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June 2, 2012

Five years and $5 million in capital pre-trial time and expense for Washington mass killing

This remarkable newspaper account of pre-trial proceedings in a capital case in Washington state provides a stark reminder of certain realities that can make even a death penalty supporter inclined to conclude that the ultimate punishment is now often not worth the bother and expense to pursue.  The piece is headlined "Trial-prep costs for Carnation killings hit $4.9 million," and here is how it starts:

Nearly 4½ years after a family of six was killed in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007, the cost of preparing for the trials of the two defendants has reached $4.9 million.

Michele Anderson, 33, and Joseph McEnroe, 33, who are accused of gunning down Anderson's family, are not expected to hear opening statements in their cases until next year. In the meantime, the costs keep mounting as trial preparation continues.

A million-dollar price tag for the prosecution and defense of defendants facing the death penalty isn't unusual, but the amount spent on the Carnation case is the largest in prepping for a potential death-penalty case since the prosecution of Green River killer Gary L. Ridgway, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office.

Between 2001, when Ridgway was identified as a suspect in the serial killings, and 2003, when he pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated murder, the county spent nearly $12 million on the extensive investigation, as well as prosecution and defense, county officials said.

According to the King County Office of Public Defense, more than $2.2 million has been spent on the defense of Anderson and more than $2 million has been spent to defend McEnroe. The King County Prosecutor's Office said it has spent a combined $675,064 to prosecute both cases.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., was surprised at the sum. Dieter said the average cost for trial as well as post-conviction appeals for one death-penalty defendant is $3 million — compared to an average of about $1.1 million for the trial, appeals and incarceration for a murder defendant who is sentenced to life in prison.

"It's mammoth litigation," Dieter said. "The courts demand a more thorough investigation into the life history of the defendant. If you don't do that they're going to overturn the case [on appeal]." Dieter added, "It's death, you can't scrimp and save."

With Anderson and McEnroe being tried separately, the amount for each case could top the $3 million figure. Anderson and McEnroe, her former boyfriend, were arrested after members of her family were found slain in her parents' Carnation-area home. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

Kathryn Ross, who is part of the three-lawyer team representing McEnroe, said, "There's nothing that's being done [by the defense] that's unnecessary."

"A lot more care has to be taken to make sure any decisions in a death-penalty case are accurate. It's called a higher degree of due process," she said.

I wonder how many new cops-on-the-beat (or scholarships for deserving students who could not afford to go to college) might have been funded with these Washington taxpayer monies if not spent on trying to figure out just how long these murderers will get to spend in prison before their lives come to an end.  Were I a taxpayer in Washington, I would find the money (mis)spent in this matter especially bothersome given the fact that Washington has only executed one murderer in the last decade.  Even if these two defendants eventually get sentenced to death, the odds seem still to indicate they are more likely to die in prison than to have death sentences actually carried out.

June 2, 2012 at 08:37 PM | Permalink

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"...even a death penalty supporter inclined to conclude that the ultimate punishment is now often not worth the bother and expense to pursue."

That is just not true unless one accepts the pretextual obstructionism of Death abolitioniss as inevitable. No. Families of murder victims hunt them, find them, and beat them. Night riders can tie them to a tree in front of the courthouse, and apply 50 lashes, and leave them tied up for the coffee carrying judges to see before going to their do nothing, government make work jobs. If they do that again, kill them, including all pro-criminal enemies of public safety judges, allowing the false use of the law to continue. Do 123D to the lawyer hierarchy. This has full justification because rent seeking is a euphemism for armed robbery. Killing a rent seeker is the moral equivalent of killing an armed robber, and almost a duty. This remedy would be poetic justice. Mostly black families whipping uppity white judges scapegoated for causing the murder of their loved ones.

I do not see any legal recourse, not even a constitutional amendment can stop lawyer rent seeking and protection of vicious predators.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 2, 2012 9:59:40 PM

"According to the King County Office of Public Defense, more than $2.2 million has been spent on the defense of Anderson and more than $2 million has been spent to defend McEnroe."

So of the $4.9 million, 85% has been spent by or on defense lawyers.

My, my. They must have had some nifty vacations.

I did federal cases for almost 20 years. The idea that it costs this much for a defense -- any defense -- is not merely false; it's preposterous.

When X costs too much, you don't get rid of X, you pare back its costs. This is not exactly rocket science. What's needed is a statutory cap at one million bucks. Too bad, but in forma pauperis criminals -- yes, even the benighted murderers! -- are going to have to cut back just like everybody else. Not that any normal person would regard a million bucks as "cutting back."

Spending like this belongs to a different era. Time to sober up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 2, 2012 11:22:20 PM

@Bill Otis
It also begs the question of how the defense could possibly spend so much on a case where there is no question of guilt or aggravation.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 3, 2012 12:17:38 AM

Mike: Judges have allowed it, and are fully responsible for the abuse of the taxpayer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2012 1:47:12 AM

MikeinCT --

I think they just fork it over to their bought-off shrink pals to gin up the next "syndrome." It's a great racket.

I'm quite sure it didn't take them ten cents to figure out that the last thing they wanted to invest in was an inquiry into whether Mr. Nicey actually did it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 3:31:30 AM

"Kathryn Ross, who is part of the three-lawyer team representing McEnroe, said, "There's nothing that's being done [by the defense] that's unnecessary.""

Nothing more than a lying, rent seeking, tax payer robbing feminist lawyer defending 2 bastards who murdered a real family. The feminist running dog judge should be removed for allowing this robbery to proceed. This false defense is part of the all out feminist attack on the American family. If you are a bastard, and you kill a real family, the feminist will protect you.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2012 6:15:26 AM

horse shit bill!

i see you skipped this part!

"Between 2001, when Ridgway was identified as a suspect in the serial killings, and 2003, when he pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated murder, the county spent nearly $12 million on the extensive investigation, as well as prosecution and defense, county officials said."

let's see 12 million total minus 5 mil for defense that means the state has spend SEVEN trying to kill him!

sounds fair to me! lot better than most cases where the state still outspends the defense at a 3-4 to 1 ratio!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 3, 2012 9:51:44 AM

In California, all defense billing in capital cases has to be approved by the courts. I'm sure the same is true in Washington state.

Thus, Bill Otis's attempt to blame the defense lawyers for the spening in this Washington case is just more of the standard dissembling we get from Bill Otis on most issues.

If the defense lawyers were making unjustifird expenditures, the courts could cut them off. The notion promoted here by Bill Otis and Mike in CT --- that defense counsel are given unreviewedd blank checks --- is about as credible as the two hacks promoting the notion.

Note, hacks like these guys ignore the glaring statistic from the article: The costs of the avg. death penalty case are $3 million, whereas the costs of the avg. LWOP case are $1.1 million. That's a fact that death-penalty cheerleaders need to account for.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 3, 2012 12:39:09 PM

I agree with CCDC. It the judge that is responsible for this stealing, and who must be tied to a tree and given 50 lashes by night riders.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2012 12:58:36 PM

CCDC --

"In California, all defense billing in capital cases has to be approved by the courts. I'm sure the same is true in Washington state....Thus, Bill Otis's attempt to blame the defense lawyers for the spening in this Washington case is just more of the standard dissembling we get from Bill Otis on most issues."

God forbid that defense lawyers take responsibility for the money they seek, get, and then spend on themselves and their pals! Dissembling, yes, that's it!!

"If the defense lawyers were making unjustifird expenditures, the courts could cut them off."

"Could" being the operative, and wonderfully well-selected word. Sure the courts "could" stop it. But they have no incentive to, and a significant incentive not to. The money comes from the hapless, faceless taxpayer, not the judge; and why take even a negligible chance of reversal -- plus a big hit from defense counsel's outraged press conference -- by denying a request. In any given instance of asking for money, the path of least resistance is always to just go ahead. If we just sell out the taxpayers' patience (and resources) a little here and a little there, they won't notice until -- well, until it's already up to $4.5 million!

I never said the pro-murderers side wasn't clever or shrewd in running the meter; I just said they were running it. CCDC, for all his huffing and puffing, can't, and doesn't, deny that they are.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 2:14:35 PM

This is truly ridiculous. The death penalty should be mandatory in cases like these.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 3, 2012 2:17:59 PM

"This is truly ridiculous. The death penalty should be mandatory in cases like these."

For some reason, even when given a chance by the USSC, state after state did not want it to be mandatory even here, often leaving it to the jury. What "truly ridiculous" means therefore again is up to debate, I guess.

The potshots from both sides (including the idea that defense attorneys have nice vacations on the government's dime) is oh so surprising giving where it is coming from. Water is wet -- each side has biases and strongly sets them forth.

I also find it a tad naive to think that if this money wouldn't be spent here that it would be spent on education. There probably isn't some sort of even trade there.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 3, 2012 2:43:21 PM

federalist --

I see you have failed to reform your bloodlusting ways. Look, money is important. That's what we need to think about. Those dollars. Here's what we need to ignore:

"Anderson and McEnroe, her former boyfriend, were arrested after members of her family were found slain in her parents' Carnation-area home. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan."

It must take a special kind of person to kill a 5 year-old and a 3 year-old. But to the usual crowd here (after their still-at-it "Free Roger Keith Coleman" Sunday rally), this stuff is not a problem. The problem is government spending.

Murdering kiddies? C'mon, federalist, get over it. Where's your compassion?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 2:49:04 PM

Joe --

"For some reason, even when given a chance by the USSC, state after state did not want it to be mandatory even here, often leaving it to the jury."

Could you name the case in which the USSC gives the states the chance to impose mandatory death sentences? I'm sure I missed it. Woodson v. North Carolina outlawed them 36 years ago. Has Woodson been overruled?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 3:13:56 PM

Those of us who engage in the tedious but necessary task of reading through thousands of pages of capital case jury voir dire transcripts see that a significant percentage of prospective jurors mistakenly believe that carrying out a death sentence is less expensive than enforcing an LWOP sentence.

Death penalty cheerleaders like Bill Otis want this misperception to remain, and they want it to be pervasive. They don't want it to be common knowledge that the average death sentence costs nearly $2 million more to enforce than the average LWOP sentence. Jurors who are ignorant of the economic realities of the death penalty, and whose ignorance entails the misperction that death is cheaper than LWOP, are more likely to vote for death than jurors who ate not ignorant in this respect. Thus, Bill Otis seeks to perpetuate ignorance to advance his ghoulish support of death. It's fitting and telling that his position goes hand-in-hand with ignorance.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 3, 2012 5:12:21 PM

Because the costs are attributable solely to pretext and almost none to fact finding or justice, the entire practice is a criminal conspiracy between judges and both sides to generate make work government jobs. That fully justifies violent self-help by the families of murder victims. They have to grieve, and now watch the spectacle of vipers feeding off the carcasses of their loved ones for decades. There is no persuading or even talking to vipers. There is only eradication of the pestilential vermin. I do not want anyone murdered, because that involves too little suffering. There should be repeated and ever increasing lashing. Tie the judge to a tree, right in front of the courthouse, and mete out 50 lashes. The police should be considered to be agents of the prosecution, with the same conflicts of interest. The more there is crime, the better they do.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2012 5:36:46 PM

CCDC --

"Thus, Bill Otis seeks to perpetuate ignorance to advance his ghoulish support of death."

You claim to be a CAPITAL defense counsel, right?

So what is it your clients were up to?

And who spends his career in "ghoulish support of death?"

Honestly, CCDC, if you didn't exist, someone would have to invent you to show how far gone the fruitcake wing of abolitionism has become.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 5:50:48 PM

Hi, I'm Bill Otis.

Look at this shiny object over here. Never mind the facts at hand.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 3, 2012 6:23:14 PM

Wow, CCCP.

In another thread you admitted to depression and now multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, and delusions of grandeur.

Your Thorazine stopped working?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 3, 2012 7:51:41 PM

@CCDC
All I did was ask why it was necessary to spend $4.2 million on pretrial defense for two mass murderers who killed four adults and two children and do not contest their guilt. You did not answer my question or perhaps you simply can't. Feel free to enlighten me if this lowly hack has missed the wisdom in this multi-million dollar expenditure.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 3, 2012 7:58:38 PM

Mike in CT:

Read Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510 (2003).

Trial counsel in capital cases have an ethical obligation to conduct a thoroughgoing investigation concerning matters germane to penalty phase issues. This often includes extensive background, medical, and mental health investigation.

In many of these cases, like Wiggins, the majority of the work defense counsel have to do --- as required by ABA Guidelines, SCOTUS precedent, etc. --- is directed at penalty, rather than guilt v. innocence. Sometimes that overlaps with issues relating to degree of guilt.

So, because all defense billing is capital cases, except the exceedingly rare capital case involving privately retained counsel, must be approved by the court, any complaints you and your fellow death-penalty cheerleaders have with the billing in this Washington state case should be taken up with the American Bar Assn., the Supreme Court of the United States, and the courts of the State of Washington.

In other words, you and Otis Bill are just blathering when you question and complain about the defense billing in this case. The remarks and questions of you and Otis Bill are vacuous, uninformed, and/or designed to mislead.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 3, 2012 8:41:58 PM

@CCDC
Again, you ignore my question. I do not care who is to blame, (I have yet to blame anyone, a point you ignore) I would like to hear you defend it on its merits instead of attacking me, which is childish. If you can't defend it, perhaps you could at least entertain the possibility that it is excessive.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 3, 2012 8:46:05 PM

CCDC --

"Hi, I'm Bill Otis. Look at this shiny object over here. Never mind the facts at hand."

Do you think referring to your blood-soaked clients as "shiny" is a bit odd?

But, hey, moving right along, here are the facts at hand, direct from the article: "Anderson and McEnroe, her former boyfriend, were arrested after members of her family were found slain in her parents' Carnation-area home. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan."

It's you, CCDC, who will not take account of, or even mention, the "facts at hand," preferring to yawn past these six horrifying murders in order to gush over how important it is that the taxpayers keep you flush.

Keep postin', my man. Nobody exposes abolitionism quite like you do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2012 8:49:39 PM

Bill: CCDC is an advocate, as you were. The responsible person for this mass theft of taxpayer funds is the judge. Lawyers cannot face staring at the sun, nor at physical attacks on judges, not better than Mafia capos, but excellent sources of lawyer jobs by their hyperproceduralism. I advocate the 3 B's for all judges, 2 beatings, the second to within an inch of life, then a bullet.

That is also why no lawyer should ever be allowed to sit on the bench. The lawyer has bought the indoctrination into the criminal cult enterprise and is hopelessly goners. And those on the bench now require harsh corporal punishment if not arrest, trial, and summary execution, for their crimes on the bench, not for any collateral corruption.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2012 9:09:25 PM

It is pretty much impossible to say whether the defense costs in this case are justified or not given all we have is a number. So Mike, unless you have the cost break-down, it is impossible to support or defend the numbers.

The bigger question it seems to me is what did the government spend $7.1 million on to investigate a case for which "...there is no question of guilt or aggravation"?

Posted by: C | Jun 6, 2012 3:14:53 PM

@C
The state did not spend $7 million on this case, where did you get this number?

It's easy to defend the costs by suggesting some weakness in the state's case, theory of the crime or something unique about the defendants which warrants further study--which no one has attempted to do perhaps because these numbers are ridiculous.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 7, 2012 4:33:12 PM

From the article in OP:

"Between 2001, when Ridgway was identified as a suspect in the serial killings, and 2003, when he pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated murder, the county spent nearly $12 million on the extensive investigation, as well as prosecution and defense, county officials said."

Twelve million dollars (nearly) less $2.2 million for McEnroe less $2 million for Anderson less $650K for prosecutors leaves about $7 million, more or less. This, for an "extensive investigation" of a case where "...there is no question of guilt or aggravation."

As for what the defense has spend the money on, well, I'm still not sure you last post has fully explained that to me.

Posted by: C | Jun 7, 2012 7:00:16 PM

How could more money equate to “a higher degree of due process”? That’s what I’d like to know. If this kind of expenditure is necessary though, I think perhaps the court should show a detailed breakdown of exactly where the Washington taxpayers’ dollars are going.

Posted by: Criminal Lawyer Sydney | Jun 20, 2012 8:12:38 PM

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