Death penalty appealed in Wash. massacre

Feb. 5, 2013 at 4:08 PM
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SEATTLE, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Washington state are appealing a judge's decision ruling out the death penalty for couple charged with killing six family members.

Michelle Anderson and Joseph McEnroe have confessed to shooting Anderson's parents, brother, sister-in-law and their two young children at her parents' Carnation, Wash., home on Christmas Eve 2007 because they felt slighted by the family, said Tuesday. McEnroe and Anderson were charged with the killings after police said all evidence in a brief investigation pointed to their culpability.

King County prosecutors said the evidence against Michelle Anderson and Joseph McEnroe is solid enough to move forward with a death penalty sentence on the table.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, however, rejected the prosecutors' death penalty finding based on the strength of evidence -- presumably the confessions -- questioning why a confession alone should merit a death penalty charge. The judge noted in his decision the inverse logic rewards criminals who deny their charges and lethally punishes those seeking to take responsibility for their crimes.

"The difference in the result has nothing whatsoever to do with the individual moral culpability of the respective defendants but hinges rather on the wholly unrelated factor of the strength of the evidence," Ramsdell wrote.

Prosecutors filed an emergency appeal with the state Supreme Court to resolve the matter prior to McEnroe's trial date. McEnroe was scheduled to stand trial Feb. 25 and summons had been sent to 3,000 potential jurors in the case before the latest delay, the newspaper said.

McEnroe's attorneys have said he would plead guilty to first-degree murder if the death penalty were taken off the table and prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence of life in prison without parole, the report said.

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