Eight public defenders will receive the Washington State Bar Association’s 2016 Courageous Award in September for their work on three separate death penalty cases.
Colleen O’Connor and David Sorenson, who work for DPD’s SCRAP Division, will receive the award for their work defending Michele Anderson. Stacey MacDonald, Carl Luer and Todd Gruenhagen, who work for the ACA Division, will receive the award for their representation of Christopher Monfort. And Leo Hamaji, William Prestia and Katie Ross from the TDA Division will receive it for their work defending Joseph McEnroe. (Carl Luer, Todd Gruenhagen and Leo Hamaji retired from DPD this year, shortly after their cases’ conclusion.)
The award will be handed out at WSBA’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sept. 29 at the Sheraton Seattle. The Courageous Award is presented to someone “who has displayed exceptional courage in the face of adversity, thus bringing credit to the legal profession,” according to WSBA’s website.
King County witnessed a landmark year in death penalty-litigation in 2015. The jury deliberated for less than an hour during the penalty phase in Christopher Monfort’s trial before coming back with a unanimous veridict of life in prison without parole. A divided jury also handed Joseph McEnroe a sentence of life in prison. Those two cases spared the life of a third defendant, Michele Anderson; the prosecutor elected not to seek the death penalty after juries declined to sentence Mr. Monfort and Mr. McEnroe to death.
In a news release, WSBA Governor Ann Danieli praised the work of these three teams that “took on difficult cases with heartbreaking facts, challenging clients and the ultimate potential consequence of the death penalty.”
“It is an enormous undertaking to bring to life the dream of Gideon v. Wainwright — the dream of a vast, diverse country in which every person charged with a crime will be capably defended, no matter what his economic circumstances, and in which the lawyer representing them will do so proudly, without resentment at an unfair burden, sure of the support needed to make an adequate defense,” she added. “These attorneys all lived up to that standard at the expense of their own well-being. The enormous stress of representing someone facing the death penalty is unfathomable. No matter what side of the death penalty controversy you are on, these attorneys deserve our admiration and recognition.”
Lorinda Youngcourt, DPD’s director, said she was pleased to see the legal community honoring the three teams. “These eight public defenders, as well as the paralegals, investigators, mitigation specialists and others who provided critical support, worked tenaciously to achieve these outcomes,” she said. “I’m deeply proud of them and thrilled to see them get some much-deserved recognition.”