Thursday, December 27, 2007

CBS' "48 Hours Mystery" Pitonyak/Hall Trials' Airing

At Laura Hall's trial I met two CBS "48 Hours Mystery" producers while we were all hanging out in the hall waiting for a verdict. Recently one of the producers told me she thought their show on the Pitonyak/Hall trials would air the first week of February. She was not positive about the exact air date but thought that, because of the writers' strike, the air date had been bumped up to early February.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Old-Fashioned Part of Our Christmas Holiday

When I'm cooking, I have a habit of trying to turn on and off the kitchen faucets with my elbows when my hands are covered with food. This technique is only marginally successful, and last night I shoved the hot water handle too hard and stripped its valve stem. Kurt was able to stop it from gushing for the time being, which means we (for now) have no kitchen sink hot water. (We don't have a dishwasher, either.)

So, until Kurt is able to fix this problem, we are boiling water in the teapot to add to the super-cold dishwater. Very quaint and old-fashioned. Turning lemons into lemonade...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hearings I Plan to Attend Next Month

January 9th I plan to attend the (supposedly) last joint pretrial hearing for the retrials of the so-called Yogurt Shop murders' Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen.

Oral arguments are set to be heard in the Third Court of Appeals in The State of Texas v. Colton Aaron Pitonyak on January 23rd. I have no experience observing appellate hearings, so I called the Third Court of Appeals' clerk just to make sure the general public is allowed to observe such oral arguments.

I have no idea what issues will be argued or in what format, but I plan to go, especially since I attended Pitonyak's trial, in which Pitonyak was found guilty of murdering Jennifer Cave then fleeing to Mexico.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cauliflower Dreams

This morning I went to my favorite local organic farmstand, Boggy Creek Farm, which is where I got this gorgeous cauliflower. I have been a regular customer there for about 5 years now and I am so grateful for them. I had heard of Boggy Creek Farm for years but always assumed it was way out of town somewhere. But upon returning from a great trip to France, I looked them up, hoping I could re-create my own Austin version of Paris' fresh food-market-stands-shopping routine. And I was wrong about having to drive way out of town: Boggy Creek Farm is very centrally located, less than 3 miles from downtown Austin!

The Boggy Creek Farm farmers and their workers--as well as many of their regular customers--have enriched and continue to enrich my life and not only by providing such fabulous vegetables. There's a very special community feeling there: diamond-laden, toddler-toting soccer moms easily mingle with Code Pink women peace activists, local chefs from Austin's top restaurants, and plenty of other seemingly disparate peoples. It is peaceful, inspirational, and invigorating all at the same time. Oh, and YES: their organic veggies are delicious, nutritious, and beautiful!

The other picture is my Boggy Creek Farm wanna-be cauliflower plants (along with some of the lettuce for tonight's dinner!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Know You're on Pins and Needles: Broccoli Update

I see no more yellow spots, but now some of the broccoli leaves have holes in them! The lettuces are perfect and almost ready to cut off into a salad. I anxiously mentioned the broccoli-leaf holes to husband Kurt and he dryly replied, "it's just an experiment."

My Cat's Gratitude

After 3 days of getting treated to my homemade bison-apple loaf, you'd think my cat would be curled in my lap, purring uncontrollably. Not exactly.

Today, I was fiddling around in the kitchen while the cat sat on her food-bowl table, meowing. I ignored her because I'd just fed her 2 hours earlier. As I was about to leave, she jumped off her food table and stared at me with her freaky (very occasional, thankfully) "I'm a reformed feral cat and I can't help it: I'm going to bite you now!" look.

I tried to stare her down--an effective method with the dog--but that didn't work. She hurled herself at my leg, holding on just long enough to give me a quick bite then ran away. She actually drew blood through my jeans! Ingrate.

But I still love her.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Real Holiday Treat for Your Dogs and Cats

Thunderheart Bison, out of San Antonio, treats their bison well: not only are these bison grass-fed, free-roaming, and antibiotic/hormone-free, they're killed suddenly and instantly out in the field before they even have a minute to panic or be fearful. I eat very few critters, but sometimes I eat these humanely raised bison.

Your dogs and cats (especially cats because they're solely carnivores) will really LOVE you if you cook them some ground bison with diced organic apple. It's that easy: combine a pound of ground bison with one egg and about a half a diced apple and form into a loaf. Bake it at 350 F for around 20 minutes or until it's medium rare. Bison is leaner than beef, so be careful not to overcook it.

If handling meat disgusts you, wear latex gloves and mix it together and cook it on some foil--all disposable and your skin and utensils never touch it.

After it's cooled off, mash it up a little and serve. Instant pet bliss.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Not "Just" Arguing Semantics: Bishop "Under Investigation"?

Thursday evening, Austin's Fox television news affiliate reported that
"the prosecutor in the Laura Hall case is under investigation for alleged misconduct during the sentencing phase of her trial. That's according to a letter FOX 7 obtained from the Board of Disciplinary Appeals. Hall's attorney says prosecutor Bill Bishop called Doug Connaly [sic] to testify against her during sentencing, but Bishop did not tell the defense that Connaly [sic] was not able to pick Hall out of a photo lineup."
"Under investigation" sounds serious--and it may very well be serious in Bishop's case--but it's impossible to determine from the vague yet ear-catching information provided in that short story. I haven't been successful in finding more information online, either.

In the section regarding filing grievances against lawyers, the State Bar of Texas' website does not use that term "under investigation" so I don't know what that really means in the real world. The Bar uses the terms "inquiry" and "complaint" in its initial grievance process: which word sounds more serious on the surface? Apparently a "complaint" is more serious.

Nothing personal, Fox 7, but it would be nice to hear more specifics in your "top stories." And correct spelling of names would be nice, too.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Urban Vegetable Garden: Spots on Broccoli Leaves and an Indie Rock Band?

The lettuce and cauliflower appear to be happy, growing bigger and showing no discoloration or droopiness. The broccoli seems medium-happy, in that it continues to grow; however, one leaf on each plant has yellow-ish spots.

Because I'm brand new to this, I don't know if the spots are any big deal or not. The information I've found so far indicates the spots might be a common fungus called downy mildew. I remember a band in the '80s from Downey, California named Downey Mildew. They had one good song.

I'm having a hard time finding information on how to get rid of this downy mildew on my broccoli plants, so for now I'm just going to cut those leaves off and see what happens. Not the most scientific approach, I guess.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lazy Friday

I took today off--my in-laws are in town and we'll see them for dinner tonight--thinking I would do some last-minute tidying and maybe start a new painting or pull a few weeds, too. At least I walked the bored husky-dog.

Then I met husband-Kurt for a sushi and sake lunch. It was delicious but afterwards I was definitely not motivated to do much of anything "constructive." Unless snipping the blooms off the basil plant is considered constructive. But sometimes taking the day off means just that, right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Letter from Sharon Cave re Laura Hall Parole Review

A frequent reader and commenter requested I re-post Sharon Cave's letter, which was first posted as a comment on Monday afternoon. Read it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

KVUE Reports on Laura Hall Parole

Local ABC affiliate television station KVUE broadcasts its story on Laura Hall's potential upcoming parole review. Their web version is here. I presume various other news outlets will have their own reports soon, possibly including comments from Laura Hall's family as well.

Parole Hearing: Another Laura Hall Postscript

Although the Travis County website currently shows that Laura Hall is still in County jail, it seems she may have her first parole review next month.
Sharon Cave and her family are, understandably, quite upset and she is urging people to write to the parole board: her letter is here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Problem with Big Trees

I really love our big, wise, old trees and so do the squirrels. But at least five times a year those trees and squirrels cause the electricity transformer to blow and we lose all power. The City of Austin/Austin Energy usually has it restored in under 3 hours, a response I really appreciate.

Thanksgiving morning we awoke to a warm refrigerator, which Kurt diagnosed and figured out a temporary fix until the new part--thermostat?--arrives. We had to throw away a bunch of spoiled food and ate chips, salsa, and beans for lunch.

So this morning when I heard the unmistakable pop of a transformer blowing and the power went out, I was especially annoyed, hoping we wouldn't end up with yet another round of spoiled food. The power was restored in less than 2 hours--yippee!

Back to loving that old Sycamore.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tiny First Homegrown Salad Harvested and It Tastes Good!

Granted, these lettuce plants' leaves were already about 2-3 in. long when we planted them last Sunday, but look! Not only did the leaves grow to around 6 in. long; a bunch of new, shorter leaves grew in, too. I snipped them all off to leave about 2 in. (even though the rule of thumb seems to be to leave 1 in.--I was paranoid). Supposedly, all those leaves will just keeping growing back--endless salad--for a couple of months.

I just ate some leaves plain and they have a slightly spicy taste to them. I'm still going to add a little olive oil and vinegar to tonight's first homegrown lettuce salad--whoo-hoo!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

After: Voila! First Vegetable Garden in Place

It's done! There's just enough room to walk around inside the little husky-proof (we hope) fence. Husband Kurt fashioned a cool hinged fence door, too. Now we wait and watch. And water and weed.

Before: Urban Organic Vegetable Gardening--Making Our First Raised Bed

I'm waiting for husband Kurt to return from the hardware store with the stakes and rat wire we need put up around the raised bed we made yesterday; then we can plant the six broccoli, two cauliflower, and three lettuce plants we got yesterday. It doesn't look that impressive in the pics now--it's only about 4 ft by 8 ft and 2 ft deep--but we worked hard yesterday moving our brush piles, compost, and soil to clear a good spot with good soil. Moving that whole pile of branches was very Cool Hand Luke.

We mixed our own backyard dirt with some of our own leafy compost and "dairy compost" from The Natural Gardener.
Kurt originally made that wood sled thing to haul mulch around the front yard, but yesterday we mixed soil and compost on it: I think it was about 60 percent dirt and 40 percent compost. We're really kind of winging it, but that's part of the fun.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

FAR Beyond Remuddling Versus Remodeling

I was curious a month or so ago when I noticed a neighborhood house, built in 1932, had suddenly disappeared. The lot was now just that: an empty flat, dirt lot. Silly me, I hoped another older house would be moved onto the lot, but the photo directly above shows what's going up on that long, narrow lot (lot extends all the way to the adjacent parallel street) now.

The very first photo is the view of the back of it from the other street (also flanked by pre-'50s houses.) The middle two photos show the 1937- and 1940-built houses--granted, neither of which is the most outstanding examples of WWII-era residential architecture--flanking the front of this unfinished monster duplex: these two neighboring houses average around 1,200 square feet, and the duplex will be 3,727 square feet, according to its current tax appraisal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good Reader's Comment re Today's Springsteen and Scott Hearing:

"Springsteen's and Scott's Joint Pretrial Hearing Today: Part 2"

2 Comments - Show Original Post

Neleh said...

Hey Iris,
At one point Judge Lynch said the defense's request was "one of the most expansive definitions of exculpatory I've ever seen". As I see it, our tax dollars pay for all that copying. Imagine if all the stuff in those boxes is in date order instead of grouped by a category?

I think they all agreed that most everything they wanted was in discovery already (not the database of course). I think the state agreed to copy anything that the defense "flagged" - it just puts the burden on the defense to mark those items they are looking for. The judge also told the state that if they come across an item that they know the defense has been looking for, the state has to give it to the defense right away (and not just stick it in the discovery box without telling them).

I believe that if the defense comes back at the next hearing and says they are not getting any help from the state that the judge will move things along. Hope that makes sense.

-- Neleh

November 14, 2007 10:41 PM

Iris said...


THANK YOU! You're absolutely right, and I'm now remembering thinking that the "flagging" arrangement sounded reasonable and fair. I appreciate your pointing this out!

Although I try to be balanced, occasionally I get sidetracked on a certain train of thought and forget the forest for the trees.

November 14, 2007 10:53 PM


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

My Humble Opinion Plus More Observations
One of the most interesting things to come out at today's hearing were some of Judge Lynch's comments, which sometimes seemed contradictory. For example, Judge Lynch occasionally seemed slightly annoyed at or exasperated by all the continuing defense discovery requests and often encouraged both the defense and the prosecution to work out these discovery issues and keep things moving toward trials.

And yet Judge Lynch did not rule on any of the twelve discovery requests listed in the defenses' main motion today--the prosecutors only recently received the motion--because the prosecution needed time to review the requests and give their responses.

Judge Lynch also said he didn't want a bunch of these joint pretrial hearings in which "everybody stands up and says their piece..." He expects one last joint pretrial hearing to discuss his final rulings on discovery matters, etc. The next one is now set for January 9, 2008.

Prosecutors told Judge Lynch that they would be prepared for Michael Scott's trial by April 2008 at the latest and could even move it up to January or February. Scott's lead attorney, Carlos Garcia, told the judge his team couldn't be ready until June 1, 2008.

Prosecutors objected and so did Judge Lynch, saying that wouldn't work and was too late because he wants both retrials done in 2008. Garcia implied that he would not be able to be ready any earlier.

Then Judge Lynch told Garcia that if they (Garcia's team) could convince him they really couldn't be ready before June 1st, he might reconsider ordering the prosecutors to provide the copies the defense has requested so they (defense) could review them at home, on weekends, etc., implying that they (defense) would therefore be able to be prepared for trial before June 1st, which is the timetable Judge Lynch and the prosecutors want.

Uhm--if the judge is so concerned with expediting these trials, why doesn't he just go ahead now and order the prosecutors to give the defenses the copies of the discovery materials they've requested? Based on his own comment about wanting to get both cases tried in 2008, it seems he has the authority to order the discovery copy requests!

I don't understand how he can be impatient about the defenses' progress while at the same time make remarks that he can do what they've (defense) requested to speed it all up! What am I missing?

Judge Lynch said that, depending on the prosecutors' responses, he'd be highly likely to grant the defenses' requests for their own copies of certain discovery items, specifically the following:

#1 - Transcripts of all written statements, and audio/video recordings of other past suspects, particularly Forrest Wellborn's and Maurice Pierce's. Prosecutors countered that Wellborn never implicated either Springsteen or Scott and that Pierce never implicated himself.

#4 - Austin Police Department's (APD) Charles Meyer's notes.

#6 - Statements of Dearl Croft, a patron of the yogurt shop the night of the murders. The defenses are concerned that Croft may have given his statement(s) while under hypnosis, a technique they say APD frequently used at that time.

#7 - Very specific parts of APD detective John Jones' offense report, notes, etc., although the defenses want the entire data base (approximately 7,000 pages) Jones compiled, which includes alternative suspect information. Prosecutors argued that it's work product and that the defense teams are not entitled to their own copy of it.

#8 - All APD's sketches.

#10 - All Austin Fire Department's (AFD) original offense and witness reports.

#11 - Results of any lie detector results.

Judge Lynch did not comment on his inclinations towards granting the following specific defense discovery requests, implying he was disinclined to grant these:

#2 - Findings and reports of a Mr. Keppel, which defense attorney Alexandra Gauthier said she had never seen and was not able to locate in the prosecution's large file of discovery materials. After the hearing, I asked defense attorney Carlos Garcia who this Keppel guy was, and he told me that Keppel was a profiler whose opinions were allegedly relied upon by APD during their investigations, although I'm not sure if it was during APD's initial investigations or the later cold-case unit investigations. I should have asked.

#3 - All APD emails, memos, etc from January 1999 to present.

#5 - All AFD statements, memos, etc. Prosecutors said those are available to view in the discovery file.

#9 - All APD's photos of all lineups and possible alternative suspects

Springsteen's and Scott's Joint Pretrial Hearing Today: Part 1

The Tedious World of Discovery Issues
was the focus of today's joint pretrial hearing. Both defenses filed--
as recently as this morning--more motions requesting that Judge Mike Lynch order the State to provide them their own copies of specific pieces of evidence they believe are exculpatory. If they can't get their own copies, the defenses feel they are entitled to at least see ALL the State's evidence qualifying as discovery. I'll go through the details of the defenses' request list in the next post.

Although Judge Lynch told the defenses that 90 percent of what they're asking for "won't see the light of day at trial" (because of relevance issues) and implied that there are no real surprises left at this point, Joe James Sawyer told reporters that he, as the defense lawyer, needs to and deserves to go through 100 percent of the evidence because what is or is not relevant discovery material can be a matter of opinion.

The courtroom had been rearranged since the last hearing to accommodate both defendants and their attorneys so they didn't
all have to crowd around one defense table. Michael Scott gave his wife Jeannine a quick smile before sitting down with his lead attorney, Carlos Garcia and co-counsel, Dexter Gilford. Robert Springsteen sat at another table with attorneys Joe James Sawyer and Alexandra Gauthier. Gauthier did almost all the talking today, occasionally conferring with Sawyer, as well as Garcia (because many issues are the same for both Springsteen and Scott.)

Prosecutors Gail Van Winkle and Efrain De La Fuente had their own table set up in front of the jury box, while their clerks and other staff sat in the jury box itself.

I got another courthouse-area parking meter ticket today for only 15 minutes short. Aargh!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Pretrial Hearing Tomorrow for Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott

I plan to attend. I'm fairly certain it will be a joint hearing like last time, with Springsteen and Scott and their respective attorneys all crowded around the defense table. I have no clue what issues will be raised, but I'll post my observations.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Confused Iris

Typically a Spring-bloomer, one of my Bi-color Iris plants has a bloom today! I doubt it's typical for the little pink and purple skullcaps behind it to still be blooming in November, either. Strange warm Fall.

Postscript: Laura Hall

A Court TV message board person just asked me if I knew whether Laura Hall had been transferred to prison yet. I checked the Travis County website, which indicates that Hall is still in county jail and also shows that Hall's 1-year sentence for hindering apprehension (running concurrently with the 5-year sentence for tampering with evidence) will have been served out tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some Sundays are Just Meant for Football and Pizza, Not Gardening

Yesterday was one of those Sundays. Instead of hauling dirt and compost around the backyard to create a raised bed, driving way out to The Natural Gardener to buy vegetables then planting them, we stayed in and enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. And we drank mimosas and watched lots of good football.

I sliced garlic and shallots to top Kurt's homemade spelt sourdough pizza crusts and Kurt patched a little hole in the ceiling sheetrock, but mostly we were lazy. It was a good laziness.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Pics from Today's Preparation for a Spring Vegetable Garden Bed

Today Kurt reminded me that we shouldn't use the way-back corner for gardening because it's in the easement, so we moved our main proposed vegetable garden area over more towards the middle of the backyard and shall figure out later how to keep the dog out of it.

My friend who works at the organic farm stand convinced me that we should go ahead and try growing some Fall plantings now because it's stayed so warm so late in the season. She suggested beets, carrots, and broccoli as good choices for beginners. So, tomorrow we'll attempt to create a small raised bed (from our composted materials) in which to plant some of those vegetables. Yippee--a trip to The Natural Gardener to buy some seedlings or small plants!

But today we did the scalp/soak/newspaper/weed-fabric routine to prepare a bed--what will become a bed--for Spring vegetable gardening! (I ran a little short on newspaper and couldn't cover the whole scalped-soaked area, but it'll do for now.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Minor Grammar/Usage Rant Number 2

I know, I know: language is fluid and I shouldn't be such a stickler; however, I just don't understand why some television commentators, for example, continue to use the word "concerning" as an adjective instead of choosing a correct adjective, such as "worrisome", "troublesome", "disturbing", "upsetting", or "disconcerting".

Gardeners: Check Out These Pruners

Sounds nerdy, but I never knew how much of a difference a good set of pruners can make! The Felco #2 is the "classic" original version, which my husband uses, and the #6 is the smaller version of the #2, which I use. (I think I might have gotten a little clipper-happy last Sunday--hope I didn't torture any plants too much.) I bought them here: Felco , and they're a little pricey (around $40?), but I think they'll last forever and the blades can be sharpened or replaced.

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

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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"
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Exhibit "C"
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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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Top Five Low-Water, Low-Maintenance Plants

After more than 6 years of trial and error, I now feel comfortable recommending my five favorite really-hard-to-kill plants. These are all sun-loving, NOT water-loving flowers or shrubs that don't require rich soil or any special treatment whatsoever. Water them every few days for a coupla weeks right after you first plant them to get them established, then you should be able to basically ignore them (unless it's super hot with no rain for more than a month or so.) Putting some high-quality, hardwood mulch around them helps allot, too.

So here they are, in no particular order. I can't figure out how to make the pics from our yard post next to their corresponding text, but the pics are (from top to bottom) in the same order as my descriptions. Hope that makes sense.

Plumbago: loves sun but can handle part shade, too. Cover it in winter during hard freezes during the first year. Blooms from late Spring through mid-Fall.

Mexican Sage: grows pretty quickly but can be trimmed back. Blooms early Summer through mid- to late Fall.

Rubber Plant: haven't seen its blooms yet--I think they have small pinkish-white blooms in Spring.

Bicolor Iris: blooms in Spring with white flowers that are sort of periwinkle-shaped.

Rosemary: REALLY does NOT like much water. Besides being a great edible herb, it smells good and blooms small, pale, bluish-purple flowers erratically.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Nice Type of Unsolicited Opinion

Yesterday, there was a knock at our front door around 8:30 in the morning. We peered through the peephole and could see that it was one of our nice, 60-something-year-old neighbors. He wanted to make sure we knew how beautiful our big purple feathergrass plant appeared in the morning light--the view from his house.
Wow! That makes our hard yardwork even more rewarding. Very cool.

Miscellaneous Pitonyak Trial and Hall Trial Observations

A fellow Court TV viewer who had followed the Pitonyak trial (televised on Court TV and through their streaming video feed) wanted my take on a couple of questions (at the bottom) but were especially curious to know what, if anything, I knew about the following three people:

Evan Ray: Based on testimony presented in Laura Hall’s trial, all we know is that when CP showed up at Nora Sullivan’s condo around 3 a.m. (8/17/05), he used her cell three times, trying to call Evan, whom Nora described as “a mutual friend.”

There were several more calls from CP’s cell to Evan’s cell number between around 5:50 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and one more around noon. No evidence of Evan Ray's ever calling (or texting) CP's cell number was presented.

Jason Mack: The following excerpt from my blog and the excerpt from The Daily Texan are all I know about him.

(Part of my Tue., 9/04/07 blog): Okay, back to this morning's testimony: defense's second witness, Jason Mack. Mack said he's 25 and works as a painter, having owned his business for about a year and that at age 17 he served some time in prison for burglary. Mack said that in August of 2005, he'd been living w/CP at CP's Orangetree condo #88 for about 3 months. During that time, he'd met Jennifer Cave and Laura Hall.

According to Mack, 2 days before Cave's murder, Hall came over to collect money she'd loaned CP the week before (that CP owed to some really bad guys.) Mack said that at that time, CP was really drunk and had run out of Xanax and was freaking out, but that "everyone there" was "on something."

Apparently CP had physically thrown LH outside onto the steps of the condo. Pitonyak said to Mack, (according to Mack) "this bitch is driving me fucking crazy" and then pulled his gun out of a (desk?) drawer. Mack tried to calm CP down--CP also mentioned that his mom was in town and that he had a test coming up--telling him to chill out. Mack said CP had been up for 9 days and that he thought CP would have used the gun on anyone at that point, that CP was delusional and crazy.

Mack said he finally convinced Hall to leave (CP's condo) w/him and that the two of them spent the night at a friend's place in south Austin, where they told Hall to stay away from CP or she was going to get herself killed.

Mack said he'd left his Texas ID/driver's license on CP's coffee table (because CP was so paranoid he insisted that Mack leave it) in order to briefly borrow CP's car. Mack said he'd reported the above incident to the Austin Police Department (APD) and was never contacted by APD.

from The Daily Texan: “Pitonyak said he received the Smith & Wesson pistol that ultimately killed Cave as payment for a drug sale in July 2005. He kept the gun for a month before selling the gun to Jason, an acquaintance of Hall's. Pitonyak said he never loaded the gun while it was in his possession. The Saturday before Cave's death, Jason visited Pitonyak's apartment while he was "drinking heavily."
Jason asked to borrow Pitonyak's car to see a friend.
Pitonyak agreed on the premise that Jason would get his newly acquired gun back when he returned the car. Jason didn't return the car and was ultimately arrested. That's how the gun ended up back in Pitonyak's apartment, according to Pitonyak. The defense's case hinges on the premise that Pitonyak didn't check if the gun was loaded after he retained possession.”

Ryan Martindill: In Hall’s trial, he testified (on direct exam) that he worked at the same law office as Laura Hall in spring/summer 2005 and they became friends. He lived in an apartment in southeast Austin (same general part of town as LH’s apartment) with two roommates, Star Salzman and John M. (sorry, didn’t catch his last name.)

Martindill testified that on the night of Tue., 8/16/05, LH was at his apartment watching television with him and that she spent the night and woke up Ryan around 7-7:30 a.m. (8/17/05), saying she needed to go see CP because he was going to be leaving soon and she wanted to spend time with him. Martindill then took her to her car, which was at her apartment.

One or 2 weeks later, LH called him to let him know she was alive and okay and suggested he read the papers; she seemed surprised he hadn’t heard about the murder. Two days later, LH called to see if she could stay at his place, and he told her she could stay for one night. Martindill picked her up from the bus station and asked her if she was involved in Jennifer Cave’s murder. Hall told him “they” were innocent and knew nothing.

Later LH went downtown with Martindill, and while he was at Stubb’s, she got “Colton” tattooed on her ankle. In the car afterwards, LH said she didn’t know anything. Martindill asked her if she had gone into the (CP’s) bathroom and she said CP “wouldn’t have let her.” On cross exam, Martindill admitted that he doesn’t have a complete independent recollection of those conversations and had re-read his prior statements.

At CP’s trial, upon direct exam, Martindill said that LH was obsessed with and in love with CP. The only other sort of interesting (to me, at least) details he added were that the night of Tue., 8/16/05, around 9:30 p.m., LH was hanging out at Martindill’s and that she was drinking rum that she had brought and he was drinking beer. Martindill said that he fell asleep around midnight and that LH woke him at 7 a.m. (8/17/05), saying CP had called her and she needed a ride to her car. Later there was testimony about LH & CP showing up at Martindill’s apartment the evening of 8/17/05 to retrieve LH’s bottle of rum.

Why didn’t prosecutors talk to Hall for CP’s trial? I seriously doubt Laura Hall’s lawyer (at that time it was her court-appointed lawyer, Tom Weber) would allow LH to speak to prosecutors. After the State rested its case-in-chief in CP’s trial, the defense subpoenaed LH, so she appeared and asserted her 5th Amendment right in front of Judge Flowers. Weber asked the prosecutors if they would consider giving LH limited immunity in exchange for her testimony, and they answered with a firm “no.” That all happened at the end of a lunch recess, before many people were back in the courtroom (well, I was there.)

What did I, personally, think of the performance of CP’s lawyers?: Okay, just for the sake of argument, I thought a better overall strategy would have been to scour the earth to try to find drug buyers/dealers, friends, etc who would testify to something like the fact that there were lots of them (and other shady characters) in and out of CP’s condo quite often and at all times of the day and night and that CP was often really messed up and out of it.

Then, when CP took the stand, it might seem more plausible (because others had testified to being at CP’s condo so often) that he would say, “I guess it MUST have been me…” when Minton asked him if he’d killed Jennifer Cave. Instead, what CP did say on the stand was closer to “I killed her: I was the only other person there that night.” I remember my jaw almost fell to the floor when Minton elicited this. I think Minton had CP repeat those words.

Okay, now that I think this through more, I guess it would be VERY difficult to FIND these shady characters in the first place, and if they were found, they might not be very credible or would plead the 5th. I don’t know; I just thought it was bizarre that Minton seemed determined to get CP to say he did it, rather than say it must have been he. I guess Minton was trying to make CP look better for the sentencing phase, having decided CP would never get a not-guilty verdict? Just my opinion, of course.


Mistrial Declared! Phil Spector Jury is Hung 10-2

More details as I hear on the KTLA website. Jury's now dismissed. They didn't indicate the breakdown of the 10-2 split. Maybe some jurors will speak to the press after Judge Fidler talks to them. The talking heads seem to think at least one juror will talk.

Postscript: three jurors spoke, but I only caught part of it. The important part I heard was that the breakdown was 10=guilty; 2=not guilty. A hearing is now scheduled for Wed., 10/03/07 at 10 a.m. (Pacific time) to discuss whether the State wants to retry Spector plus other related scheduling/housekeeping matters.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Phil Spector Jury's Now Hitting the 40-Hour Mark

over 11 days of deliberation. I usually don't criticize juries, but this group must not be able to see the forest for the trees!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Unsolicited Opinions

Earlier today, Kurt and I were out in the front yard pulling weeds and putting down more mulch. It was really hot and humid. A guy in a big red pickup truck drives by, slowing way down and says, "You guys have gotten your yard looking really great!" We both said thank you. (Brief background: over the past 7 years, we've transformed our conventional grass-covered front yard into a big xeriscaped garden.)

Then this guy says, "When you gonna start on your HOUSE?" Uncomfortable silence for a few seconds, then he says, "I mean, I'm a carpenter, so..." I was caught off guard and laughed, saying "We're on the 5-year plan," to which he responded, "Oh yeah--the 5-year plan. I like that: after all, why rush it?" His tone was sarcastic. Then he said, "Anyway, y'all have a great neighborhood," and he drove off.

Thanks buddy. Kurt gave him a dirty look, then Kurt and I resumed pulling the evil nutgrass.

But I couldn't let it go in my head: was there a nicer way he could have asked about our house plans? Not that it's any of his business in the first place. But yes: he could have said, "So do y'all also have big plans for the house?" Still a bit of a backhanded compliment, but not an outright insult...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

RIP, Grand Old Tree

Well, it was a cottonwood, which is not my favorite tree in the world, but it was over 40 feet tall and probably over 60 years old, so I felt unexpectedly sad when we finally had to have it taken out (because it was at least 90 percent dead.) It was really wild watching the tree guys, who are "climbers" (not bucket-truckers), making their cuts and attaching their ropes and pulleys, then successfully pulling down the two huge trunks into the street. RIP old cottonwood: the elm beside you now has more room to spread & be happy.

Was She Murdered? Part 4

Talk to the neighbors?
I guess I'm going to have to break down and do the open-records-act request thing, which I've never done before but was told I should try and that I should be able to get the medical examiner's report, as well as the police report.

But I'm also resolving to now talk to my two neighbors who knew (in a casual, neighbor kind of way) Marie when she lived here. Two years ago I was at a block party, which happened to be around Christmas, and I asked the neighbors a few questions about Marie but then decided it wasn't really an appropriate setting to push my luck.

I did learn that, according to one neighbor, Marie was quite friendly and outgoing--she even invited the neighbors in to show off her kitchen renovation--and regularly walked the block every morning, drinking her cup of coffee. The neighbor told me that the morning of the day Marie died, the neighbor noticed Marie taking her usual walk but also noticed that Marie appeared very upset and agitated, very out-of-character.

The neighbor also told me that Marie's parents could "never accept" what happened, that they continued to come down to Austin from Dallas regularly
in their travel-trailer after Marie's death