Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No More Signing-Up Requirement to Post Comments

I changed the settings so people can comment anonymously without signing up. Sorry for making it difficult before: I'm new enough to this that I didn't check the comments settings.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Urban Gardening! Peaceful Method for Preparing a Bed for Growing Vegetables (by killing grass and weeds): Start Saving Newspapers!

We first tried this method on a patch of annoying bermuda grass growing in the easement by the telephone pole just so we wouldn't have to mow it, and it worked well enough that we'll now use it to clear a space for a vegetable garden.

First, scalp the area by mowing (at the shortest setting) or weed-eating, then soak the area with a sprinkler for awhile. Next, put down at LEAST five layers of regular (not slick ad or magazine paper) newspaper over the area, overlapping them so that the ground is completely covered.

Then soak the newspaper and walk around on it to squish it down into the wet ground. Your neighbors will think you're nuts. Cover the whole mess with weed-fabric, anchoring down the edges and middle parts with bricks or rocks. Now ignore it for 3 months.

When you pull it all up, it should be pure, bare soil, ready for whatever. If this method sounds too hideously ugly for you to bear for 3 months, cover it all up with hardwood mulch.

What's Next Here, Iris?

Husband-Kurt and I celebrate our anniversary tomorrow. Whoo-hoo!

Blog-wise, I'll continue writing about our garden-yard and old house trials and errors (and probably the occasional grammar rant.)

The next local criminal trials I'll attend (parts of, at least) will be the retrials of Michael Scott--I attended most of his first trial--and Robert Springsteen, of so-called "Yogurt Shop Murders" notoriety. Their next pretrial hearing is November 14th and may be fairly dry, but I'll probably attend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

No Appellate Bond to be Posted for Laura Hall

KVUE is reporting that Laura Hall's family will not be posting her appellate bond and that Hall will be transferred to state prison within a week.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Mystery Flower

What a fantastic day to be outside! (I must remember this on those many other days of the year husband-Kurt and I mutter about why we still live in what we lovingly refer to as "this god-forsaken state".)
I just finished pruning the Indigo Spires and Mexican Sage bushes in the front yard, but I couldn't bring myself to trim all the slightly spent blooms because the butterflies and bees like them so much. I had some "help" from our kitty, who makes a point of carefully tiptoeing along the neat stone path, then gleefully rolls around in a dirt pile.

What I can't take any credit for is this pretty red mystery flower that always remembers to pop up in late October,
no matter what kind of weather we've had, then disappears after only a few days. Until the next October.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Courtroom Interactions

When I attend trials or hearings, I try to stay in the background as much as possible, not approaching family members because I figure they must be going through some of the worst days of their lives, on both sides, and I don't want to intrude.

So, I was so pleasantly surprised and humbled today when Sharon Cave stopped by me, smiled and said, "I figured you'd be out working in your yard today! It's such a beautiful day." We talked a minute about yardwork and she returned to her seat.

The only other time I'd spoken to her was during Colton Pitonyak's trial, because I often sat by the Statesman reporter, and Sharon greeted him and then introduced herself to me. She, and all the Cave family, seems so gracious and genuine. Maybe I can be braver yet still respectful in these situations in the future.

While my right to attend criminal trials is implicit in the guarantees of the First Amendment, I don't want to intrude.

Laura Hall Motion for New Trial Denied: Part 2

In a nutshell, Ken Mahaffey's arguments seemed to closely follow the language of the Motion for New Trial and Amended Motion for New Trial. He said that the most important Brady violations were in regards to witnesses Doug Conley, Henrietta Langenbach (who goes by some other first name, too) and Nora Sullivan. Assistant District Attorney Bill Bishop basically argued that none of these constituted harm.

Judge Flowers asked a few questions, challenging each side's positions. The argument made by Mahaffey that most caught my attention was regarding Nora Sullivan's testimony, which was not disclosed to the defense until she was minutes away from testifying, and which the State had known about for at least a week. Judge Flowers reminded Mahaffey that, at the time, he'd given the defense a full day to interview Sullivan before allowing her to testify.

When Sullivan did resume the stand, she testified that Laura Hall had accompanied her to visit Colton Pitonyak in jail and that Hall said she'd been annoyed at how Pitonyak was sitting around drinking beer and watching television instead of using the tools bought at Breed Hardware that afternoon before they fled to Mexico. This testimony from Sullivan had not come out in Pitonyak's trial.

Mahaffey argued that, since Sullivan's role had now changed from a background witness to a crucial witness who was now directly incriminating Hall, the defense strategy would probably have changed had they had more time to do more background research on Sullivan, e.g, interviewing Pitonyak's lawyers about her, etc. Judge Flowers pointed out that the defense never requested additional time and concluded, "if there's harm, I fail to find it."

Things seemed to be winding down, then Judge Flowers asked Mahaffey, "What about Mack?" Mahaffey said he didn't know what to do about that: the State hadn't interviewed Jason Mack, so they couldn't have turned anything over to the defense about him.

Laura Hall's fiance was not present today because he was out of town, but another 20-something male friend of Laura's (according to Laura's mother, Carol) was present. He was tall and kind of stocky, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He sat with Laura's parents for a little while then left the courtroom.

When he returned, he saw that the seats by LH's parents were taken and walked over and sat at the end of the front row, where the Cave family and victims' services women were sitting. The guy was smiling allot, which seemed a little weird because the rest of us were concentrating on the attorneys' arguments and the judge's responses.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, several mainstream reporters later told me that this guy had flipped them off as he walked by them. So, I don't know what his deal was.

The usual local television and print press people were present, and some attorneys came in to listen for awhile, too.

Laura Hall Motion for New Trial Denied: Part 1

Laura Hall's attorney, Ken Mahaffey, said he'll now file an appeal with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Hall's parents are continuing to work with bail bondsman J.D. Martinez to come up with the $15,500 cash needed for her appellate bond. Hall's father, Loren, is hoping to get that resolved and get his daughter out of jail Monday or Tuesday.

Sharon Cave, with her fiance, Jim Sedwick at her side, spoke briefly to reporters. Smiling and looking relieved, she said, "We're very happy... The first trial was enough... We've got kids who have lives to live and we've got lives to live, and we just don't need this."

Speaking to reporters, Loren Hall said that he and his wife were doing okay but disappointed. He said that Laura was emotionally distraught and had been in solitary confinement for 40 days. "There's only so much a little girl can take," he said. He told reporters he wanted them to meet "an American hero, Doug Conley," who had stood up for justice (and who literally stood there, next to Loren).

Conley is the taxi driver who was the sole witness for the State during the penalty phase but says he wasn't able to identify Laura Hall from a photo lineup and that the prosecutors told him not to worry about it and to just testify. Loren Hall then spoke for several minutes about how we should all be concerned about what he considers a broken judicial system in which prosecutors are willing to lie to get a conviction.

Laura Hall was dressed in jail-issue black and white striped garb with shackled ankles. In response to a reporter's question, "How was it seeing your daughter like this?" Hall's mother, Carol said, "horrible...seeing her so sad and breaking down...We just want to get her home." Carol briefly broke down crying.

When Laura Hall was brought into the courtroom, she appeared very pale and completely stricken. When Judge Flowers declared that the motion for a new trial was denied, Hall seemed to look down and shake her head. The judge's pronouncement was short. As the deputy led Hall out of the courtroom, she looked towards her family and Conley, with a look on her face like, "what now?" or "doesn't the judge owe more explanation than that?" (That's just my interpretation.)

Gotta go through my notes and organize them so I can post a more detailed account soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Laura Hall Hearing this Friday Afternoon

I plan to attend the hearing on the Motion for New Trial. I've never been to one of these hearings, and I don't recall seeing one on Court TV. I'm guessing we'll hear oral arguments and at some point a ruling from Judge Flowers. I'll post my observations. If anyone has something to which he/she wants me to pay particular attention, send me a comment!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How to Get Out of Pulling Weeds...sort of

When husband-Kurt merrily suggested that I pull a few weeds then go inside (instead) and go through a banker's-box full of crap I'd accumulated/hoarded over 3 years (from OVER 5 years ago) I thought, "whoo-hoo! I can stay inside the house in the A/C with football on television while I go through this stuff--how hard could it be?"

That's before I realized I'd printed out (and SAVED) practically every email I'd ever sent or received every DAY for at least 2 years straight! Good grief: what was I THINKING? So anyway, I spent over 5 hours today going through all of it, while Kurt worked in the yard. I didn't quite get through all of it, but I've definitely finished for today.

When Kurt finished outside, he came inside and told me all he'd accomplished and how he'd had fun doing it. And yes, he raked a bunch of leaves (I haven't yet caught onto the zen of raking) and pulled a bunch of weeds, and the yard looks great!

Meanwhile, I plowed through our past, deciding which parts of me I wanted to memorialize and which parts I'd just as soon shred.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Amended Motion for New Trial Filed for Laura Hall

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Laura Hall's new appellate attorney, Ken Mahaffey, filed this Amended Motion for New Trial on Oct. 5th.

The Dead Woman's Mail

I guess some salesperson at Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp. must be really desperate to get some new accounts: I just picked up today's mail and found what appears to be a credit offer from Mercedes addressed to Marie, the murdered or suicided previous owner of our house who has been dead since 1987! (See my September "Was She Murdered?" series of posts for the Marie story.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm Re-Posting the PDFs of Motion for New Trial Because the Hearing Date Has Been Set

filed last month:

Pages from the Motion for New Trial for Laura Hall

The Motion for New Trial plus Exhibit "A" are made available by KXAN News in this pdf. KXAN does not appear to offer Exhibits "B" and "C", so I am posting them here for those who may be interested.

Exhibit "B"
Page 1 of 6
Page 2 of 6
Page 3 of 6
Page 4 of 6
Page 5 of 6
Page 6 of 6

Exhibit "C"
Page 1 of 2
Page 2 of 2

Friday, October 12, 2007

Date Set: Laura Hall Hearing for Motion for New Trial

Just checked the online docket and found the following court information:



HALL LAURA ASHLEY D-1-DC-07-900170 10/26/07 14:00 147TH MNT TAMPER/FABRICATING PHYSICAL EVIDENC Atty Status Dt 10/03/07

So, Ken Mahaffey appears to be Laura Hall's new appellate attorney (as of 10/03) and there will be some kind of hearing Friday, 10/26/07 at 2 p.m., regarding the motion for a new trial, in front of Judge Flowers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Minor Grammar/Usage Rant Number 1

I know this isn't really related to xeriscaping, keeping up with an old house, or criminal trials, but I feel compelled to comment:

It seems that many people are now using the phrase, "...graduated high school" or college or 5th grade or whatever. The problem is that "graduating," without the subsequent "from" word, indicates some kind of gradation, separation, or indication of hierarchy on some level, and so that just doesn't make sense.

Think about throwing a bunch of dirt into a coarsely-graded screen, then continuing to filter that resulting dirt through even more finely-graded screens: THAT would be "graduating" soil.

Two More Easy Low-Water Plants (Slow Trial-World Today, Sorry)

This bright, vibrant, blue-flowered ground cover is leadwort plumbago and can handle a little shade and very little water. The little pink and purple shrubs are pink and purple skullcap. The pink skullcap seems a little hardier so far. All these plants bloom from late spring to now, so far (maybe longer.) That's a long time for blooms, although they're little blooms. I haven't raked the leaves, which I pretty much refuse to do unless the leaves are totally smothering the plants.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Yogurt Shop Murders Background: Recommended Reading

One of the best pieces I've read is Jordan Smith's June 1991 article for The Austin Chronicle.
In January 2001's Texas Monthly, Michael Hall has another excellent and very detailed account, "Under the Gun" (but you'll need to Google it to avoid registering.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Part 3: Today's Pretrial Hearing for Springsteen and Scott

Joe James Sawyer's Haiku Post-Hearing Press Conference:

Joe James Sawyer told reporters he thought that today was the first time Springsteen and Sawyer had seen each other in person in 7 years and that they seemed happy to see each other. Sawyer further reported that he and Springsteen were very pleased that Judge Lynch had not imposed a gag order today.

Sawyer also said that, although he didn't think the press had had a chance to really know Springsteen, people should know that Springsteen is very "articulate and funny." Sawyer then relayed the story that, during the first trial, he and his co-counsel wrote and exchanged haikus during testimony of (and about which) witnesses they thought "were boring."

Sawyer passed across these haiku notes through Springsteen and at some point, Springsteen asked Sawyer, "Are these haikus? Can I play?"

Part 2: Today's Pretrial Hearing for Springsteen and Scott

After Judge Lynch said he would not impose a prosecution-requested gag order, he moved on to other pretrial issues. Despite Joe James Sawyer's arguments that some of Lynch's rulings from pretrial hearings during the first trials (particularly regarding suppression of Springsteen's confession) deserved to be reconsidered for this new trial, Lynch stood firm with his declaration that he stands on the record from pretrial hearings "the first time around" and that they were not going to "reinvent the wheel" this time around.

However, Lynch also made it clear that he WOULD entertain pretrial motions regarding NEW facts, witnesses, laws, or new questions asked of old witnesses.

Carlos Garcia argued that his team deserves copies of any sketches, diagrams, photos, and possible visual recordings (other than news footage) that the prosecutors have and that Judge Lynch should order the prosecutors to turn them over. Lynch told him to show him some case law that says "I even have the authority to order them (the State) to turn over copies of their investigators' diagrams."

Alexandra Gauthier, Sawyer's co-counsel, tried to convince Lynch that he did have that authority because the copies of the diagrams in question were Brady material. After much argument, it was (perhaps begrudgingly by some) agreed that the defense would go through all thirteen boxes of documents and exhibits, making a list of what it considered true Brady material. Then, the defense can try to convince Lynch to order the State to provide copies of those materials.

Judge Lynch renewed his offer to provide a room of their own, with their own key, for the defense attorneys to look over (rather than be given copies of their own) the prosecution's documents, to which the defense is entitled access. They all appeared to agree to this plan for the time being.

Prosecutors said they intend to retry Scott first, aiming for a January or February 2008 trial date. Sawyer wants Springsteen tried first. Garcia said he didn't expect to be ready for Scott's trial until June. Lynch said "I think we can beat June." Sawyer piped up, "We can be ready by April."

Garcia said that the idea of the prosecution's instructing its witnesses not to speak to the defense was "implicit witness tampering" and asked Lynch to instruct the prosecutors to not tell their witnesses not to talk to the defense, if asked. Lynch gave the instruction but added that, if a State witness asks the prosecutors if he/she MUST talk to the defense, the prosecutors may tell the witness that it's his/her choice and not required by law.

Aargh! Lawyer-speak: in plain English, the prosecution can't tell its witnesses, "Don't talk to the defense!" But if a State's witness asks the prosecutors if he/she is required to talk to the defense (if requested by the defense,) the prosecutors are certainly allowed to answer, "Nope. It's up to you."

The next pretrial hearing, which will be another joint hearing, is set for November 14th at 1:30.

Today's Hearing: No Gag Order for Springsteen and Scott

At today's pretrial combined hearing regarding the capital murder indictments of Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott (whose previous convictions were overturned), Judge Mike Lynch refused to grant the prosecution's motion for a restrictive (i.e., gag) order. Lynch did caution the attorneys against trying their cases in the press and told them to review their rules of professional conduct if they had any doubt about his expectations.

What Lynch did implement was a protective order, which (as I understood it) means that any information the prosecution turns over to the defense (statements, reports, photos, etc) must stay completely confidential. Lynch sternly told the attorneys that he is going to have to trust that they wouldn't put their law licenses and reputations on the line for improperly leaking information but if they did, he'd take appropriate contempt action against them.

The majority of the rest of today's hearing involved discovery issues, and I'll get to those in a minute. Besides me and my sometimes-court-observer friend Clair, about eight local TV and print reporters, a few attorneys (not involved in these cases), and Scott's wife, Jeannine Scott, sat in the gallery throughout the 1.75-hour hearing. Jeannine sat in the front row closest to the defense table.

When Scott walked into the courtroom from the holding room, he immediately turned towards his wife, greeting her with a big smile and a hello. She reciprocated and the sheriff's deputy quickly stood up and cautioned her, "No communicating!" (I thought that was a little excessive--all they did was briefly greet each other, and it wasn't in front of a jury.) Scott doesn't look much different than he did when I first saw him in his first trial in September 2002, except his hair's shorter and he seemed to walk in a slightly more stiff manner, like someone whose back hurts.

Overall, Springsteen's appearance hasn't drastically changed from the news footage I've seen of him from 2002, but he does look allot slimmer.

At the defense table, from (my) left to right, sat Carlos Garcia (Scott's lead attorney), Scott, Joe James Sawyer (Springsteen's lead attorney), and Springsteen. Scott and Springsteen were within arms' reach but didn't seem to make any contact with each other. They both just appeared very attentive to the proceedings.

More later.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Springsteen's and Scott's Joint Pretrial Hearing Tomorrow

Looks like I can juggle my work schedule in order to attend this pretrial hearing re the retrials of both Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott (both of whose original murder convictions have been overturned) in the so-called Yogurt Shop Murders.

I think that Judge Lynch will be ruling on the prosecution's request for a gag order, but I don't know what other issues might be discussed. (I attended most of Michael Scott's first trial.) I probably will not have the chance to post about my observations from the hearing until tomorrow evening.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

They're Not "Gleaming" Hardwoods

But I actually prefer the non-gleaming ones, which have a little more character. Our Husky and kitty like them, too. Ha! I was really trying to resist posting a photo of them, but I couldn't resist after all. It's unusual for Huskies to get along with kitties because they usually consider kitties prey--yum! So, I'm lucky.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Household Shrines: They Started with River Phoenix

I remember being really shocked when I heard that River Phoenix died Halloween night, 1993. He was only 23. I don't really know why this seemed so incomprehensible to me--it wouldn't seem shocking now--but it was then, so I created a River Phoenix memorial shrine in an old trunk under the fake fireplace. I framed a photo of him (from a magazine) and surrounded it with candles, silk flowers, ribbon, and various charms and baubles. Some people thought I was being morbid, but I liked it: it gave me a fleeting sense of control about things over which I would never have control or understand.

Then on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain died at age 27. Once again, I was truly shocked and very sad. To this day, I can barely accept that I'll likely never hear a new Kurt Cobain song. I moved River's shrine into a much smaller area and created Kurt's shrine under the fake fireplace instead. Somehow that still didn't seem enough for such a great artist, so I also made a smaller version of the Kurt Cobain shrine in my bedroom, painting his picture frame to match my room.

My now-husband Kurt (who was a housemate, initially) moved in that summer. He eventually convinced me that Kurt Cobain only needed one shrine in our house. But when Jackie O died in May 1994, my other housemate, Albert, walked in the house after work and gave me a worried look. I asked him what was up, and he shyly said, "I don't think there's room for a Jackie O shrine, right?" I didn't make one.

September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died at age 25. Somehow I managed to make room for a Tupac shrine, near the fake fireplace, without totally wigging out Kurt or Albert.

We don't have any shrines in the house anymore, but the framed pictures of those three are resting in the old trunk that once housed River's and Kurt's shrines.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Phil Spector Retrial

Today, according to Court TV's Harriet Ryan, Judge Fidler told one of Phil Spector's lawyers that he wants the retrial--first trial was declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked 10-2--to begin within 6 months. Apparently Spector's now in the process of hiring yet another defense team. I think he's hired and fired at least two defense teams so far...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Still No News re Laura Hall's Hearing for Motion for New Trial

I checked the online docket again and there is no setting yet listed. Maybe some kind of extension was granted (since Sawyer's request to withdraw) to allow time to get a new appellate attorney?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Laura Hall Hearing for Motion for New Trial?

KXAN, among others, reported that there would be a hearing within 10 days of Sawyer's filing the Motion for a New Trial. That filing was date-stamped Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. I'm assuming it means 10 business days, which would mean the hearing should take place this week. I looked at the online docket and didn't see anything set yet, but I'll check again tomorrow. I haven't heard anything about who Hall's appellate attorney will be now that Sawyer has filed a motion to withdraw as her attorney because of the ethical conflict that's arisen now that he believes he is a witness for the next hearing.

Remuddling versus Remodeling

Good remodel above.
Bad remuddle below.

If you're looking for an older house--say, pre-1950-- because you like the style, quality, and materials used, WHY would you then destroy those very things? I bet the house just CRINGES or maybe even screams with every swing of a pick axe onto its original kitchen-counter tiles. And then to throw down a slab of granite instead: the indignity. I have nothing against granite--it's often gorgeous--but it has its time and place. (Perhaps I personify old houses too much...)

Updating/remodeling in keeping with the period of the house may take a little more research to find materials, but it's so much better than remuddling. I found a few examples (above) of remodels and remuddles today from the online MLS, all of which are from houses built before 1950 in Austin.