Carnation Killers May Receive Death Penalty

     (CN) – Washington may seek the death penalty against the couple behind the Carnation Massacre, a Christmas Eve shooting spree that left three generations of a family dead, the state’s Supreme Court ruled.
     On Christmas Eve 2007, Michele Kristen Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, murdered her parents, her brother and his wife, her six-year-old niece and three-year old nephew in her hometown of Carnation, Washington, a rural town 25 miles east of Seattle.
     It is unclear what the couple’s motive was for the shootings.
     Prosecutors sought the death penalty for the crimes, but the trial court derailed the prosecution’s plans in January, ruling that the state failed to allege the absence of “sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency.” The court then gave prosecutors two weeks to amend the charging information.
     If sentenced to death, Anderson would be the first woman in Washington’s history to receive the ultimate punishment.
     The state appealed the order, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed the ruling last week.
     “The death penalty notices in the two cases before us complied with the state statutory charging requirements of RCW 10.95.040. Each notice alleged that ‘there [is] reason to believe that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency,'” Justice Gordon McCloud said, writing for the nine-justice court.
     Washington State law does not require that a state give criminal defendant adequate notice of the “essential elements of the crimes charged” in the charging information.
     In this case, “the notice of special sentencing proceeding afforded the defendants statutorily required notice that the State intended to prove the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency,” McCloud said.
     However, the court denied the state’s request to reassign the case to a different judge on remand, because prosecutors never asked the judge to recuse himself.
     “[E]ven where a trial judge has expressed a strong opinion as to the matter appealed, reassignment is generally not available as an appellate remedy if the appellate court’s decision effectively limits the trial court’s discretion on remand,” the 19-page opinion held. (Emphasis in original.)

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