Embattled prosecutor James Konat removed from high-profile murder cases



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Posted on July 12, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 31 at 6:08 PM

SEATTLE -- Embattled prosecutor James Konat has been removed from two high-profile murder cases in Western Washington, including the slaying of six family members in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007.

Konat has been the a senior deputy prosecutor handling cases in the most dangerous offenders program, also known as MDOP. But sources told KING 5 that Konat has been taken off at least two murder cases and his future as a prosecutor is uncertain.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said "cases change hands in our office all the time for a variety of issues" and that "we cannot discuss a personnel matter."

One of the cases to be reassigned is the 2007 slaying of a family of six in Carnation. The defendants, Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe, appeared in court Tuesday morning. During the hearing, Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell announced that Scott O’Toole will take over as lead prosecutor in the case. Konat was not present during the hearing.

The victims’ family member, Mary Anderson, said she is worried about the case and "very upset.” She was always "thankful for the way Konat handled their case."

Konat will also hand over the murder case of Steven Bushaw, who was shot and killed in front of a West Seattle restaurant in 2009. That case goes to trial a week from now.

The veteran prosecutor has been under fire for a number of controversial comments made during past trials. The conviction of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay is now under appeal. In court, Konat compared the Bellevue killings to the terrorist beheading of a hostage in Iraq.

"Every time they thought of about the Rafay family being murdered, and their pictures were up behind him when he made this argument, he also wanted them to think of the beheading of Nick Berg,” said David Koch, defense attorney for Burns and Rafay.

Then his racially charged comments lead to the state supreme court overturning the conviction of Kevin Monday, despite the shooting caught on tape.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Konat made a mistake.

“I think the deputy prosecutor was trying to help the jury sort out what they had just seen, but in doing it, he broke the rules,” said Satterberg.

When the NAACP asked for Konat's firing earlier this month, the prosecutor’s office said there is clearly repair that needs to be done. The decision to remove him from these cases may be a big part of that decision