A Juror’s Plight



DAY 25

March 1, 2016



Michele Anderson is led to the crime scene reconstruction of the Carnation Murders

Michele Anderson is led to the crime scene reconstruction of the Carnation Murders

“Michele Anderson has decided to exercise her right to testify,” David Sorenson, her defense attorney told the Judge before the jury was called.  Sorenson was wearing a charcoal gray suit, white shirt and deep maroon colored tie.

Judge Ramsdell looked a little surprised.  “That is certainly her right.”

“We have some challenges since Ms. O’Connor and I just learned of her intentions this morning.  We have not had a two-way discussion with her in at least a couple of years although not by lack of attempts.  Because of this communication breakdown, we will need some time” Sorenson explained.

The Judge nodded his head.  “Go ahead.”

“As you know, we have made multiple requests to withdraw.  We are in a difficult position,” David Sorenson stated.  “We are concerned about the preclusion of some evidence from the prosecution.  Our other issue is that we, quite frankly, do not know what’s going to happen on the stand.  There have been no rehearsals or mock trial dialogues with the defendant to prepare her.  She does not understand the rules of evidence and this puts us in a precarious position.”

Judge Ramsdell thought about it for a moment. “So, what you’re saying is that the jury needs to understand her behavior on the stand.  She may be mumbling at times and there has been no rehearsal.”

“I think it puts the jury in a position where they will think she is perjuring herself.  They need a background in why she is appearing on the stand and the circumstances around it.  We are most concerned about narrative responses she may give.  It would telegraph itself wrong to the           jury,” Sorenson pleaded.

“The defendant has a right to testify,” Ramsdell stated.  “She also has the right not to testify.
“She is aware of her rights,” the attorney offered.

“I do not think her decision was well advised,” Colleen O’Connor said.  “She is making this decision in a vacuum without listening to any of our advice.”

“I have a right to testify,” Michele Anderson suddenly said.  Her voice was low-key and clearly irritated.

Judge Ramsdell looked somewhat taken aback.  He had carried the same raised eyebrow when a person was disrupting the gallery a few weeks prior.  “Ma’am, it’s best I don’t hear from you.”

“You’re all talking about me like I’m not here,” Anderson said vehemently.

“Ma’am?” Judge Ramsdell warned.  “Mr. O’Toole.  Do you have any thoughts for the State?”

Scott O’Toole stood up.  He was dressed in a deep-blue colored suit, crisp white shirt and a red tie.  “We would have a different story if this was a capital case.  I think Michele Anderson would take the opportunity to be a weapon to the jury.  At this point, her testifying is of no feasible importance to the jury.  I understand it is her right, but her testimony would not be relevant,” he explained.

Scott set his notepad down.  “I think I need to inform the Court and the defendant that should she testify, there will be questions asked of her.  It will be lengthy and in depth.  I would also like to make it clear that any cross-examination on our part will be fierce.”

The Judge looked toward the defense table.  “So, to be clear, you don’t have a clue what she will say or do on the stand?”

“No, Your Honor,” Sorenson resolutely responded.

“I respect the difficult position that the defense team is in,” Scott offered.  “The defendant needs to know, however, that there are rules when she is on the stand.”

“That’s part of the problem,” Ramsdell interjected.  “It’s hard for the defense counsel because they have not had the opportunity to craft questions for her.  At the same time, I am also concerned that the defendant may use this trial as an opportunity to make her own statements. Still, I cannot preclude her from testifying.”

He took his glasses off and briefly cleaned them as he pondered the situation.  “Ma’am?” he said toward the defendant.  “As you have just heard, you will be on the stand for some time should you choose to testify.  Not only will it be lengthy, the cross-examination will be not be a comfortable experience.”

“They lied to me.  My attorneys did!” Anderson suddenly said.  “I need an advocate.  I need someone to speak for me.”

“That is not the issue we are discussing,” Ramsdell said.  “We are talking about your decision to testify.”

“But you’re ignoring me,” Anderson said.  She sounded like a spoiled brat.  “I have a right to effective counsel.  Someone needs to talk on my behalf.  My attorneys always lie to me!”

I was amazed at how levelheaded the Judge seemed despite the tirade of comments from the defendant. He ignored her. He decided to think about the issue and review it after Scott O’Toole presented his final witness.

The jurors would have been oblivious to the drama on the floor while they were in the deliberation room.  They finally sat in their usual seats in the jury box and watched with interest as Detective Scott Tompkins took the witness stand.  They knew the end of the road in this phase of jury service was coming to an end soon.  The crime scene reconstruction of the day prior had answered almost all of the questions they had.

Detective Tompkins was dressed professionally in a gray suit, blue shirt and blue checker patterned tie.  His hands rested comfortably in his lap.

“I just have some follow-up questions for you, Detective,” Scott O’Toole began.  “I think there was some concern on the height of the couch and its height in reference to a problem with the legs?”

“Well, yes,” Tompkins responded as he looked toward the jury.  “The legs were wobbly.  As much as we tried to adjust them, the screw holes were ruined.  So, I had four inch pieces of wood cut that were the same size as the originals.  We then checked the height of the frilly thing, the blanket, over the back of the couch and it was at the right height.”

“Thank you,” O’Toole said.  He turned a page on his notepad.  “We also wanted to revisit why Ross Gardner did not go to the scene.  Can you explain why that was?”

“Ross Gardner did not get the case until April of 2009.  The property was given back to its owners in 2008,” Tompkins told the jurors.  “The place had been remodeled by the time we hired Mr. Gardner so the scene was of no value.”

Scott nodded his head and picked up a remote control.  The reconstruction scene as the jurors had seen it the day before was placed on the screen.  “The curtains in this exhibit,” he said, using a laser pointer. “Are they the same curtains the jurors saw yesterday downstairs?”

“Yes,” Tompkins answered.

“Are those curtains the same as they were recovered from Wayne and Judy Anderson’s home?”


Scott O’Toole entered the original curtains into evidence as Exhibit #171.  “I want to direct your attention to the television with the bullet hole in it.  Is this the same television that the jurors saw yesterday?”


“Is it the same television as was removed from Wayne and Judy Anderson’s home?” Scott asked.

“It is,” the Detective responded.

The television was entered as part of Exhibit #171.

In a quick and expeditious fashion, the prosecutor entered the rest of the inventory recovered and rebuilt from the living room.  The television rack, the corresponding Afghans, the magazine rack, five pillows, three blankets, two end tables, two couches, a recliner and a coffee table were officially entered into the court record.

The final piece was a large white folded tarp.  It was presented to the Court Clerk as a two-foot by two-foot by one-foot heavy folded bundle.  It was the floor recreated by photo image that some jurors had walked on yesterday.  It was named Exhibit #141.

“Thank you,” Scott O’Toole finally said.  “No more questions.  The State rests its case.”

The Judge looked toward the jury and made the decision to excuse them for a morning break.  He waited until Kenya, the Bailiff, had secured the jury behind the closed doors of the jury room.  He looked toward the defense table.

“Mr. Sorenson?  Are there any other issues that you wish to review before we proceed?”

“No, Your Honor,” he responded.

“Very good.  The problem in this matter is the issue of the Michele Anderson testimony,” the Judge said.  “She has the right to ignore the advice of her attorneys and testify…”

The defense attorney interrupted the Judge, timidly.  “I would like it clear on the record that we did not give advice either way.”

“Regardless,” the Judge responded.  “She could choose to testify anyway.  The Court is aware that she has not communicated with you and aware that it has been a significant amount of time.  I have seen the requests to withdraw from the case and I denied each of them.  So, I understand the predicament you find yourselves in.  But, I will permit her to testify.”

Sorenson nodded his head in understanding.

“We do this with the understanding that some doors will get kicked in.  We will have to deal with each issue as it comes.  I think all of us can agree that we do not know what to expect.  This step is driven by Michele Anderson and she will have to live with the consequences,” he said.  It sounded like the matter was closed.

“You can’t deny my civil rights,” Michele Anderson complained, to everyone’s surprise.  “My constitutional rights are being violated and you are responsible for it.”

The silence was electric.

“Ma’am?” the Judge questioned.  “I cannot tell you how many things are wrong about the statement you just made.”

There would be some in the courtroom who would later say, that the face shown by Michele Anderson in court, must have been the same face the victims saw before she killed them.  Her voice was obstinate and angry.  Her inflections and innuendo’s reflected that of a spoiled teenager who was not getting her way.
“I tried to speak to the Court.  You slandered my credibility.  My attorneys slandered me many times.  They violated my rights!” she said angrily.

The female jailer that brought Anderson in everyday to Court paid a little more attention.  I could see the pink handcuffs in the pouch on the back of her belt.

“I don’t have legal counsel,” Anderson continued.  “I am filing charges against you and my attorneys.  My legal counsel lied to me.  They treat me bad.  I am at a disadvantage and they are violating my rights!”

I was surprised that Judge Ramsdell’s teeth weren’t clenched.  His voice was firm.  “Ma’am?  That is not the issue on the table.  The issue is whether you are exercising your right to testify on your behalf.  Are you going to testify?”

Anderson spat back, “I have no effective counsel.  They’re dishonest.”

“You have had two capable attorneys…”

“You can throw me out if you want to,” she interrupted.

“You have one question to answer,” Ramsdell said.  “This has been going on for years with your attorneys.  You have been given every possible opportunity to speak with your attorneys.  In that, we are going to recess.  When we return, I only want to hear whether you are testifying or not.”

The Judge looked toward the three guards.  “Take her to jail.  This Court is in recess.”

Fifteen minutes later, Judge Ramsdell took his seat back on the bench.  He looked directly at the defendant.  “Is it your desire to testify?”

“I want to testify,” she said.  “But, I should be able to hire my own attorneys.  I have money, you know.  It’s illegal for you not to allow me to hire my own private attorneys.  There’s going to be so many people mad at you…”

“Ma’am?  There’s so many people mad at me about this case already, you can just pile it on,” Ramsdell said.

“It’s my Constitutional right to hire my attorneys with my money.  You need to understand that right.  I had ineffective counsel and I am going to tell the jury.”

“That is not the question at hand,” Ramsdell simply said.

“You can’t deny my rights.  I am unrepresented and I should be able to protect myself,” she demanded.

Colleen O’Connor spoke up.  “Your Honor?  Can we have a moment with our client?”

“Absolutely, Counsel.”

The two attorneys whispered in the defendant’s ear.  It was clear that they were trying to interject some sort of voice of reason.

“So, you’re denying my right to bring in a mediator?  That’s malpractice.  You can’t do that!  I have a right to have someone speak for me,” she said to the Judge.

“We are at the end of the trial, Ma’am.  You are being asked to testify in response to the charges being held against you.  You may only testify in that context.  This will not be your platform to complain about your representation.  Will you be testifying?”

“I want it on record that I am being denied my rights,” she said.

“We heard that.  It’s on the record so many times that no one will miss it,” Ramsdell offered.  “The Court has given you Counsel,” He looked toward Sorenson.  “Will your client be testifying?”

The attorney barely had time to shrug his shoulders.

“I’m right here,” Anderson said.  “You can talk to me.”

“No,” Sorenson said.  “She will not be testifying.”

“Miss Anderson?” the Judge queried.  “Is it your wish not to testify?”

“I want to testify but I cannot testify without effective legal counsel,” she answered.  “I want that on the record for my appeal.”

The jury was called out for the final time of the day after another extended stay in the deliberation room.  They seemed to be in good spirits.  It was clear that the fourteen random civilians were now friends, having bonded in a way only a juror could understand.

Michelle O’Connor stood up behind her desk.  “The defense has no witnesses, Your Honor.”

Judge Ramsdell did not look surprised.

“The defense rests,” she said as she sat down.

“Very good,” he responded.  He looked toward the jury box.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are going to excuse you for the day.  Just so you have an idea of what’s next, I can tell you that we will be reading jury instructions tomorrow and then we will hear closing arguments.  Since the alternate jurors are not pre-selected, we will be choosing two jurors after closing arguments,” he explained.

Butterflies would jump in the stomach of some jurors.  The thought of becoming an alternate juror at the final step was a juror’s greatest fear.  The exclusion from the deliberating process would be an accepted but difficult cross to bear.  It would be especially consuming in the minds of some jurors.  Their prayers would include deals with God not to be selected as an alternate.  Few would sleep as the anxiousness worked in conflict with their emotions.

Twelve jurors would soon be at the doorway of justice.

I thought of the defendant and her choice not to testify.  It was probably a good idea.

It would have been suicide by jury.







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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