A Juror’s Plight



DAY 20

February 22, 2016



The forensics come together to tell truths of a Christmas Eve in 2007.

The forensics come together to tell truths of a Christmas Eve in 2007.

Richard Wyatt, a Supervisor for the Firearm and Tool Marks section of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, involved the jury as he spoke by looking toward them whenever he answered a question.  He was dressed in a charcoal black suit with a black shirt and a vibrant green tie.  He had a large black bag at his feet of which he occasionally pulled a show and tell item from.

At the prompting of Scott O’Toole, he held a large plastic bullet in front of the jury.  With it, he explained what a bullet was and what it did when impacted by the hammer of a gun.  A bullet is meant to spiral like a football for accuracy and efficiency he said as he turned the bullet in his hands.  The inside of the barrel of a gun has lands and grooves that spiral inside.  Those lands and grooves would make corresponding marks on the jacket of a bullet he explained as he took the head off the bullet, and he showcased the jacket.

Scott O’Toole displayed a cross-section drawing of a bullet for the jurors to visualize what a “land and groove” was.

With the plastic bullet in his hand, Richard Wyatt showed them the jacket of the bullet and explained that the metal was softer on the jacket of the bullet than the metal of the inside of the barrel of a gun.  The markings left on the jacket were specifically unique to only one gun.  Even if a manufacturer made ten thousand guns in a row of the same model, each would be subtly different than the next.  Further, the marks that the hammer left on the bullet jacket would be unique as well.

Richard Wyatt received the bullets in the Washington State Crime Lab on September 22, 2010.  His first goal was to determine how many guns were used.  Each bullet was observed under a microscope and compared to each other.  The bullets were in varying conditions and some were just fragments.  It became clear that the bullets either came from a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Revolver or a Luger 9 MM Semi-Automatic.  The majority of bullets came from the .357.

The firearm and tool mark expert received the .357 Magnum in his lab on November 17, 2011.   The gun was in not in working order.  He took the gun apart and learned that the mainspring was broken.  He took a similar gun’s mainspring and replaced it on the old weapon.   Test fire shots were taken with the gun and the bullets were saved for comparison purposes.

Once the test bullets were compared with the recovered bullets from the scene of the murders, he was able to see the unique lines of demarcation.  The three empty casings matched the three test bullet casings.  All three bullets had been fired from the same firearm.

Many of the jurors jotted notes on their pads as the testimony continued.   The witness would use his “demonstrative aids” such as the plastic bullet to visually explain the bullet comparisons on the screen across from the jury.  It was apparent that the study of each bullet had been detailed meticulously in both photographs and calculations.  For the jurors, the analytic study was a welcome relief from looking at autopsy photos or pictures of the scene of the crime.  The testimony was remarkably distant from emotion.

The .357 Magnum bullets seemed to be everywhere at the scene.  Casings and fragments were discovered in Judith’s head, Erica’s chest wall and left thigh, and in Scott Anderson’s lung.  An unfired bullet was found in Scott’s clothing.  That bullet was determined to have come from the .357 Magnum.

The 9 MM Ruger bullets had a story to tell as well.  One bullet was found under Olivia.  Another was found in the north windowsill.  A bullet was found in Erica’s head and examined.  It matched the bullet found in her back, on the sill and the one under Olivia.

The firearms expert could not determine which gun was fired into Nathan and Olivia’s head.  Only lead fragments could be found with the jackets missing.  However, the shell casings found in the pillow and the loveseat were both from a .357 Magnum, in the vicinity of the youngest victims.  The bullet that was found in the pillow was determined to have hit something first before it stopped.

At the conclusion of each bullet study, Scott O’Toole would present his witness with a package.  The package would be opened on the stand and then follow the standard protocol of being entered into evidence.  Once the exhibit was entered, the Prosecutor would walk the bullet, casing or fragments slowly in front of the jurors.  The number of items he paraded for the jurors to see was intimidating and painted a horrific picture of a night of violence.

Jurors knew what the evidence implied.  They could not forget Wayne, Judy, Scott, Erica, Olivia or Nathan.  Some of the jurors realized little by little that the extinguished life of the victim was as important as the presumption of innocence for the defendant.

The return from lunch saw the jurors held back as Scott O’Toole stood up and spoke to the Judge.  “If I may, I want to make you aware of an incident that just came to my attention.”

“Go ahead, Mr. O’Toole,” Judge Ramsdell acknowledged.

“While Michele Anderson was being transported from the courtroom last week, she passed members of the family in the hallway.  At that point, she mouthed, “Fuck off.”  I want this on record and I want to remind the Court of a no contact order she has in place.”

The Judge thought about it for a moment.  “There are a couple of things to consider.  We could open an investigation into this.  At the same time, as far as any remedial action, she is already in custody. I am not sure what you would like to do.”

“Well, the dynamics in this situation are pretty great.  I just want it on record that a no contact order has been in place since July of 2008,” Scott proposed.

“Mr. Sorenson?” the Judge prodded.

David Sorenson cleared his throat.  “This is the first I am hearing of it.  Quite frankly, we are surprised.  I wish we would have known.”

I noticed that neither defense attorney looked at the offender sitting in between them.

“The record is noted,” the Judge said.

As a former juror, I suspected that the incident would be considered by the Judge when he one day would make a decision on her fate.  It would clearly fall into the category of a lack of her showing remorse.  Judges have remarkably good memories.

The afternoon continued with the study of bullets and fragments.  The jurors saw dozens of microscopic images of lands and grooves.  Those same images were matched with ten bullets from Joseph McEnroe’s .357 Magnum.  The most difficult bullet was the one that had red fibers embedded in its tip.  Since Richard Wyatt was not a fiber expert, he was not able to say where the fibers came from.

The jurors were putting puzzle pieces together.  They would remember the red dress that Olivia had been wearing on Christmas Eve.

“Let’s talk a little about ‘drop-off’ distance,” O’Toole said.  “Can you explain what that is for us?”

“It’s a comparison of gunshot residue patterns.  We use a test gun and fire into a test paper at varying distances.  A pattern shows on the paper and we can determine distance of a gun from the object.  In this case, we were using results to determine the stippling effect,” Wyatt explained to the jury.

“What did you learn?”

“For the 9 MM to create a stippling effect of skin, it had to have been fired from a distance of less than two feet.  It is likely that the gun was fired at eighteen inches for it to create the stippling effect as seen on Nathan Anderson.”

With a raised finger, Scott said, “One more question. As far as a 9 MM, could clothes make it jam and would it be usable after it was jammed?”

“Certainly,” Richard responded.  “Once the clothes are removed from the slide, and the bullet ejected, it could be re-fired.”

“No more questions,” Scott said as he made his way back to the Prosecution table.

Mr. Sorenson stood up.  He was wearing a charcoal gray suit, blue shirt and gold silk tie.  He carried his legal pad with him and took a position adjacent to the jurors and facing Richard Wyatt.  “Let me start off by asking you some questions on your training and expertise.  I think you told us that you had no formal study in firearms when you were in school in 1998.”

“The science really did not get its start until 2001 or 2002 when the ATF opened a formal academy.  I was trained in 1998.”

“Have you been through the formal training at the academy?” Sorenson asked.

Wyatt answered, “I teach a course at the academy.”

“Some have said that it is not a true science.  I’m referring to a study in 1999.  Are you aware of that?”

“I am,” he responded as he looked to the jury.  “It is a science that has been studied since the 1920’s.  My goal on examinations is to determine marks that are uniquely tied to a weapon or bullet.”

“But there is no minimum standard set in the study, is there?” Sorenson pointed out.  “For instance, when we were comparing striation markings, they were not identical from bullet to bullet.  There were variations.”

“That is why so much time is spent studying the evidence.  There will always be a variation between items, however, we are looking for similarities that make those marks unique to that item.”

“Do you think formal training would have been beneficial in your ability to recognize differences as well as similarities?” Sorenson asked.

“I have spent hundreds of hours training throughout my career.”

“No more questions,” Sorenson responded.

Scott O’Toole took the opportunity to ask some additional questions.  “Can you tell us what a blind proficiency test is?”

“We are routinely tested.  We receive a box of bullets and our test is to match them with the correct weapon.  I helped make a proficiency test,” Wyatt said to the jury.

“Mr. Sorenson mentioned your looking at similarities but that you might have been disregarding differences.  What determines uniqueness?”

“Mostly, it comes down to lines of demarcation.  Every bullet will fire somewhat differently, even if only seen microscopically.  But lines of demarcation and similarities to another sequence of lines of demarcation are overwhelmingly unique to each weapon,” the witness explained.

“Regarding your training, how many years did you study forensic firearm examination?” O’Toole inquired.

“I spent two to three years studying it. That was protocol in Texas to be certified.  There was a proficiency training program in the science before the ATF put together their program.”

“How many years have you been teaching at the ATF Academy?”

“Twelve years,” Wyatt answered.

The jurors would go home thinking of lines of demarcation and all the little lessons they had learned throughout the day.  They found the witness to be credible.  He knew what he was speaking on and clearly had a passion for his work and the meticulousness that went into it.

The fact that Michele Anderson’s gun would probably never be found would not bother the jurors.  The treasure in the Stillaguamish revealed plenty of information. They had enough information to move forward in their minds.  The .357 Magnum connected most of the dots.  They were ready for the rest of the story and anxious for it to continue.

The lambs to the law pressed forward in their search for justice…








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, King County, State of Washington Prosecutor’s Office.


Facebook: Paul Sanders
Twitter: The13thJurorMD



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