O’Connor and we are honored to represent Michele Anderson in this matter.”
They sat down moments later as I scratched my head. Colleen O’Connor’s introduction struck me as an attempt at being ingratiating with the potential jurors.
The judge got right back to business. It was clear he was reading from a document, pausing on occasion to look over the sea of jurors, ensuring he had their attention.
“Michele Kristen Anderson is being charged by the State for six counts of aggravated murder in the first-degree in the deaths of Wayne Anderson (60), Judith Anderson (61), Scott Anderson (32), Erica Anderson (32), Olivia Anderson (5) and Nathan Anderson (6). The State of Washington alleges and accuses Michele Kristen Anderson of the crime of aggravated murder in the first-degree in the deaths of each of the victims, a crime of the same or similar character and based on a series of acts connected together with another crime charged herein, which crimes were part of a common scheme or plan, and which crimes were so closely connected in respect to time place and occasion that it would be difficult to separate proof of one charge from proof of another, committed as follows,” the judge read, pausing.
He took a sip of water. The courtroom was silent while the defendant looked down. Her attorney rubbed her back in a circular motion.
“That the defendant, Michele Kristen Anderson, in King County Washington,” the Judge continued, “on or about December 24, 2007, with premeditated intent to cause the death of Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson, human beings, who died on or about December 24, 2007; that further aggravating circumstances exist. The defendant committed the murder to conceal the commission of a crime or to protect or conceal the identity of any person committing a crime, and there was more than one victim and the murders were part of a common scheme or plan or the result of a single act,” the judge finished.
He stacked some papers signaling he was moving on. “You are to presume the innocence of the defendant despite the writ of information submitted by the prosecution. The state must prove these charges beyond a shadow of a doubt. Shortly we will be handing questionnaires to each of you. You will be asked questions to determine your views on certain matters. These questions are not meant to embarrass you or to pry into your private life, they are meant to reveal any biases that you may have. We ask that you be honest and forthright. You should not withhold information. Your questionnaire will ask you what you have heard about this case and its influence on you. Again, please be honest,” the judge reiterated.
I took notes furiously as the two hundred jurors looked forward, faces devoid of emotion.
He then briefly explained the calendar of the court stating the trial would be held Monday through Thursday from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM until the jury reached the deliberation stage. The trial was expected to last six weeks beginning on January 19, 2016. Jurors were instructed to visit the court’s website on December 22, 2015. If their juror number appeared on the list, then their jury service would be considered complete. On the other hand, should their number not appear on the secure website, those jurors were expected to be back on January 11, 2016 at 8:30 AM. Those jurors would be subject to questioning by the court. The jury selection process would be completed by the day’s end on January 14, 2016.
“It is important that you follow all court instructions,” Judge Ramsdell stated firmly. “Your conduct during jury selection is critically important. When you are completing your questionnaire, you are not allowed to discuss any matter on the questionnaire nor are you to ask for help. Until you are dismissed, you are not to discuss this case, questionnaire or any matters involving this case with your family, friends, co-workers or church members. You are ordered to ignore the Internet, television and any media coverage. I assure you, there will be media coverage on this trial.”
I did not look up from my note taking.
“You may not,” the judge continued, “ask about, look up or research anything on this case. You may seek out evidence. You are not allowed to research the law in any manner. I hope I have made everything clear and the State thanks you for your service.”
The judge stood up and the courtroom followed suit. He exited as quickly as he appeared, as did the departing attorneys, with the guarded defendant.
The jurors were quiet as the court assistants began the process of walking up and down one of the three aisles to pass out questionnaires. The jurors got busy with their task as I waited quietly in the jury box.
It took about forty-five minutes before the first of the jurors got up, gathered their things and walked their completed questionnaires to the back of the courtroom. One by one, they turned in their document along with their juror badge and informational papers. It was an orderly and quiet process done without interruption.
An hour and a half later, the last of the jurors left the courtroom. One of the final people to leave was the juror in the orange shirt. He returned his information to the assistants and turned around and looked toward the front of the courtroom.
Once again, he raised his arms in the air and framed a picture with his hands toward the ceiling. He peered through the box he made of a picture frame with his hands. He scrutinized his view carefully, dropped his arms and left the courtroom. I could not help but wonder what the future looked like in the picture frame he had made.
From former experience as a juror, I understood that this trial would not only be about justice nor would it only be about evidence. This trial would be a journey into the horrific details that was the cause for the end of the lives of an innocent six. I gathered my things and thought about six victims I did not know. Their names were Wayne, Judy, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan. I knew, just as a future jury would know, that each of us would ultimately become intricately involved in the lives of these people, and they would forever be a part of our lives.
I would be back on January 11, 2016. It would be a day of jury interrogation and jurist elimination. The flock would be reduced to a mere few by the end of that day. Within a few days later, a jury of sixteen to twenty would be seated, a simple one-percent of the sixteen hundred called.
Although I looked forward to the day now, I remembered the second day of jury selection as being one of the most difficult days endured as a former juror. It is the only time that jurors will speak to the court. The next time they will speak, if selected, will not be until after the first stage of deliberations. The attorneys from both sides will confront the jurors, and it will be the gleaning of the flock in the search for the lambs to the law.
The hoeing of the road to the path of justice had begun.
I stepped onto the street in front of the courthouse as rain fell from the sky. I could not help thinking the raindrops were like tears falling from those who knew the victims.
The man with the orange shirt stood in front of the opened doors of a city bus. He framed his hands to the sky and then disappeared inside. I suspected he would be one of many potential jurors who would not be selected…
Paul Sanders is the author of “Brain Damage: A Juror’s Tale – The Hammer Killing Trial” and “Why Not Kill Her: A Juror’s Perspective – The Jodi Arias Death Penalty Retrial”, both of which are available on Amazon. The author began his True Crime writing career after being deliberating death penalty juror #13 in the State of Arizona vs. Marissa DeVault in 2014. Paul reported daily on the Carnation Murder Trial daily with Trial Talk Live’s Jarrett Seltzer. The interviews may be found in the archive section of Trial Talk Live. This work is a draft of the upcoming book: “BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES: A Juror’s Plight – THE CARNATION MURDER TRIAL of MICHELE ANDERSON”.
The sentencing of Michele Anderson is scheduled for April 21, 2016.
This work is copyrighted by Paul Sanders.
Pictures courtesy of Paul Sanders, KOMO-TV, KIRO-TV, State of Washington Prosecutor’s Office.
Facebook: Paul Sanders