Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I'm writing this from my sister's living room as I watch my 3-week-old nephew sleeping in his cradle (bassinet?) a couple of feet away. I am here in northern Virginia visiting V & the new baby (& oh yeah, V's husband D) for a couple of weeks. I'm minding baby until he awakens for his next feeding in . . . oh, say 30 to 60 minutes.

I arrived yesterday evening without fanfare. V is understandably exhausted due to being a new mom. My drive home from the airport with D in rush hour traffic was almost twice as long as my layover in Dallas (which was barely long enough to make it from one gate to another in time to board my connecting flight). Good times.

My new little nephew is adorable! Being with a newborn for the past 24+ hours for the first time in a long time has been an interesting experience. . . to say the least. SL & I have talked a lot about our desire to have a baby of our own within 15-18 months after our wedding. You do the math: that would mean this time in 2 years, it'll be me suffering sleep deprivation and not my sis. I'll be the one with the cracked nipples, swollen breasts, achiness, mood swings, etc. Not to mention recovering--mentally and physically--from childbirth. The most notable thing to me is the baby's total dependence on the adults in his world to meet his needs.

Don't get me wrong: I am no stranger to the world of babies, so I'm not thinking about any of these things for the first time. I was a hospital RN for 7 years; I've worked in post-partum & cared for newborns as my patients. I also have close friends with children ranging in age from a few months to 15 years of age. I had extensive contact with at least 4 of those kids' friends during their first few months of life. I've fed, burped, & changed the diapers of many a newborn in my day. I guess I am thinking more about all these things this time for a couple of reasons.

One, because my nephew hits closer to home. My sis & I are only 2 years apart: I'm actually the older sister, though she's done most things first as adults--become a lawyer, married, become a mom--go figure. And two, because when I helped my friends with their babies. . . I knew that the day when I would have those same responsiblities for my own baby, 24/7, was FAR distant. Now. . . God willing, not so much.

So it has been a thought-provoking 24 hours.

It's great seeing V again. I hadn't seen her since before she got pregnant. It's a bitch living 3000 miles from your only sister. And I do love my nephew. He is adorable.

Nephew had a "weight check" today at the doctor's because he lost weight the 2 weeks following his birth. (A not-uncommon occurrence, but the doctor was a little concerned at V's milk production & so had her start supplementing with formula a week ago.) The little bugger gained 16 oz in a week! That puts him at 13 oz over birth weight, which means his average weight gain is right on target. He was deemed "perfectly normal" by his pediatrician (though V says this is an understatement & he is a "super" baby).

I've probably gained a pound in a week before. I doubt it'd be cause for celebration. Ah, how things change as we age. LOL

I had my first fleeting thought of work this evening. Bah! It's nice to be out of the office, but I always worry about things going wrong in my absence. I've been burned more than once in that regard. That aspect of my change is one of the few things that I miss about being a nurse: work was never waiting for me at the hospital when I returned from a vacation.

I'm hoping to see a few friends while I'm here in the DC area, too. Figure my sis & bro-in-law will probably appreciate a break from me in the evenings after I've been here a few days. LOL

Monday, November 27, 2006

STOLEN from another blogger

Copy, bold the things you’ve done, and post.

1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
2. Swam with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula (but I've seen one up close)
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
8. Said “I love you” and meant it
9. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne (mixed w/tequila! ugh!)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states (close, 38)
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving (always wanted to, & will someday)
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married (not yet, but I will in April!)
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days (LOL! Yeah, right)
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo (never would)
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
99. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
100. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
101. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking

102. Had plastic surgery (never would)
103. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
104. Wrote articles for a large publication
105. Lost over 100 pounds (someday. . . )
106. Held someone while they were having a flashback
107. Piloted an airplane
108. Touched a stingray
109. Broken someone’s heart
110. Helped an animal give birth (I watched, but didn't help)
111. Won money on a T.V. game show
112. Broken a bone
113. Gone on an African photo safari
114. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears (never would)
115. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
116. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
117. Ridden a horse
118. Had major surgery
119. Had a snake as a pet
120. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (I will someday)
121. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
122. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
123. Visited all 7 continents
124. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
125. Eaten kangaroo meat
126. Eaten sushi
127. Had your picture in the newspaper
128. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
129. Gone back to school
130. Parasailed
131. Touched a cockroach
132. Eaten fried green tomatoes
133. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey (I tried to read the Iliad once)
134. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (Jane Austen, among others)
135. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
136. Skipped all your school reunions
137. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
138. Been elected to public office
139. Written your own computer language (LOL!)
140. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
141. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
142. Built your own PC from parts
143. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
144. Had a booth at a street fair
145. Dyed your hair
146. Been a DJ
147. Shaved your head
148. Caused a car accident (fender bender only)
149. Saved someone’s life

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving thanks

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided I would make this post about some of the things, people, etc., in my life for which I am thankful. In no particular order:

  • My dog Sebastian. He puts a smile on my face every day.
  • SL. I am blessed to have found someone to love who loves me and is a true partner in every sense of the word.
  • My good health. Despite my struggles with my weight, I have been so fortunate. Not only have I never suffered from a major or chronic illness. . . I rarely even get a cold or stomach bug. Lucky, lucky.
  • I'm thankful my parents are still living. Sadly, I have many friends who can no longer say the same.
  • My new nephew Rowan. So adorable!
  • My sister & our relationship. Amazing that she is now a mom. I'm grateful we still talk all the time, even though we live 3000 miles apart.
  • My friends. I am proud to claim a large group! From my "oldest" friends C & D, to friends at work, to my law school friends, and the rest. . . I've been changed for the better in some small way by each of them. I'm so lucky to have so many people who love me.
  • Having a job I enjoy that makes a difference. I love the intellectual challenge of the law. And being able to work in goverment and help protect the community gives my work the meaning I need.
  • Mobile phone. Don't know how I got along without it! I can call friends and family almost any time. . . and I feel safer knowing help is only a phone call away.
  • Down comforter. Comfy & cozy at night.
  • My reliable, gas-saving Prius. It's so nice to have a car you know won't leave you stranded. It's even nicer when you only have to gas up once a month.
  • The internet. How do I find the answers to my questions before google?
  • My digital camera. I have so enjoyed capturing the beauty of nature and special times with friends and family. And not using film means I shoot more pictures: no more guilt about "wasting" film!
  • My upcoming visit to my sister's. I can't wait to see her & the baby. . . and it'll be nice to have some time off from work, too.
  • Having enough money to pay my bills and live relatively comfortably.
  • My freedom & my good fortune in being born in the best country in the world. I have, as my birthright, what many would literally give their lives to have.
  • Our Dyson vacuum cleaner. Don't wanna sound like a commercial. . . but wow.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blog neglect

I'm finally an aunt! My sister had her baby (a little boy named Rowan) on November 8th. For a while, the poor little guy was having to get daily heelsticks to check his bilirubin levels due to newborn jaundice, but he is improving now and not having to get stuck. My mom is staying with my sister to help her out; she says they are both doing well--though my sister is feeling understandably overwhelmed and emotional.
I am going out to visit my sister & Rowan on November 28th. I can't wait!
I have been so busy at work lately. I haven't even been in trial since the last one I posted about. . . just trying to get caught up on case review, trial prep, and other various office stuff. I had two more sex cases set for trial in December; for a variety of different reasons, I've had to get supervisor approval to dismiss each case. As it stands right now, it looks like I won't be in trial again until January. But I have every week of that month booked, so things should pick up then. . . even if all the trials don't go forward as scheduled, a few are bound to.
That's if I'm even at my current job in January. I interviewed two weeks ago at the Attorney General's Office. The job is basically the same job I have now; still a criminal prosecutor, just working for a different agency and perhaps prosecuting slightly different types of crimes. I felt good about the interview, and I got the impression that the panel was impressed with me. I got a call late last week that I am in their "top 3"--though he didn't say whether I was 1st, 2nd, or 3rd--so I am cautiously optimistic. I should hear by the end of the month one way or the other.
If I get this job offer at the AG, I will probably take it. It would only be a little bit more money, but I think their philosophy of prosecution is likely more in sync with my own. Plus, they take a lot fewer cases to trial. Many might think that this is a negative. . . and in some ways I'd agree; trial work is fun. But spending 12-15 weeks a year in trial--the stated expectation at my current job--is not something I see myself doing once SL & I have children. We will be trying to conceive by this time next year, so it's smart for me to think ahead a little. It'll be worth it to me to be a little bored for a year or so to have a less stressful job once I'm a mom.
SL started his new job at G&O on November 6th. So far he really likes it. I'm glad. He hasn't even gotten his first paycheck yet, so he must actually like the work. LOL
Off to the movies with friends. :)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A trial to remember

This post is devoted entirely to the child molestation case I took to trial this past week (my first). Please see my post below for details on the non-work areas of my life. :)

Before I tell about the trial itself, allow me to provide some background information. The defendant in the case is a former-Satanist-turned-evangelical-preacher whom the parents of the victim brought to Arizona from El Salvador. They allowed him to live with them in their home for about two months so that he could preach to their congregation. The victim is a very sweet 11-year-old girl (10 at the time of the molest), the second to youngest of several children. I inherited the case from another prosecutor in our office, and I had a difficult time meeting with the victim and her family in the weeks leading up to the trial because the victim's mother had been in Mexico due to a sister's serious illness. (We did ultimately meet face-to-face last week, days before trial.)

The case had been set for trial once before, on August 8th of this year. On that date, the defendant's attorney--a gentleman in private practice whom I know well because his sister is a justice of the peace to whose courtroom I was assigned for 6 months while in misdemeanors (I'll call him "RG")--was in a serious car accident. Trial was scheduled to begin at 1:30; over the lunch hour, RG was driving somewhere, became distracted, and drove in front of a semi truck. He was fortunate to escape with only a concussion and several stitches. RG told me that officers at the scene told him that he had driven out a foot more, he likely would have been killed. As it was, RG was hospitalized for a couple of days, and the trial was rescheduled.

This trial began on Tuesday afternoon. We spent the afternoon selecting a jury. (A very capable legal assistant from the special victims unit helped me, thank goodness.) I quickly discovered that choosing 12 people who can sit and hear a child molestation case without bias is a heck of a lot more challenging than picking the same 12 people to hear about a car theft or a home burglary. People have so many emotional responses to charges of this kind: a couple of grown men even cried.

Wednesday morning, we had the jury picked and were ready to begin. The defendant required a Spanish language interpreter. Two interpreters were in the courtroom so that they could switch from time to time; additionally, the victims' parents needed an interpreter as well. As one of the interpreters was setting up her equipment and providing the defendant with his headset, she was stung by a scorpion in the courtroom! Now scorpions *are* quite common in the Sonoran desert, and I have heard of people finding them indoors. I have never heard of anyone even seeing one in the courthouse before, though.

A replacement interpreter arrived, and we got started. I called my first witness, the father of the victim. At the start of the trial, the judge had ruled--for reasons that are likely obvious--that no witness could mention the fact that the defendant used to be a Satanist. (Side note: if it's not obvious why, his rationale was that this would unfairly prejudice the jury against the defendant.) I had instructed the father, through the intepreter, immediately before he took the stand, that he could not mention this fact. In response to my fifth or sixth question--which didn't even call for information about the defendant specfically, but was a more general question--the father volunteered that ". . . he used to be a Satanist." My Spanish is not the greatest, but I caught what was said before it was interpreted into English; so did RG (who is a native Spanish speaker) and the judge. The words "Satanist" (English) and "Satanista" (Spanish) are not really that different, so I'm sure a majority of the jurors caught it, too. . . and three of the jurors actually spoke Spanish.

The judge asked the father whether I had instructed him not to say this on the stand; he said I had (whew). The judge then asked him why he said this anyway; he responded "because I believe in telling the truth, the whole truth." Oy vey.

All this led to the judge bringing in the father, mother, and victim, and admonishing them on the record to refrain from mentioning the defendant's past as a Satanist. The judge declared a mistrial and dismissed that carefully chosen jury.

As luck would have it, there were other jurors available for that afternoon (unusual for a Wednesday in our county), so we reconvened at 1:15 and started jury selection all over again. This time things went slightly more smoothly, and by 4:45 we had selected a second jury and recessed for the evening.

During that afternoon, RG, who is a devout Catholic, mentioned to me during a break "my guy kinda creeps me out." He said "you're gonna laugh at me, but I have a bottle of holy water with me." It was obvious from his demeanor that he wasn't joking. RG also made reference to the fact that he had nearly been killed in an accident the last time he was set to try this case and also to the interpreter's scorpion sting that morning.

As an aside: I woke up Wednesday morning with a migraine. Had I not been in the middle of a trial, I would've called in sick. As it was, I took alternating doses of Advil & Imitrex all day long; I got through the day, but generally felt sub-par all day.

Thursday morning when I arrived in the office, I had a phone message that one of my witnesses had been a car accident that morning while taking his son to school. Another witness could not testify that afternoon because he had a doctor's appointment to have a skin cancer removed. A third witness had a scheduling conflict; she was required to be in another county on the same day I needed her to testify. All this led to a lot of schedule juggling before I even headed over to the courthouse.

I arrived at the courthouse and found out that the victim & her family had a flat on the way to the courthouse and will be delayed. The judge was not happy, and the jury had to wait around for about 20 minutes for them to arrive. When they got to court, the victim's mother told me that one of their older sons (who no longer lives at home) was in a car accident this morning and was injured.

Once the trial resumed, I got the father on and off the stand without incident. He came across as angry and belligerent with the defense attorney; I believe--and others watching in the courtroom agreed--that this damaged his credibility. My second witness was the victim herself. She was only able to get through a few questions; when I asked her if she saw the man who touched her in the courtroom, she started crying uncontrollably and was unable to continue. (Poor thing.) So the judge instructed me to excuse her for the time being and to call my next witness.

My third witness was the victim's mother. My primary purpose in calling her was to elicit testimony about the victim's demeanor when she reported the crime each time (yes, the poor girl had to tell the mom twice before she was believed) and the behavioral changes she had noticed in her daughter since the incident. I was nearly finished questioning her when she gratuitously said that she had seen the defendant touch the victim and the victim's brother (her son) on another occasion.

You may be thinking "so what? All the better, right?" Well, not so much. The law requires that if the State intends to introduce evidence of other acts of the defendant that show a propensity to commit deviant sexual acts, we must file an appropriate allegation with the court. The judge must then hold a hearing, complete with expert testimony, to determine whether the proposed testimony is relevant and will be admitted at trial. None of this had been done. Why not? Because the mom had never told anyone this before!

Now I had another defense motion for a mistrial on the table. The judge excused the jury and questioned the mother more about what she had seen. Mom then said that not only did the defendant touch the victim, he also fondled her other three children who were living in the home during his stay. She said that she first noticed his inappropriate behavior days after the defendant arrived in her home. Yet he stayed with them for an additional 7-8 weeks. And she claimed that she had told the previous prosecutor and the investigating detective all this.

I was 99.8% sure this was not true--there was not a scrap of paper in the file that supports her statements; she never revealed any of this in her defense interview, though she was specifically asked about it; and two of the other three children were interviewed by law enforcement and denied that the defendant ever touched them--but I was in a difficult situation. I could not avow to the court that this never happened because how could I know for sure what the previous attorney or the detective discussed with the mother? The judge took the motion for mistrial under advisement and ordered me to confer with the previous prosecutor over the lunch hour.

After talking to both the prior assigned attorney and the detective, I learned that what mom was saying was just not true: she had never mentioned this to anyone involved in the case before today. Looking back, my only thought is that she recalled these other incidents well after the fact and somehow thought it would help the case to bring them up in court. After lunch, rather than declare a mistrial, the judge had to give the jury a curative instruction telling them to disregard this portion of the mother's testimony and that she never previously revealed this to anyone. There went mom's credibility as a witness.

Once mom's testimony was concluded, I recalled the victim to the stand. Her testimony was the one part of the trial that went smoothly. She cried a little bit this second time when telling the jury what the defendant had done, but was able to tell what happened and did a good job on the stand.

After hearing from the victim and the officer who took the initial police report, we had to recess for the day--at 3:15--because I had no more witnesses. I found out, though, that my expert would indeed be testifying in another county at the same time I needed her to testify in my case. I asked the judge for leave to call her out of order, but it was denied.

Friday morning: I arrived at court, and my first witness of the day--my detective--was delayed. He finally arrived (schedule miscommunication), and his testimony went off without a hitch. Then the defendant took the stand. He came across calm, rational, and--I hate to admit it--credible. He categorically denied ever touching the victim and reiterated his belief that the victim's parents had a grudge against him and had forced their daughter to lie.

I asked the judge once again to allow me to call my expert witness out of order--she would be available at 1:00--and once again the judge denied my request. So right after lunch, we went ahead with closing arguments.

The jury deliberated a little over an hour, then came back with verdicts of not guilty on both counts. In talking with some of the jurors after the trial, they said that they had doubts about the defendant's guilt because they thought both parents were not being truthful on the stand. As one of them put it "we believed something happened to the little girl; we just weren't sure that the defendant was the one who did it."

I knew from the get-go that this kind of case would be tough--no physical evidence, so a real "he said, she said" type of situation--but I really think that if 1) the parents had presented better on the stand, and 2) I could've used my expert (who would have testified, in general terms, about children's memory, truthfulness, and situations in which one might expect false accusations), I might have had a better chance at a conviction.

RG said he was just glad we both "survived" the trial. . . and I think he was relieved that he would have no further contact with his client. (He had mentioned to me that he didn't like even touching him because it made him uncomfortable. . . and RG is a touchy-feely guy, a real glad-hander.)

I was disappointed. . . mostly because I 100% believed my victim; I know that the defendant really molested her, despite what the defense argued & the jury concluded. But I learned a lot, and I, too, am glad this trial is over.

I love bullet points

Where to begin? I have been so busy & stressed this past week that it seems as though months have gone by without an entry. I will do my best to bring this up to date. Perhaps the bullet points approach. . . .
  • WEIGHT--I have not been on the scale once in about 2 weeks, and I've been eating pretty much what I want. Luckily, because I have been stressed, there have been a fair number of days when I have skipped meals or only been able to stomach something light. I still want to get back to exercising and eating more healthfully, and I am hoping the relative calm of the coming week will allow me to put these plans into action. A coworker suggested going back to Weight Watchers meetings; I might give that a go. SL wants to get back to going to the gym in the evenings, too, and would like me to go along to help motivate him.
  • FAMILY--All is (mostly) well. My mom is doing well. My dad has had a bad cold, but no other major health concerns, thank God. My sister is 38 weeks pregnant today, and was told at her latest OB appointment this past Thursday that the doctor will likely induce her this coming week because her blood pressure has started going up again the past 2 weeks. (It was 140-something/100 last Thursday.) Her doctor thinks that, as the modified bedrest he has prescribed no longer seems to be having the desired effect, and the baby is "large for dates," there should be no harm in delivering him about 10 days early. So I am going to be aunt within the week!
  • SL & HIS FAMILY--SL was a man of leisure after Tuesday this past week: he finished up at his old job and is starting the new one on Monday. He and I had a big argument last week. . . . about things I'd rather not get into. . . but I think it may turn out to be a good thing because it has motivated him to finally agree to going to actual couples counseling with me. (He has said before he'd do it, but then fudged and backed out.) Our relationship is about 95% good, but there are one or two issues (or potential issues) that I would like for us to work through before we get married. My perspective is: I haven't waited until this age to get married just to get myself into a situation that's not going to work. Know what I mean? SL's mom slipped on some ice on Thursday and hit her head! She is OK, but she was knocked out for a few minutes. Hearing about crap like that makes me glad I live in Arizona and not in Anchorage, Alaska.
  • WEDDING PLANS--Not much new to report. I am way ahead on everything, actually. Our wedding invitations arrived this week, and they look great. I am still mulling over cake and flower choices, but don't have to let the vendors know my final decisions until about a month before the wedding. Gotta love a Vegas wedding!
  • FRIENDS--So far as I know, all my friends are doing OK. K had an emotional visit from her ex-boyfriend--who she still loves--so I know that was tough on her. I am having lunch with my friend L on Wednesday and going to a movie (Marie Antoinette) with my friend A tomorrow.
  • WORK--Ahhhh. Now we come to the area that seems to have consumed my life over the last week. As I wrote above, I took my first child molestation case to trial this week. The trial was eventful & unusual in so many ways; that's why I wrote a separate entry about it.