A Juror’s Plight



DAY 28

March 4, 2016



Michele Anderson faced the jury of her peers at the reading of the verdict. The six guilty verdicts were for the murders of: Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson.

Michele Anderson faced the jury of her peers at the reading of the verdict. The six guilty verdicts were for the murders of: Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson.

(Dedicated to the fifteen jurors who sacrificed a portion of their lives to find ‘Justice for Six’.  We thank you for your service.  We also thank the thousands of jurors who do their civic duty every day throughout this country.)


The jury for the Carnation murder trial had deliberated for the better part of eight hours before they asked their next round of questions.  There were times that jurors collectively knew the answer to a question before it was asked and the three submitted were probably of that nature.  They were in their third day of deliberation.  It would not be unreasonable to expect that this jury wanted to complete their task of justice prior to the beginning of the weekend.  They had chosen to deliberate on Friday, an option that had been presented to them on the first day of jury selection.

Judge Ramsdell looked toward the defense and prosecution team as he read each question.

Michele Anderson, by choice, was not present.

“The jury requests clarification in premeditation, specifically a definition in terms, ‘moment in time’, and, ‘follows immediately’,” the Judge read.  “Additionally, and illustrative example of second degree murder.  Also, please define, ‘plan’, as relates to the aggravating circumstance.”

Judge Ramsdell scratched his head and sighed.  “I think all of these questions are dangerous.  I think we could all probably agree that it would be best to send the jurors back to the deliberation table and refer them to their jury instructions.  Do I have any input from Counsel?”

Scott O’Toole was the first to speak and said that he supported the Judge’s recommendation.  Colleen O’Connor spoke for the defense and said she agreed.

The Judge proceeded to write something on a sheet of paper and asked the attorneys to approve his verbiage.  Simply, the Judge directed the jury’s attention to reread their jury instructions. “Let’s see how it goes.  I suspect any additional questions will be fielded with our same response.”

The deliberation process continued as the Judge returned the Court to recess for the players who waited.  The jurors would be busy discussing the semantics of the difference between first and second-degree murder.

A plethora of evidence had been put on their plates.  The credibility of the witnesses they had seen could hardly be called into question.  Whether it was the testimony of Detective Scott Tompkins and the multitude of Sheriff’s and Deputies who had handled the case or whether it was the testimony of the DNA experts, Megan Inslee and Jennifer Dahlberg, the jurors had heard the voices of the victims both in life and in their final moments.

They would remember the fascinating testimony of the principal trackers, Detective Kathleen Decker and Joel Hardin.  Some of the jurors would remember the term “pleochroism” and some jurors would never look at the ground the same again.  Each of the jurors found a fascination in “shine cutting” and the meticulousness and tracking of a human being.

The testimony of Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Richard Harruff had been both impactful and emotional despite the analytics of the murders.  The scale of his determinations was something the jurors would grapple with the rest of their lives.

With fondness, the jurors would remember the testimony of Kathy Knapp, one of the owners of Bumble Bee Towing, and how she had never expected herself to testify.  She had been a bright light of a witness in the darkness of their horrific study of the crime.  Another unexpected witness was the young Jared Sinnema, the fourteen year-old who found the gun in the Stillaguamish River, who would be remembered fondly.  It was interesting how many people the circle of murder drew in, unwitting witnesses in the face of death on a Christmas Eve in 2007.

There would be charts and graphs on the walls in the jury room.  There would be lists and one of the most important was the evidence list.  It gave the jurors a road map inside the quagmire of evidence that told them a story.  Somewhere, the pictures of each of the deceased would be on the deliberation table.  It was important to the jurors that they balanced correctly the loss of life against the welfare of the defendant.  Within those pictures, they spoke of a presumption of innocence that had faded into a distant memory.

It was no longer a question of innocence that the jurors searched for but rather a determination of how guilty the defendant was.  The questions that had been returned to them by the Court and its corresponding answer would not have been met with a lot of surprise.  Each juror had suspected they were in the jury room to determine the difference.  They would go back to the law and they would once again review the death of each victim.

There was no doubt that the two most impactful witnesses would have been Mary Victoria Anderson and Pamela Mantle.  With what the jurors had learned about Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe, they were sure that Mary and her son had missed death by a simple twist of fate.  The illness of her son had saved their lives.  At the same time, Pamela Mantle, the mother of Erica, had given life to the victims and who they were before they met their awful fates.

Of course, none of the jurors could forget Linda Thiele, the animated Post Office co-worker of Judy, who had discovered the scene.  The images of her hiding in the residence, listening to the voice of the 911 operator, waiting for help; would resonate in their minds for a long time after the trial. She, too, had given life to the victims, especially Judy.

A juror may have mentioned that he or she found it curious that the lights of the Christmas tree had been turned off as well as the oven.  Another juror would quickly respond that it was not a part of the evidence.

They had a 56-page packet of jury instructions to ponder and 171 pieces of evidence to inspect.  The jury had notes on 38 witnesses and no evidence from the defense team.  The lack of evidence presented by the defense team may have facilitated their task but it did not make it easier.  The lives of those six human beings had become implicitly important to each juror.

The voices of the victims came through in some of the most impactful testimony of all, especially that of Ross Gardner.  The reconstruction of the crime scene had pulled everything into clarity for the jurors.  The blood spatter evidence was just as important as examinations of the small confine that the murders occurred in.  The jurors had lived the final moments of each victim in that living room.  The final positioning of Erica and the two children were like stakes in the jurors’ souls. Other jurors would quell the temptation to be angry and the temptation to allow emotion in.  They would lean on the facts.

The facts came from the floor of a living room meticulously recreated through the words of Ross Gardner, facilitated by the conversational questions of Scott O’Toole.

In the end, the most damaging evidence, and the benchmark to which the evidence was compared, was from the mouth of Michele Anderson.  Certainly, they went through the process of determining truth from lie. The confession’s value was shored by the testimony of Detective Robin Cleary.  She had heard the confession a second time, one that was probably determined to be closer to the truth.

It was within the words of Michele Anderson that the jurors came to a decision.  Her words alone had determined the difference between first and second-degree murder.  The moment Michele Anderson had said she and her boyfriend walked into the house on Christmas Eve with loaded guns, was the moment that defined first-degree murder in the deaths of Wayne and Judith.  The two-hour span that separated the deaths of Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan was the difference between first and second-degree.  That act trumped all following acts.  She had a plan, she executed it and four additional people lay dead in her wake.

A short time after the jurors had received a non-answer to their first questions of the day, they submitted an additional request.

“The jury requests State Exhibit #7, to hear the duration of the call and answer other questions,” the Jury Inquiry noted for the Court.

The Judge and attorneys allowed the evidence into the jury room as requested.  The exhibit was a tape of the first 911 call at 5:13 PM on December 24, 2007.  I suspected they would play it many times over.  In the background, they were going to listen for Erica as she pleaded with the killers, “Not the kids.”

It would not surprise me if this was the evidence that separated first-degree murder from second degree murder in juror arguments.

At 2:00 PM, the jurors announced they had reached a verdict by notifying the Court.  Two hours later, the Court assembled.

The Anderson family sat in the front two rows.  Scott O’Toole and Michelle Morales walked up and talked among them, supportive in their handshakes.  Detective Scott Tompkins took his usual seat, as he offered a warm smile toward the family.  It was clear that they had all become close after over eight years of waiting for justice.  Although Scott and Michelle seemed confident, their feelings of shared empathy exemplified their humbleness.

Michele Anderson, flanked by eight guards was soon led into the courtroom. The lone female guard unclasped Anderson’s pink handcuffs.  Michele Anderson never once raised her eyes.  She was wearing all black.  There were no tears.

The gallery was full of concerned citizens as well as members of the media. The Seattle Times, KOMO-TV and KIRO-TV were just a few of those present. A large camera peered from the corner; its sight avoided the jury box and focused on the Judge’s bench.

In the gallery, the two Alternate Jurors: Juror #7 and Juror #8, sat quietly together.

The jurors marched out to a courtroom that stood in silence.  Their faces were resolute and devoid of emotion.  They confidently took their seats.

Juror #11, the Presiding Juror, spoke for the jury when the Judge acknowledged their coming to a verdict.  Juror #11 was a young man whom I remembered from jury selection as having said he had never been on a jury prior to this case.  He handed the Jury Verdict forms to Kenya, the bailiff, who then brought them to the Court Clerk, Suza.

She began the process of the reading aloud of each verdict form.  Whenever she named a count and its verdict, someone from the family seated in the front two rows whispered the names of each victim softly, one a time. Tears fell for each victim as the verdicts were read.

“The State would like to request that the jury be polled,” Scott O’Toole said as he stood up.

Judge Ramsdell looked toward the jury box.  “We are going to ask you two questions after we read the verdict you gave us on each count.  As to each member of the jury, is this your own verdict?  Secondly, is it your understanding that the verdict is from a jury as a whole?”

Many of the jurors nodded their heads in understanding.

The Judge looked at the first Juror.  “Is it your determination that the defendant, Michele Kristen Anderson, is guilty of murder in the first-degree in the death of Wayne Anderson?”

“Yes,” the male juror answered.

The juror agreed when each of the victim’s names ensued on the additional verdict forms.   She was guilty of first-degree murder in his assessment and he felt the jury was in agreeance.

“Was the defendant Michele Kristen Anderson armed with a firearm at the time of the commission of the crime as charged in Count 1?” the Judge asked, regarding the first Special Verdict.

Again, the Juror reaffirmed his belief along with a positive response for his feeling that the jury was collective in its decision regarding Wayne Anderson.  He dutifully responded in the same manner as each of the victims was stated.

“Has the State proven the existence of the following aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt?  There was more than one person murdered and the murders were part of a common scheme or plan or the result of the single act of one person?”

“Yes,” the first juror responded.

“And, regarding Counts 4, 5 and 6, has the State proven the existence of the following aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt: The defendant committed the murder to conceal the commission of a crime or to protect or conceal the identity of any person committing the crime?” the Judge asked as he read the jury verdict form.


Michele Anderson kept her head down and her hands cupped her eyebrows while the Judge polled the rest of the jury. The jurors would not look at her.  They did not care about her reactions anymore.  Instead, they hoped the family and those who knew the victims would get some resolution in the face of the horrific murders and their decision.

The sobering fact at the conclusion of any murder trial was that most jurors realized that there could be no good ending.  Their verdict did not bring the victims back and it did little to abate the pain that surrounded the crime.  It was the best that twelve random citizens could do in the matter of the State vs. Anderson.

“Let the record reflect that all Jurors answered in the affirmative,” Ramsdell said when the final juror had been polled.  “This concludes your service.  Since this case is not a death penalty case, there will be no penalty phase.  You are absolved of your admonishment and you are released from any of the Court restrictions.  You may read any article you wish on the case and you may speak with anyone on the case.  You are free to speak to the media but also understand that you are in under no obligation to speak with them.”

The Judge moved some papers aside on his desk and focused on the jurors.  “If you have the time, myself and the attorneys would like to spend a few moments with you.  I am sure you have questions.  I just may not talk about the specifics of this case.  It would be a good opportunity to thank you personally.”

Many of the jurors nodded their heads.

As a former juror, I was jealous.  It was one of my favorite parts of being on a trial.  It was traditional in many long term cases for the attorneys and judge to spend some time together.  The jurors could finally get answers to the burning questions they had throughout the trial. They had spent months doing their best not to have contact outside the courtroom with any of the principals.

“The Court would like to thank you for your exemplary service.  You are a very elite group obtained from a large pool of citizens who were summoned.  I want you to be proud.  It is my hope that this was a good experience even though it was unpleasant.  The Court excuses you to the jury room.  Be proud of what you have done,” he said.

The Court stood and I thought of a juror who had been dismissed a number of weeks back.  I thought of our standing as a salute to his service and now as a salute to this jury of twelve. Behind me, the two alternates stood and my metaphorical salute was to them, as well.

I watched the Jurors as they marched out of the jury box, finally not afraid to catch their eyes.  Although I did not see tears in their eyes, I knew the tears were in their hearts.  They had come together as a community for a short time in their lives.  It was not their choice that Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan should be thrust into their lives. The journey to discover whom the victims were and how they died had been the impetus for many an impromptu show of emotion.  The jurors’ hearts had been broken when they looked at the pictures of Olivia and Nathan.

Forevermore, the victim’s names would be a part of the jurors’ prayers and tattooed on their hearts.  The victim’s names would never completely leave their thoughts.  Each juror’s recompense, albeit miniscule, would be in the belief that they did the right thing.  Although they could finally rest, there would be many a night of sleeping fitfully, as memories resurged in their dreams.

It was a great sacrifice for a juror to walk the path of justice.  All jurors would say that it was nothing compared to what the victim’s family must have gone through.  They would carry the images of each family member in their minds and keep it in a safe place.  When they thought of one of the Anderson’s they would remember each name with care.  It was salve for the scar of the images of death left by the trial.

It would take time but there would be some jurors who would carry on with the good relationships they had built on their journey to justice.  If one looked carefully, they would realize that the bond was a manifestation of the Spirit of Six: Wayne, Judy, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson.

Many of the jurors would come back for the last step in the process even though they were not required to. They would want to be witness to the sentencing of Michele Kristen Anderson.  They would see the fruits of their labor and the realization of the best justice they could find.

The jury had set the table and it would soon be time for Michele Anderson to sit down to her banquet of consequences…








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”.


This work is copyrighted by Paul Sanders.


Pictures courtesy of Paul Sanders, KOMO-TV, KIRO-TV, King County, State of Washington Prosecutor’s Office.


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Twitter: The13thJurorMD



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