Is Washington moving away from the death penalty?

Jul 30, 2015, 9:15 AM | Updated: 11:16 am

dan Satterberg...

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. (KIRO Radio)

(KIRO Radio)

King County has already seen two death row trials full of gruesome details this year, but there won’t be a third.

Michele Anderson’s would have been next. Her trial will proceed, but it won’t be a capital case. She and her former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe are charged with six counts of aggravated murder for killing her family in Carnation in 2007. Among the victims, her 3 and 5-year-old niece and nephew.

Two months ago, a jury decided against execution for Joseph McEnroe.

Now, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says he won’t seek the death penalty against Anderson. Why? It comes back to McEnroe’s crimes.

“The evidence in that case revealed that McEnroe fired the fatal shot in five of the six murders,” Satterberg said. “McEnroe fatally shot Wayne Anderson and Judy Anderson in their home as they prepared for the holiday. He then took the lead in hiding the bodies and setting the trap for the next victims.”

Satterberg says it was McEnroe who opted to shoot the kids. Now, he says, he won’t go after a worse punishment for Anderson, someone whose crimes were equal to but not worse than McEnroe’s.

Satterberg brought reporters into a courthouse conference room Wednesday for the announcement, just days after the Christopher Monfort verdict was read two floors below, on July 23. He’s charged with murdering Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton in 2009.

That verdict was unusual. A unanimous life-in-prison decision in a death penalty case is rare and the Monfort case may be the only time it’s happened in Washington state.

Right after the verdict came out, one of Monfort’s defense attorneys, Carl Luer, said he was relieved his client got life in prison, but he wished the jurors wouldn’t have had to go through the ordeal of deliberations.

“The Prosecutor Mr. Satterberg had the opportunity to resolve the case fairly early on with a life sentence [and] chose not to do that. So hopefully, going forward, that will have some influence on his decision-making in the future on whether to seek the death penalty.”

Satterberg says the Monfort verdict had nothing to do with his decision on Anderson, but he does say he’s open to a bigger conversation about the death penalty in Washington state.

“Other states have recently reviewed their law. I think it’s every third of a century or so to go back and look at these old policies and say, ‘is this still what we want?’ is an appropriate thing for people to do, but that’s not what I’m launching today.”

Activists against the death penalty say Satterberg’s decision is a sign that elected officials are moving away from the death penalty.

Danielle Fulfs, Program Director of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says it’s happening both nationally and locally.

“With these three cases that have been incredibly high profile cases for years now, for them to not result in death,” she says. “I think it’s indicative of the fact that as a society, we’re moving away from it, but also we’ve seen strengthening support from both sides of the aisle down in Olympia.”

Ultimately, dropping the pursuit of the death penalty against Anderson is what surviving family members wanted and Satterberg says their wishes also played a role in his decision. It’s been seven and a half years since the murders and some told Satterberg they just wanted to move on.

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Is Washington moving away from the death penalty?