Monday, April 28, 2008

New plants loving the rain and pizza sauce herbs

The new squash plants (foreground) and tomatoes seem to have grown about 3 inches each since I planted them Friday. Happy, happy rain!

My husband's making his homemade organic spelt-crust pizza tonight. Above pictured are all the herbs I just rinsed after snipping them from our yard to add to the sauce (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I realize blogging about gardening and criminal trials seems a little strange to some people, but

I'm honored that Pam Penick, one of the most well-known Austin garden bloggers (among others), has added my blog to her list of Austin garden bloggers!

Pam's description is:
Iris’s blog combines “adventures in beginning urban organic gardening” with, unusually, “observing a few criminal trials.” She trusts that it’s not too weird a blogging combo for Austin. She gardens in central Austin.

Isn't that great?
Check out the story in today's Statesman.
(Penick's referenced in the last three paragraphs.)

Two of my three roses are currently blooming--I may have killed the third one

This one's called a "Katharina Zeimet"
and it's another one of those (apparently antique) scrappy little roses, not a big showy kind.

And I still love this red scrappy one against the grayish lavender:

Friday, April 25, 2008

My first tomatoes and squash

I still need to get some mulch down around the edges and in between the two veggie beds, but I finally planted my first tomatoes--two Little Porters and one Juliet--and two crookneck squashes. (Pictures coming soon.) After we harvest the late spinach, I'm thinking of replacing it with cucumbers.

Some little critter is eating the basil in the herb bed, so I planted two new sweet basils in a pot in a different part of the yard. I ALMOST planted them in my cat's favorite flowerpot but couldn't bear to deprive her.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scrappy spinach and roses

I took a chance and planted some spinach seeds really late but this baby spinach is doing okay for now. Looks like we might get at least one salad out of it.

I forget what kind of roses these are, but I just call them the scrappy ones. I think the red ones look really pretty against the gray-green lavender.

This is drought-tolerant and adapted-native gaura and purple feathergrass.

Friday, April 18, 2008

One last mystery flower

These magenta flowers are the last of my mystery flowers, that is, ones I didn't plant myself but that briefly bloom like clockwork every year.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yogurt Shop Murders: link to PDFs of writ filed by Springsteen's attorney yesterday

Here's the link to Springsteen attorney Joe James Sawyer's writ, posted by Austin Chronicle's Jordan Smith in the article about the re-testing of Amy Ayers' DNA--a test yielding a DNA profile of an unknown male.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yogurt Shop Murders: new DNA testing results are NOT consistent with DNA profiles of Springsteen or Scott or Pierce or Welborn

Jordan Smith, of the Austin Chronicle, reports that Robert Springsteen's attorney, Joe James Sawyer, asserts that DNA re-testing of a vaginal swab taken in 1991 from 13-year-old victim Amy Ayers yields a male DNA profile NOT consistent with the profiles of any of the four original defendants: Springsteen, Scott, Pierce, or Welborn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pretty good day for the defense in Yogurt Shop hearing--Part 4

After the hearing, Springsteen attorney Joe James Sawyer answered a few questions from reporters. Sawyer said that he thought today's hearing was one of "the most bizarre role reversals" he's ever seen in that the defense was seeking scientific testing of evidence and the State was trying to prohibit it.

Sawyer said that one of the big things not to come out in today's hearing was any mention of CODIS (combined DNA index system), the huge DNA profile data bank. Someone then asked Sawyer if he had reason to believe that new DNA evidence exists. Sawyer said, "I can't address that." He went on to say he thought there was nothing "more despicable than a gag order" and that gag orders violate the First Amendment.

Pretty good day for the defense in Yogurt Shop hearing--Part 3

According to Darla Davis' testimony, the following are descriptions of items of evidence about which the prosecutors and defense argued this afternoon. Judge Lynch ultimately ruled that these items must be made available to the defense for testing but that the prosecutors and defense need to work out together the conditions under which the defense's experts will do their testing (videotaping, etc.)

The pink, mock-turtleneck shirt--
In 1992, DPS tested it for accelerants, cuts, and hair. In 2001, cuttings from the shirt were tested for DNA but no DNA profile was able to be obtained. Two stains collected were presumptively tested for acid phosphatase, which is an enzyme secreted in semen and other bodily fluids. Both collected stains tested as a weak positive for semen.

The multi-colored child's/girl's size 14 shirt--
In 1993, Sergeant John Jones removed it from the DPS lab and gave it to a psychic. In 2000, DPS found no significant stains, so they performed no further testing. Photos taken in 1992 show the shirt is not knotted, but Irma Rios' inventory report described it as knotted.

Ligature from Amy Ayers' head--
It was a white sock with no knot. Testing of the cuttings taken from it yielded no DNA. In 2001, it was tested for the presence of ignitable liquids and tested again for DNA.

Ligature from Eliza Thomas' head--
It was a white sock with a singed hair in it and was not knotted. No stains or ignitable liquids were found on it. A partial DNA profile compatible with Eliza Thomas was found.

Ligature from Eliza Thomas' wrists--
It was a bra with a loose knot, no stains, no ignitable liquids, and no DNA.

Ligature from Sarah Harbison's head--
It was a gray knotted sock with no stains or ignitable liquids. In 2001, it was tested for DNA and none was obtained.

Ligature from Sarah Harbison's wrists--
It was a knotted pair of panties with no stains or ignitable liquids. In 2001 a private DNA lab obtained a partial profile consistent with Sarah Harbison as well as a partial DNA profile from an unknown contributor or contributors.

Ligature from Jennifer Harbison's head--
It was a gray knotted sock with no stains, no ignitable liquids, and no DNA.

Pretty good day for the defense in Yogurt Shop hearing--Part 2

One of the first things Judge Lynch explained today was that, since he had been out of town on an emergency, the order for the State to turn over many items to the defense for DNA testing (see pdfs of the order in today's first post) had been signed by Judge Charlie Baird instead. I was glad to get that explanation because I thought it seemed weird that a judge other than Lynch would sign the order, but apparently that's not at all unusual for that kind of situation.

The reason the prosecutors contended they were unwilling to release to the defense the requested items for DNA testing is that the integrity of those items (all of which were admitted into evidence in both original trials) has not been maintained, including the chain of custody.

From the witness stand, Darla Davis explained that once the items are introduced into evidence at trial, it's "just a free for all" in terms of who might have touched or otherwise possibly contaminated the evidence, ranging from the court reporter to the jurors to members of the media to the psychic to whom Sargeant John Jones turned over the multi-colored size 14 shirt.

Prosecutors argued they would be unfairly burdened because of, in Davis' words, "the universe of possibilities" of who could have touched the evidence, that they couldn't force buccal swabs(cells swabbed from inside your cheek)from jurors or any other person who may have touched the items of evidence.

On cross exam, Michael Scott's attorney Dexter Gilford asked Davis why the DPS lab didn't test the entire pink shirt, rather than just two stains. Davis said that sometimes they get back a DNA profile and have no idea whose profile it is. Gilford countered that because they did have DNA reference samples from all four men originally charged and all four victims, it's certainly possible to determine whose profile it's NOT. Davis agreed.

Pretty good day for the defense in Yogurt Shop hearing--Part 1

Okay, this is a little rushed and rough, but here's some of what happened at today's hearing.

After testimony from Darla Davis (one of the prosecutors from the first round of trials) for the State & Dr. Laura Gahn (new defense DNA expert) for the defense and lots of arguments from lawyers on both sides and questions from the judge, Judge Lynch said he WILL sign an order allowing the defense's requested DNA testing of the three items in the middle of page 2 of the order (see pdfs of order on previous post): the multi-colored Elizabeth Jordan size 14 shirt, six ligatures from all four girls, and a pink, mock-turtleneck shirt.

Further, the defense can test whatever part of each piece of those items they wish, not just the cuttings made and tested in 2001 by the State, although they'll probably get access to those cuttings, too. Judge Lynch cautioned both sides that just because he's allowing the testing does NOT mean he'll necessarily rule the test results admissible at trial time and that all test results will be shared.

When Dr. Gahn took the stand, she said she'd reviewed the DNA reports turned over by the State and has come to the conclusion that the POTENTIAL for additional DNA evidence to be obtained exists for all three sets of items requested. She added that her lab has a test now (P30 test)that can confirm the presence of semen. The State's experts had found a presumptive positive test for semen on the pink shirt, but now DNA technology has a confirmatory test.

The next pretrial hearing is set for May 14th and the previously expected trial start date of May 19th is no longer. No new start date was mentioned.

Yogurt Shop Retrials: Judge's Order for DNA evidence to be handed over to defense for testing

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Perhaps it will really be the final pretrial hearing next week for Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen?

I'll be at Tuesday's pretrial hearing. While the last pretrial hearing was set for Michael Scott only, the docket lists this Tuesday's hearing under both Springsteen's and Scott's names.

Drought-tolerant landscaping doesn't necessarily mean all cactus and gravel

Westside front yard: society garlic (foreground), not-yet-blooming ground cover leadwort plumbago (left front), native ground cover horseherb (right front), not-yet-blooming gaura (behind society garlic), silver santolina (gray-green bush near curb), and prairie verbena (at curb).

More bicolor iris blooms are out now, plus their leaves are a nice shape and evergreen.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Emerging spinach and first bicolor iris bloom

I realize these just look like weeds right now, but they're actually the first baby spinach leaves from the seeds I planted about 3 weeks ago. Very exciting!

This is the first bloom of the season of one of my bicolor irises, but it got a little banged up this morning in the rain and hail.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

After Michael Scott’s hearing today, I spoke briefly to his wife, Jeannine

I introduced myself to Jeannine Scott in court today and later got up my courage to ask her if I could talk to her for a minute after today’s hearing.

We sat outside the courthouse—she was waiting for the right time to go into the jail to retrieve her husband’s court-appearance clothes--and discussed the fact that she can’t really discuss her husband’s case and doesn’t always know what’s really going on anyway: we both wondered what the deal was today with all the in-chambers discussions. If she knew why Dr. Gahn from Identigene was there today to participate in the in-chambers discussions, she did not let on.

One thing Jeannine was comfortable discussing was her passionate anti-death-penalty advocacy activity, especially with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, whose next meeting (part of a national speaking tour) is April 9th at 7 p.m. in the Chicano Culture Room, 4.206, of The Texas Union at UT.

Behind closed doors: mysterious private conferring at Michael Scott's pretrial hearing today

A few mainstream reporters and I were sitting in the gallery at 1:30 waiting for what was supposed to be Michael Scott's final pretrial hearing. All the lawyers for Scott and Robert Springsteen, plus Scott's wife, Jeannine, entered the courtroom at the same time, as well as two faces who were new to me. One of these two women was Scott's team's legal assistant, whose name I didn't quite catch, and the other woman was Dr. Laura Gahn, who is the Vice President of Forensic Production, DNA Lab Director, and Forensic Technical Leader of the DNA testing company Identigene. Dr. Gahn's also a court-qualified expert witness in DNA testing, according to her CV. Still no sign of Judge Lynch.

Then Springsteen's lawyers, Alexandra Gauthier and Joe James Sawyer; and Scott's lawyers, Carlos Garcia and Dexter Gilford, all went into chambers. A minute later, Gauthier stuck her head out and motioned for Gahn and the legal assistant. None of the rest of us knew what was going on.

Then Sawyer came back out and told Scott's attorney, Tony Diaz, that he was not participating. Sawyer appeared agitated and continued, "It's not going to be in the courtroom. They may proceed as they wish but not with me." He left the courtroom and the reporters followed. I stayed put because the sheriff's deputies, the court reporter, and two court clerks were still in place.

I later heard that Sawyer told the reporters that he left because his client (Springsteen) had instructed him not to participate in proceedings not held in open court. One reporter asked him why Gauthier was still conferring in chambers if it was against their client's wishes. Apparently Sawyer said something along the lines of different people doing things different ways. I'll have to watch the 5 p.m. news to see the whole interview because I was afraid I'd miss something in the courtroom if I followed Sawyer outside.

Finally, at around 2:15, Judge Lynch took the bench and explained that the lawyers had been conferring on pretrial motions that were "relevant, important discovery issues." He said nothing more specific and commended the parties for working together to come up with an order that he and all parties, including the district attorneys, would sign off on.

Lynch said the next pretrial hearing would be April 15th to discuss a narrow list of witness and discovery issues before proceeding to trial. He did not say if he was still counting on a May 19th trial start date.