Fed up after six years without a trial, supporters of the victims of the Carnation Christmas Eve massacre are taking their complaints about Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell to the court of public opinion. "We want the death penalty, and we want it now," said Connie Boomer. "It's beyond ridiculous."
Six members of the Anderson family were shot to death as they prepared to celebrate Christmas Eve at their home in 2007. Two children, ages 5 and 3 were among the dead. Authorities say Michele Anderson and her boyfriend Joe McEnroe initially confessed to the crimes, but the case has dragged on over technicalities -- mostly surrounding the death penalty being sought by prosecutors. No trial date has been set.
On Wednesday, supporters of the victims gathered outside the King County Courthouse waving signs and talking to bypassers about the case, prior to yet another hearing. They told anyone who would listen that it's time for Judge Ramsdell to get the case to trial. "Put it front of a jury," said Robin Parker. "Let them decide, but get it going."
About $7-million in taxpayer money has been spent on the proceedings so far, approximately 6-million of it by the two defense teams. They have been successful in getting the case sent to the State Supreme Court over death penalty issues, but the court has ultimately sided with prosecutors.
Experts say the tactics are all part of a larger plan by anti-death penalty advocates. "This is the new battleground," said University of Washington law professor Mary Fan. She says the defense attorneys are trying to send a message to prosecutors everywhere that seeking the death penalty will be painful and expensive. "They do this by making the procedures complicated, by leveraging every procedural hook to slow or delay the delivery of the death penalty."
In a rare move on Wednesday, Judge Ramsdell addressed the court, expressing his frustration with the intricacies of the case, but saying he is duty-bound to ensure there is justice for all. "There hasn't been a day that goes by that I don't think about these cases," he said. Adding, "If anyone thinks I relish prolonging this process, they are wrong."
Listening in the courtroom was Pam Mantle, mother and grandmother to 3 of the victims. She was attending at least her 100th hearing regarding the case. She said she's looking toward next Christmas Eve with one wish. "That we're done with one trial. That would be my greatest wish."
McEnrow and Anderson are being tried separately.
In a statement to KING 5 News, Presiding Judge Susan Craighead said, "This case has raised a series of unique issues, and the need to handle them fairly and carefully has resulted in prolonged proceedings. It is important to keep in mind that haste could lead to a reversal on appeal, which would be even more painful for the individuals involved."