Thursday, September 25, 2008

Enthusiastic new seedlings

These Detroit dark red beet seeds were just sewn last Saturday and are already around an inch tall!

The new dwarf pomegranate has new fruit, too. My Fall experiments are working okay so far...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Laura Hall: today’s oral arguments (part 2)

Ultimately, defense attorney Ken Mahaffey maintained that, “These violations add up.” Prosecutor Bryan Case, while conceding that there was “a little misconduct here and here and here…” maintained that the errors weren’t necessarily material and must be evaluated separately.

After the hearing, Mahaffey declined to answer reporters’ questions, citing ethical concerns. Then Loren and Carol Hall spoke to reporters. Loren said, “We know our daughter’s innocent.” He said they had visited Laura last night and that “she’s not doing real well…” but that she’s holding up as well as possible “when you know you’re innocent.”

Loren also said that his daughter was having dental problems and had been taking antibiotics for eight months. When asked her opinion of today’s hearing, Carol said, “It went well.” She also said the prosecution will do anything to win.

After the Halls left, reporters talked to Sharon Cave and her fiancĂ© Jim Sedwick, who appeared confident. Sharon said, “Colton got his due. Laura got her due.” She said that Laura could have chosen to "do the right thing" so Jennifer's body wouldn't have been mutilated and that Laura is “obviously mentally incapacitated.” Sharon expressed concern for herself and her family’s safety when Laura gets out.

Case also answered reporters’ questions. He said he considered the state’s errors “insignificant…some technical” and that there was “no injustice in this case.”

I didn’t see any prosecutors or defense lawyers from the original trial at today’s hearing, which I found a little curious because they were present for oral arguments in Pitonyak’s appeal.

Laura Hall: today’s Third Court oral arguments (part 1)

In the Third Court of Appeals this morning, Justices David Puryear, Alan Waldrop, and Bob Pemberton heard Ken Mahaffey argue what he sees as points of error in Laura Hall’s trial that are so serious that Hall’s convictions should be reversed or she should get a new trial. Bryan Case argued on the state’s behalf.

Mahaffey began by telling the panel that he has never been removed from an appellate case as is stated in the amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief submitted by Doug Conley. He further clarified that he was once appointed to take over a case after the first attorney had been removed.

Of the seven points of error Mahaffey cited, the three involving the prosecution’s failure to disclose certain evidence elicited the most questioning from the justices. Mahaffey argued that prosecutors had known for a full week before she took the stand that prosecution witness Nora Sullivan’s statement contained new information, and yet the defense was not made aware of this until Sullivan began to testify.

Mahaffey said the prosecution should have told the defense that witness Henriette Langenbach had been to prison for kidnapping cases in New Zealand, information which could have affected her credibility. Mahaffey said, "It is the duty of the prosecution to turn over exculpatory evidence whether or not it’s material." Mahaffey further claimed that these were not just discovery violations, but Brady violations.

Mahaffey also argued that the jury should have heard that sentencing-phase witness Doug Conley had not been able to identify Hall from a police photo lineup, a fact the jury could use in judging his credibility.

Case argued that Conley had told prosecutors that he knew his passenger was indeed Laura Hall because he’d seen her in the news. After questions from the justices, Case conceded that the information about Conley should have been turned over to the defense. Case argued that it was not material because Conley would have testified that he recognized Hall from the news had he been cross examined.

Case also conceded that the state violated a discovery order by not turning over Nora Sullivan’s statement but said it wasn’t a Brady issue. Justice Waldrop asked Case his thoughts about the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct described in Conley’s amicus curiae brief, saying he had expected Case to be vigorously denying them. Case said there was no basis for the allegations.

Case explained that one of the allegations, the felony Hindering Apprehension indictment, was not improper because the state considered the flight of Hall and Colton Pitonyak a “continuing offense.” Case implied that it was immaterial anyway because the jury convicted on the lesser charge of misdemeanor Hindering Apprehension. Conley is “basically making up” the information regarding prosecutorial misconduct, Case said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Laura Hall: Third Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments tomorrow

Tomorrow morning a Third Court of Appeals panel will hear arguments re Laura Hall’s 2007 convictions and I plan to attend. A Travis County jury found Hall guilty of class-A misdemeanor Hindering Apprehension and 3rd-degree felony Tampering with Evidence in the 2005 murder of Jennifer Cave. Excerpts from briefs filed by both sides are contained here.

For more detailed info and more documents, check this out, recently posted by The Austin American-Statesman's Steven Kreytak.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall vegetable and orange progress

The seeds I sowed September 8th, based on organic gardener Tim Miller’s moon cycle schedule, seem to be happy seedlings so far, especially the mesclun.

mesclun (front) and buttercrunch lettuce



So I continued today by adding carrot (Danvers 126) and beet (Detroit Dark Red) seeds to the dog-fenced raised bed. Only one broccoli seedling has appeared because I sowed the broccoli in the bed that’s not yet dog-fenced and the dog napped there the first morning of cooler weather. Oh well. I’ll add some transplants in November.


I've been working hard in the non-vegetable realm, too. In some bare spots of the sunniest parts of the front yard, I added a bunch of gray santolinas (Santolina chamaecyarissus), along with a little culinary sage (Salvia officinallis) and Italian oregano (Origanum x majoricum). I even continued my new bravery with orange, adding an orange lantana to the existing purple lantana and verbena. Good sore muscles.

existing gray santolina (foreground) plus six new ones

trailing lantana and verbena

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yogurt Shop murders: more details from today’s hearing

Defense attorney Joe James Sawyer presented Judge Lynch with what was apparently a LONG list of items upon which the defense seeks to have DNA testing performed, explaining that the current, more sensitive and specific Y-STR testing was not available nine years ago.

After some argument from both sides, Lynch told the state and defense teams that they needed to “get together and whittle this (list) down…We need to determine what’s necessary and reasonable,” adding that it could cost a million dollars and take until 2012 if they were to test that entire list.

Lynch further advised the defense attorneys to “sit down with the state and whittle this to 20 to 30 things” that could be tested in two to three weeks.

Sawyer said he agreed with the court about not dragging things out and about meeting with prosecutors to progress towards a trial date. He clarified that in addition to the things on the list (that they intended to pare down), they were requesting DNA testing of fingernail clippings, palm prints, fingerprints, and a friendship bracelet belonging to Amy Ayers, which seemingly no longer exists. Defense wants to see all the state's chain of custody information on the missing bracelet.

At that point, prosecutor Efrain De La Fuente interjected, “We’ve had these meetings!” De La Fuente continued explaining, but I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying because I was watching Lynch, who had slapped his hand over his forehead in seeming exasperation. Lynch then told the prosecutor, “If you’re gonna sit there and complain…tell me what you think I should be doing.”

After some requests from defense attorney Alexandra Gauthier regarding the defense team’s DNA expert, defense attorney Dexter Gilford told Lynch that, “as to items of obvious forensic significance, we’re well on our way to testing.”

Lynch ended by reminding the attorneys that both sides need to work together to move things forward towards trial. The next scheduled hearing is October 29.

Yogurt Shop murders: January trial start date?

State District Judge Mike Lynch said that the retrials of Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen may be tried “back to back…after the first of the year or so” at today’s joint pretrial hearing. Michael Scott’s retrial will be the first of the two.

The other particularly notable news today came from outside the courtroom. Defense attorney Carlos Garcia told reporters that the DNA of 59 people (plus the four original defendants) has been tested. None of those 63 DNA profiles matches the unknown male DNA recently discovered from retesting of two Amy Ayers’ vaginal swabs. Because of the protective order, Garcia couldn’t give any specifics on exactly who these results exclude, except for Scott, Springsteen, and the other two original defendants, Forrest Welborn and Maurice Pierce.

Although it was barely alluded to, the defense has filed a contempt motion against the state, contending that the state has known since July that none of Fairfax lab’s male employees’ DNA profiles matches the unknown male DNA. The defense contends their team was just recently given this information, even though Lynch has ordered the state to turn over DNA testing results as soon as they are received.

More from today’s hearing later this evening.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yogurt Shop murders: yep, another pretrial hearing tomorrow

I’ll be attending tomorrow’s pretrial hearing. According to the online docket, both defendants, Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, are scheduled to appear. Their retrials are not yet scheduled.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 2008 garden bloggers’ bloom day

I only have two new blooms (oxblood lilies and dwarf pomegranate) to add to my usual list of suspects (plumbago, Mexican sage, indigo spires salvia, verbena, pink and purple skullcap, bicolor iris, lantana, ruellia, and leadwort plumbago.) Be sure to check out others’ blooms at Carol’s May Dreams Gardens.

oxblood lilies

dwarf pomegranate


purple fountaingrass, not technically a bloom, I guess


thirsty society garlic

Friday, September 12, 2008

Curious beautiful oxbloods

I didn't plant them and they seem to bloom a little later than others I’ve noticed around town. I’m always especially curious about my hereditary plants: who chose to put them in that stark location and when?

yesterday morning

later yesterday morning


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Signage preferences?

I really don’t know what to make of this. Both these cicada shells appeared overnight. There are no others in sight.

Do they prefer these color combinations to the lighter, brighter colors I used for the other veggie markers? Or maybe they like or dislike beets and broccoli over lettuces and kale?

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Fall veggie planting

I recently learned about organic farmer Tim Miller’s Fall planting schedule, which follows moon cycles, from fellow Austin garden blogger, Vertie. Sounded good to me, so I bought seeds for Butterhead (Buttercrunch) lettuce, Romaine (Parris Island Cos) lettuce, Mesclun lettuce (baby greens), “dinosaur” kale (Italian Nero Toscana), carrots (Danvers 126), and beets (Detroit Dark Red).

Yesterday, husband Kurt did all the hardest physical work, moving and mixing dirts and composts,

transforming the old Fall bed

into this new version that really maximizes the space

I sowed all the lettuce seeds, marking spaces for the beets and carrots, which won’t be seeded until September 20-21. I also transplanted a leadwort plumbago for good measure.

In the current waning tomato bed, I sowed a short row of kale seeds.

Here's the view of both beds from my back kitchen window

I just realized that I totally forgot broccoli! Hmmm---must manage to buy those seeds today and get them in the ground before dark.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First experiment in orange

Until today, I have chosen to have every blooming thing in our front yard garden be purple-ish or white (with a tiny bit of hot pink skullcap and one little red rose). The yellow-orange flower world has just seemed too hot to explore, although I’ve known it would provide good contrast with all the purple.

In anticipation of cooler temperatures (a month or more away, I know) and a cooler house color, I took my first baby step today, buying this “Orange Master” Dwarf Pomegranate (Punica granatum). We had an ugly blank spot with some exposed woody old rosemary roots, which are still ugly and exposed, but I think this big fleur-de-lis pot with the silver ponyfoot surrounding the dwarf pomegranate is a nice filler and distraction for now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The in-betweens

The quality of the sunlight now is definitely more Fall-like. The morning breeze now is drier and cool enough that I can get away with walking our always-hot Husky-dog as late as 9:30. But it was still 101 degrees yesterday, the 50th day of 2008’s triple-digit heat.

I spent two hours spot-watering the front yard this morning and must finish up this evening. We’re still waiting on one more bid before we can seriously negotiate the whole carpenter/painter hiring.

The joy of digging peanut butter from a Kong toy transcends seasonal expectations.