Former Carnation murder prosecutor provides insight on case

SEATTLE -- It’s been over seven years and the trial finally began Tuesday for the horrendous murders of six family members in Carnation.

Joseph McEnroe and Michelle Anderson are facing the death penalty for allegedly killing Anderson’s family on Christmas Eve 2007.  McEnroe’s trial started Tuesday, with opening arguments from both sides.

Already, this case has cost the public $8 million to defend the two.

The lead prosecutor for the first four years was James Konat.  Until his retirement a few years ago, he was one of King County’s most notable and successful prosecutors, having secured convictions in over 100 murder cases.   Like so many in the public, he’s frustrated at the length of time it has taken to bring this case to trial.

What follows is an edited transcript of an interview with Konat about the Carnation murder case.

Douglas:  Why has this taken so long?

Konat:  It’s a combination of factors.  Because it’s a capital case, because the state is asking for the death penalty, defense lawyers are given greater latitude, if you will, to uncover anything that might explain their client’s behavior.

Douglas:  In all your years, how did this stack up in terms of the heinousness of this crime?

Konat:  It would be very near the top.  The real troubling part is when you consider the last minutes that those children lived after having watched their father and mother and, in the youngest case, his sister all executed before him.  It’s extremely difficult to understand.

Douglas:  Why did they say they did it?

Konat:  They were disenchanted with the family relationships that they were having with both with Michelle’s brother Scott, who was the third victim to die, and her parents, who were the first two to die, for their failure to back her up.

Douglas:  We know there are cases where murder defendants have been coerced into a confession.  Was that the case, could that have been the case here?

Konat:  In all cases where a defendant sits down and has a conversation with the investigating detectives, it’s incumbent upon the state to outline for the court, to convince the court, that that statement should be admissible, whether in part or in whole.  And in this case, there’s already been a ruling that McEnroe’s statement is admissible whether he chooses to testify or not.

Konat:  Each of them purchased weapons months in advance of this event happening.  This isn’t a spur of the moment sort of decision.  It was something that, they bought these weapons months before these crimes were committed.  They both talked about it.

Douglas:  There’s  a lot of emotion in this for the family, the remaining family, who have had to wait so long for this.  Describe the emotion and what kind of toll that takes.

Konat:  I spoke with members of the family earlier this week.  They are understandably frustrated with the length of time that it has taken.  They are optimistic about the idea that the trial is finally going to begin, more than seven years later.  But we can’t lose sight of the fact that this will be two trials, not one trial.  This entire event will not be over for another 18 months or so.