The American legal systems consist of two types of cases, criminal and civil. Criminal cases are usually wrongdoings against the state or the society as a whole and are therefore prosecuted by the state (Farnsworth & Sheppard, 2010). On the other hand, civil cases are normally disputes between people concerning the responsibilities and legal duties they owe to each other (Farnsworth & Sheppard, 2010). Though civil cases have consequences, those of criminal cases are more serious. To understand this, one can consider murder cases, which are criminal cases that are considered an offense to the whole society. Normally, such cases will have the offender serve a jail term as punishment or even a death penalty depending on the type of murder and local or state laws. Murder crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and the trial is often by jury. An example of an infamous murder case is that of Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe which involved killings of three generations of the Anderson family.
Seminal Facts of the Andersons Murder Case
Michele Kristen Anderson together with her boyfriend Joseph Thomas McEnroe could be described as family annihilators. Even though both of them were perpetrators of the heinous crime, Michele is without a doubt the mastermind. Simply known as the Carnation Murders, the killings happened in 2007 in Washington State. In a taped recording to detectives, Michele confessed that she had premeditated the killings for two weeks. She was tired of everybody stepping on her (The State of Washington Vs Michele Kristen Anderson, 2016). She was let down by her family and intended to kill them if the problems were not settled and had solicited the help of Joseph to carry out the killings.
The Anderson family resided in an isolated rural area with the closest neighbors being hundreds of feet away. Michele Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, lived in a mobile home in her parents property free of charge. Reportedly, her parents got tired of them living rent-free and started pressuring them to pay rent as well as her car insurance. Apart from the issue of rent from her parents, Michele was also upset with her brother who she claimed owed her a lot of money that he refused to pay back (The State of Washington Vs Michele Kristen Anderson, 2016). Armed with a revolver and a semiautomatic gun, Michele and Joseph loaded their guns waiting to confront her parents.
Michele Anderson tried to shoot her father but missed after which her boyfriend followed and shot him in the head before proceeding to kill Micheles mother. The two then dragged the bodies away to prevent other family members from seeing them when they arrived for the Christmas Eve celebration. As soon as Micheles brother Scott arrived for the party with his wife and two kids, Joseph confronted Scott (The State of Washington Vs Joseph Thomas McEnroe, 2015). Michele argued that her brother charged at her and hence she had no choice but to shoot him. She shot him two to four times, and she believed that one of them caught her brother in the neck.
After shooting Scott, Michele turned her attention to her sister in law, Erica. She shot her two times, but Erica was able to hold on a little longer. Joseph had to finish the job because his girlfriend had run out of bullets. Michele could not manage to shoot her nephew and niece, so her boyfriend shot them. Erica who was still alive, though wounded from the gunshots, pleaded with Joseph not to kill her but to no avail. When asked by the authorities why she killed Erica and her children, Michele said that she did not want them to live with the disturbing memories of the murders as well as not to be witnesses to the crime (The State of Washington Vs Michele Kristen Anderson, 2016). When asked the same question, her boyfriend simply answered: I didnt want them to turn us in (The State of Washington Vs Joseph Thomas McEnroe, 2015).
Penalties for Aggravated First-Degree Murder Crimes
Since murder inflicts immense grief to persons who were close to the victim as well as permanently making the victim cease to exist, most societies consider it a serious crime that deserves the severest form of punishment available. Usually, a person convicted of murder is given a life sentence or a death penalty (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). State laws outline specific factors which make those guilty of first-degree murder eligible for the harshest punishments of the state. Aggravating factors include various aspects of the defendant, the crime or of the victims, which make the defendant subject to either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. In the case of Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe, the aggravating factors were planning the killings ahead of time and intentionally killed persons who were below thirteen years of age.
The Court System in Which the Andersons Murder Case Was Heard
The Anderson murder case was heard in the Superior Court of Washington for King County which is a state court. State courts have broad jurisdictions as compared to federal courts. Most criminal cases violate state laws and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of state courts. Under the constitution, criminal cases are usually handled by individual states (Farnsworth & Sheppard, 2010). The Anderson family killings were a violation of state laws hence the state charged Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe with aggravated first-degree murder.
Outcome of the Case
Both Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe were charged with aggravated first-degree murder of six of her family members as they gathered at her parents home for a holiday celebration on Christmas Eve. They were both sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release or parole on different court hearings. The outcome of the case was justified because the two perpetrators were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Micheles sentencing hearing, like Josephs hearing was a formality because the only punishments for aggravated first-degree murder are either life in prison without the possibility of release or parole or a death penalty.
Murder accusations lead to a sensitive criminal case which has extremely serious consequences as it involves one or more people losing their lives. Aggravated first-degree murder are punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole or even a death penalty depending on the state or local laws. The Anderson killings were premeditated because Michele Anderson claimed that her family was bothering her and that she would kill all of them if the problems were not resolved before Christmas Eve. She sought the help of her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe to carry out the killings. There were only two possible sentences for the two, either a life sentence or a death penalty. The jury, in both the cases, concluded that the two were guilty and thus sentenced them to life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole.
Ashworth, A., & Horder, J. (2013). Principles of criminal law. Oxford University Press.
Farnsworth, E. A., & Sheppard, S. (2010). An introduction to the legal system of the United States. Oxford University Press.
The State of Washington Vs Joseph Thomas McEnroe, 07-C-08716-4 SEA Aggravated Murder in the First Degree (Superior Court of Washington for King County 2015).
The State of Washington Vs Michele Kristen Anderson, 07-C-08716-2 SEA Aggravated Murder in the First Degree (Superior Court of Washington for King County 2016).
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