A Juror’s Plight



DAY 4.5

January 14, 2016



Jury Assembly Room. Original jury pool was one of the largest in King County, WA history.

Jury Assembly Room. Original jury pool was one of the largest in King County, WA history.

Jury selection for the Carnation Murder Trial, held at the Superior Court of King County in Seattle, Washington over a period of three and a half days, began with a pool of 1500 on December 11, 2015. Of the 1500 originally called, only one out of four, 400, were assigned juror numbers, and completed the voir dire questionnaire on that same date. On January 11, 2016, 148 jurors were asked to return for verbal questioning by Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, the prosecutors for the State and the attorneys representing Michele Anderson, the accused. The jury pool narrowed to slightly less than 100 on the final day of juror questioning. Most jurors, the great majority of them, had been dismissed due to the financial hardship that a six-week trial would cause.
Sixteen jurors were selected on January 13, 2016 in the Carnation Murder Trial.  Four of the sixteen would become alternate jurors. The identity of those alternates would not be known until the lottery held the day of final closing arguments. Each juror would know from the outset that there was always a chance they could become an alternate. But, just as they had to begin with the presumption that Michele Anderson was innocent of all charges; they would also have to presume that they would become a deliberating juror.
Throughout the three and a half-day juror selection process, I observed from the jury box. As I have said, being a former death penalty juror, the irony of being singularly seated in the jury did not elude me. I could not guess from the original 148 who would make it in the final seats. Instead, I focused on capturing every juror that spoke during the verbal questioning. It did not give me the opportunity to look at each one as they spoke. The best I could capture were their words. It was a curious task to go back and find the words spoken from those would find themselves on this jury.
We know much of those dismissed but what do we know of the jurors who were selected to perform their civic duty in the face of this monumental burden? Who were the people who made it past a sixty-six question, truth-revealing questionnaire and subsequent two and a half days of interrogation? Who were the people that were to decide the fate of Michele Anderson, the defendant accused of killing six members of her family? Who were the people that would carry a decision in a case for justice for Wayne, Judy, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson?


Juror #1 was seated as Juror #1. On the first day, Colleen O’Connor, the co-defense attorney to David Sorenson, asked if this juror was comfortable with the presumption of innocence for Michele Anderson. Further, would there be any distractions that might inhibit the juror’s performance? Juror #1 responded the presumption of innocence would be the starting point and that there would be no distractions in performance. “It is inconvenient, though.”


Originally seated as Juror #7; he was retired and was the most senior person on the jury. “A few years ago, I sat on a murder case. We just hashed it out in the jury room. We concluded the defendant was guilty and the evidence proved it that way. Right now, I am comfortable in saying this defendant is innocent. Everything depends upon the prosecutor, small case or large, there is no difference,” responded Juror #7 to the question “Why is there a different standard for a petty case as compared to a murder case?” posed by David Sorenson, the lead defense attorney.


Originally he was Juror #140, and sat in the most highly contested seat throughout the final selection process. Nine Jurors (#13, #103, #109, #118, #126, #127, #128, #130, and #131) before him had sat in the same seat only to be dismissed under attorney preemptory challenge. Juror #140 volunteered a response to Scott O’Toole, when asked how one might determine the credibility of a witness and what role body language might play. “For me, I’m very skeptical about judging somebody on just body language. Everyone’s situation is unique. I am one to listen calmly before speaking. This comes from my dealing with lots of students daily. Demeanor is certainly important but one needs to take it in context,” he had responded.
Later the same day, Scott O’Toole asked the potential jurors to volunteer their opinion on whether the world felt safer today than it did twenty-five years ago, as some media polls suggested. Calmly, Juror #140, said, “I don’t believe it is a safer world. Most people said it is because of the media, but I say it’s because of the improvements in technology and information being available to so many people. In a way, technology makes things worse because it lessens our ability to be aware of our surroundings.”


Originally acknowledged as Juror #19, and seat number four was not contested. Scott O’Toole was discussing whether it made a difference that Michele Anderson had a boyfriend accomplice and would the idea of a boyfriend in the case affect decision-making. Juror #19 responded, “No. Men, women and children do things.” In response to Mr. O’Toole’s suggestion that things were safer nowadays than a quarter of a century ago, the juror said, “My kids’ childhood is no safer than mine was.”


Juror #21 was assigned as Juror #5 and stayed in an uncontested seat throughout final jury selection. Juror #21 was female and always professionally attired. She has been an internal auditor for seven years and was accustomed to separating emotion and facts. She felt she excelled at her job because she was naturally unbiased.
A discussion ensued between her and Scott O’Toole when he inquired upon her experience with the justice system, an answer he noticed on her voir dire questionnaire.
“Someone in your family was involved with the justice system?” the Prosecutor asked. “When?”
“It would have been in 2000,” she answered. It had taken her a moment to think about it. “A cousin of mine had committed a crime, pretty serious, and went through the system.”
“Was the cousin fairly treated?” he asked.
“It’s hard to say,” she responded slowly. “I really only saw what kind of impact it had on the family. I was not close to him. Like I said, it was a serious case.”
“In your opinion, was he fairly treated?”
“I couldn’t say because I really knew very little about what happened. I suppose if it were someone closer to me, I would have an opinion. As far as this case goes, I think I could be fair and impartial. My job impacts me more than this as an internal auditor, partly because I know so many people. This case depends upon facts and evidence and I separate emotions very well.”


Seated originally as Juror #26, this juror was only heard from on the first day of jury questioning. Colleen O’Connor had called upon this juror to discuss the ability to set aside pre-conceived notions. She had also asked jurors to explain any financial concerns a juror might have on a long-term trial. Juror #26 responded, “I have the ability to be unbiased and avoid pre-conceived ideas. I think there is going to be an emotional impact on this trial and I have to set those feelings aside, too. My work is allowing me to do this so I am not worried financially.”


Juror #112 took the seat of number seven after the dismissal of #32 and #88 prior by preemptory challenge. This juror was a black young woman who came in with her hair tied back every day. She was mature, attentive and had been called upon by David Sorenson more than once. She had commented that details were important to worry about in a murder case. On the final day, David Sorenson pursued the subject of the difficulty in letting someone go even though there was a suspicion that person might have been guilty. Juror #112 resolutely said, “The jury needs to talk it out.”
“You said in your questionnaire that you were involved with victim’s rights,” Sorenson commented. “How so?”
“I was with an agency that dealt with domestic violence. We handled the youth primarily.”
“Did you have a title there?”
“I was a youth coordinator.”


Juror #52 became Juror #8 and was seated uncontested since the first sixteen were called. He worked for the Gates Foundation. He was unsure if his work was going to compensate him during the trial when he was asked about it. He had both a five and seven year-old child. When asked if having two children gave him pause when he thought about the trial, he responded calmly, “There’s a threshold that has to be met regardless of the seriousness of the punishment and the crime. Having two kids does give me pause. There will be a natural sympathy. However, this depends upon the prosecution.”


Juror #55 was seated as one of the first sixteen and his seat remained uncontested. When asked by David Sorenson if the trial presented any hardship for him, he responded that it was a matter of juggling things. He did foresee an emotional impact but that emotions would have to be set aside.
At another point, he was called upon when Sorenson had asked the jurors collectively if they had heard of the trial in the media. Fifty-percent of the jurors raised their placards. When asked if he thought it would be tough to stay away from the news, Juror #55 stated, “I’m a news junkie. I like to know what’s going on in the world. So, yes, it will be tough but not impossible.”
“Are you sure it wouldn’t be too much temptation to look up something on this trial?”
“It’s not that,” the juror replied. “It’s that the news is accessible everywhere and I wouldn’t want to be exposed to it accidentally.”


Juror #58 was called to seat ten and remained there throughout with any contest from either attorney. The only time he spoke, in response to a question on how he might feel about being on a jury, by Colleen O’Connor, his opinion was, “It would be fascinating.”


Juror #99 was seated after Juror #61 was dismissed. Juror #99 did not foresee financial hardship and the trial would not be a great inconvenience because it was slow season at work. The juror expected the trial to be difficult with the emotion that was inherent but that it would have to be set aside. “I don’t know how I’ll feel because I have never been through a trial.”

Juror #63 retained the seat uncontested after first being selected. When asked by Colleen O’Connor whether there might influential distractions and whether a presumption of innocence could be maintained throughout the trial, Juror #63 explained, “I prioritize distractions. They will always be there. I think the emotions will be taxing throughout this process but I could maintain the presumption of innocence until we are given the case.”


Juror #70 took my favorite juror seat uncontested although she was heard from a couple times throughout attorney questioning. The first time we heard from her was when asked if the trial would be an inconvenience and whether she could be unbiased in a difficult trial, she said she was self-employed and was a flexible boss. She had also been a crisis line counselor so was familiar with difficult circumstances. In another instance, David Sorenson asked if reasonable doubt would be difficult in letting someone free, she responded that it would not be pleasant if there were a suspicion of guilt. There was a standard that the prosecution had to reach.
Scott O’Toole called her out on the final day of selection. “You haven’t spoken much, Juror #70. You said on your questionnaire that you were a novelist. Am I right?”
“I am, she answered. “I write romance and now I’m changing to children’s books.”
“Not crime novels?” O’Toole queried.
“Oh, no,” she answered.
“You also said you were a crisis counselor for a time?”
“I was. I worked with suicide prevention.”
“Did you have any direct contact with criminal acts?” Scott asked.
“No,” she answered calmly. “We really didn’t have any exposure to crime.”
“Do you have any impressions of what it might be like to be on a jury?”
“No,” she answered.
I wondered how she would feel at the end of her experience…


The rest of the jurors took their original seat uncontested including Juror #80. She was a middle school teacher who carried a handful of stress at home with an autistic son. She had heard nothing of the Carnation murders until the original call for jurors in December. She felt she could be unbiased. She was concerned about the length of the trial and the stress it would cause the other teachers at work.
“I agree with the other juror who said that reasonable doubt has the same standard in a small case as in a big case,” she told David Sorenson.      “The size of the crime doesn’t matter. I teach middle schoolers.  I hear lots of stories and there is always an element of doubt. I’ve learned that it’s hard to figure out the truth sometimes because of doubt. But,” she noted, raising her finger, “I believe in people and I believe in the justice system. I once thought about going to law school. I even helped my brother study throughout his going to law school. He’s an administrative judge now.”
Sorenson nodded and made a note on his legal pad. “One more thing,” he asked, “will this trial create a work hardship for you?”
“Oh, no,” she answered. “I have a substitute teacher who is trained very well. I will still be going in on Fridays so I don’t lose touch with my students. They are already wondering what is going on. We have some students who have to wear ankle bracelets so they have seen the system a lot in their lives. One even asked me what crime I had committed to be going to court all the time.”
David Sorenson nodded his head at her.
“Well, we talked and I used it as a teaching moment opportunity. Not all people who go to court are bad…”


Juror #81 was heard from only once throughout two and a half days of jury questioning. When asked by David Sorenson if there would be concerns that reasonable doubt could let someone go, the Hispanic man in his 50’s answered confidently, in an accented tone, “I believe in doing our duty and doing what the law tells us to do. If we have to let someone go, then we did what the law told us. I believe that juries should base their decisions on facts and evidence. It is not personal.”


Juror #82 had also spoken on only one occasion. He responded to the same question that the old Juror #81, now Juror #15, was asked concerning reasonable doubt. “I agree with what the last juror said. Reasonable doubt doesn’t change, no matter what case you’re on. Even though this crime is more serious it does not change the bar and the law will tell us what to do. The prosecution has a job to prove the case and if they do not, then we have to return a verdict of not guilty.”
“You work for Amazon, don’t you?” Sorenson asked.
“I do.”
“We just saw a documentary that it’s a bad place to work. It told the story of a lot of unhappy employees. Is it like that?” the attorney asked.
“Not for me,” the juror said. “My department is fine. I have a good manager. He is very understanding and our team works well together.”


The jury was set into stone.
Opening arguments were scheduled for the upcoming Tuesday and we would finally get a glimpse into the incidents that set this trial into motion.
The ‘lambs to the law’ would take their seats the day after Martin Luther King Day. They were at the starting gates of a trial that would impact each forever.
Each lamb would take their seat and begin with a presumption of innocence…and, somehow, those deceased at the hands of another would find their ways to speak…







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
Twitter: The13thJurorMD



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