Follow by Email

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Has Been An Interesting Year--Happy New Year Everybody! and Three Faces of Bob

2011 has been an interesting year, full of change and promise.  I hope yours has been what you hoped for in 2010 and I hope 2012 is equally rich, in pleasure and in (the inevitable) pain.  It's all good.  Certainly better than the six-feet-under alternative.

On December 31, 2010, just 12 months ago, I was still depressed, although not thinking so much of killing myself, as I had been from September, 2010 through early December.  By mid-January, 2011, I began the upward ascent, out of the darkness.   I probably climbed a bit too high in early Spring, 2011, began to make big changes in my life which sustained the high for many months.  I'm just now beginning to regain a more moderate position, although I haven't yet hit the sweet spot, the Aristotelian mean.  But I'm getting there, and people in my life are noticing the change as I move towards the center, and they're liking it.  I am too.  I can still turn on the high-wire energy force when I want to, but I'm learning how to reign it in when I need to, for the sake of myself but even more for the people in my life who want the best for me, but also for them.

To change one's life, radically, requires lots of hard work, risk-taking, and fine-tuning.  What an exciting ride it's been, and I expect it will continue to be.

Here are three photos I took this afternoon of myself, just so I can remember what the surface of me looked liked on December 31, 2011.  Who knows what ravages time will take on our appearances, and our inner lives.



Friday, December 30, 2011

NEW YouTube 8-minute Video: If the Crazy Old Dancin' Dude Can Dance in NYC He Can Dance Anywhere--Dancin' Under Grand Central Station

[Editor's note: If you want to skip right to the 9-minute professionally-edited video of me dancing in the subway tunnel under Grand Central Station, here's a link to the YouTube video:

        http://youtu.be/jF1mYybtJdQ

The title on YouTube is "BOB's Ultimate Adventures."  It was filmed on I-pad, edited, and posted on YouTube by Elijah Blue Sanchez aka The Bearded Vegetable. ]

[Editor's note #2: We're SURE Bob's mother, Helen Dutcher, who died in January at 92, would have LOVED this YouTube video of her youngest son hamming it up for the camera in New York.  When Helen visited Bob for the first time at Georgetown Law Center in D.C., back in 1975, they toured the (then) new Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  In the underground parking garage of the center, Bob's Mom was so excited about the situation that she began tap-dancing to the tune (her voice) of "The Good Ship Lollipop."  Bob, Susie, and Bob's Dad were horrified but unsurprised by this outburst of Joie de Vivre.]


THE STORY


Occupy New Haven and Returning The Tent

Sunday night I helped Elijah take down the big tent at Occupy New Haven and hightail it outta the City on the Sound back to calm Middletown.  It was Thanksgiving week and Elijah wanted to take a train to Durham, N.C. to see his baby brother at Duke.  We loaded up my 1998 Subaru Outback Wagon with the tent and the rest of Elijah's worldly goods and made our final escape from New Haven.

Back in Middletown the next day, we dried out the tent, folded it up as nicely as you can when somebody's lived in it for a month on the New Haven Green, and took it back that Monday afternoon to Dick's in Newington.  "Bob, you do the talking when we return the tent."  "Okay," I assured Elijah, whom I call ma' Big Bro' even though he's 24 and I'm 61, "lemme handle it.  I think I'll be able to get your money back.  What did you say was wrong with the tent?  Some leaking in the rain?"  "Yeah, and not totally wind-resistant," Elijah said to Little Bro' wit' Room to Grow, his pet name for me.

Big bro' had bought the tent at Dick's in North Haven for $250 cash.  Fortunately he'd kept the receipt and kept track of how long he'd used the tent.  We were one day away from the 30-day return period.

We walked into the sporting goods Dick's franchise on the Berlin Turnpike and plopped the big package on the cashier's counter.  It's a large tent, big enough for 4 or 5 campers, so the folded tent, in it's original carrying case, is about 2 feet by 4 feet by 1 1/2 feet high.  It has two carrying handles.

The young female cashier asked me what I wanted.  "The tent is great but it's not totally waterproofed as advertised and it also lets in a lot more wind than the salesman promised my friend here when he bought it at the North Haven store.  The receipt I handed her showed Elijah had bought it at another store in the Dick's franchise family.  "Don't I know you from Titanium?" the sales girl asked me.  I didn't remember her, frankly, but I immediately acted as if I did and said, "Yeah, that's right.  I knew as soon as I saw you I'd seen you before but I couldn't for the life of me remember where."  Turns out she was one of the "shot girls" for a while.  Titanium Club hires very attractive young ladies, dressed in VERY short skirts and skimpy tops to carrry round trays of shot glasses around the dance floor, filled with shot glasses filled with electric blue or red liquor, and try to sell as many as they can for $3 a shot.  Since I drink water when I dance, I don't buy the shots although I've yielded to what I felt was extreme pressure from some of the girls one or two times and given in.  This sales girl was NOT one of the girls whose entreaties fell on fertile old ears on my old head, but at this very time I needed something from her: $250 cash in refund for the tent, for ma' Big bro' Elijah.

"No problem," she said, as she fiddled with the electronic cash register and handed me $250 in cold cash, which I in turn gave to Elijah, who had a big smile on his young face.  "Thank you," I purred, "and I hope to see you soon at Titanium."  She smiled and looked at Elijah, and then back to me, before turning her attention to the next customer.  My skills in dealing with strangers in a friendly and relaxed way, which learned and honed as a lawyer over 36 years had come in handy in this transaction.  I knew it, Big bro' knew it, and the cashier experienced IT.


Occupy New York and Dancin' Under Grand Central Station

I'd been wanting to go down and get pepper-sprayed in the Big Apple ever since I saw the photos in the NY Times of the protestors getting sprayed at Occupy Berkeley at U Cal.  I had no clue the trip would yield no such fun experience, and no clue I'd wind up finding a dancin' gig between the train terminus in Grand Central and the the subway entrance under the central train station in the Big Apple.  Fun is the thing which happens when you're trying to do something else.  In this case, Big bro' and I were looking for the subway to get down to Wall Street and what I hoped were many of New York's finest, dressed in blue and armed with pepper spray.  But the most exciting thing that happened that day was the dancing.

Big bro' was carrying his big bag of clothing for the long Thanksgiving break he was going to take the train to Durham to spend with his real Little bro' with Room to Grow.  Elijah also had his trusty I-pad and I-phone, both of which have video filming capability.  These features came in handily that late Tuesday afternoon.

Because Elijah got up so late that morning, we didn't get on the train to New York in New Haven until 2 p.m. or so.  The train got into Grand Central around 4.  We found out what train we needed to connect to below Grand Central to get to Wall Street and bought our subway passes at the machines on the other side of the terminal.

As we walked down into the subway tunnels beneath Grand Central, I heard the Siren Song of a dance band playing.  It was a full contingent of drummer, sax, electric guitar, and lead trombonist.  A very large crowd had already formed a 3-sided square around the band, creating a kind of stage in front of the band.  A Hispanic woman, in her 30's was dancing in front of the band.  Two young men were dancing around the rest of the stage.  Unable to resist the Siren Sound's Call to Dance, I stepped onto the "stage" and began dancing.  Elijah, being a very alert-to-the-opportunity-of-the-moment, took out his I-pad, fired up the video function, placed the device on his suitcase, and began a 30-minute unedited film of me, and at times him, dancing with the young lady on the "stage."  The crowd grew larger as the dance progressed.  The young men who were dancing when I arrived eventually lost interest and moved on to other opportunities, leaving me to dance with the young woman.  Elijah danced for a bit but then backed off and enjoyed the show and made sure the video camera on the I-pad was recording all the action.

Elijah promised me before we parted that night, after participating in a less-than-exciting Occupy Wall Street event, that he would email me clips of the dancing so I could post it on "Bobs blog," for your, my dear readers, enjoyment, entertainment, and amusement.  More than a month passed and I had still not received the video, so I sent Big bro' three text messages, "First Petition, Second Petition, and Third Petition," over a period of a week, to encourage him to send me the promised film footage.

Finally, yesterday, the Gift arrived.  It was a late, but very welcome, Christmas present from Big bro' to Little Bro' with Room to Grow.  Elijah sent it by email attachment.  He had edited the 30 minutes of raw video into an 8-minute production, complete with opening title, funny captions along the way, and final credits.  There are dissolves, in which one scene is seen to collapse like a falling curtain on the screen, only to give way to the next "curtain" going up with the next scene.  I was thrilled with the final product and left a voicemail for Big bro', thanking him profusely for the great video, which he has posted to YouTube, and telling him I'd call him after my thrice-weekly meditation session that evening.

Without further ado, here's the web link to the YouTube video by my Big bro', Elijah Blue Sanchez, showing yours truly, author of "Bobs blog" and the Crazy Old Dancin' Dude, gettin' it down with Apple in the Tunnels of Dance under Grand Central Station in New York City.


                             http://youtu.be/jF1mYybtJdQ


                                                                             

Monday, December 26, 2011

R. Hope Company--RHC--Promotional Video for Titanium Dance Club--Including Photos of The Crazy Dancin' Dude---and Super-Duper New Year's Eve Dance Party at Titanium Club in Middletown, CT

My friends at R. Hope Company, a dance club promotional company founded by my friend Ryan Estevez ("ole blue eyes," I call him, though he's not old like yours truly), have put together a three-minute YouTube video of a lot of the photos taken at Titanium dance club over the past few months, backed up by some cool music.  They've included a bunch of photos of yours truly, the Crazy Dancin' Dude.

If you want to see the video, here's the link:   http://youtu.be/9wEDd7exNzA    Paste the link in your browser's address window, click "Enter," and you'll be taken to the video.

The party for New Year's Eve at Titanium Club, promoted by RHC, promises to be a memorable bash.  Free Champagne and party favors, no cover, and some really good DJ's.  Come down if you wanna party on New Year's Eve.  The club will be open an extra hour, until 3 a.m.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mental Illness, the Death Penalty, Law, Morality, and the Messiness (and Wonderful Complexity) of The Human Condition

My original blog post on the three homicide/murder cases I've been following was entitled:

 "SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2011:  Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity or Cold-Blooded First Degree Murder, and Psychiatric Treatment or Death by Lethal Injection: Three Confounding Case Studies: Stephen Morgan, Joshua Komisarjevsky, and David Messinger."


An Anonymous reader posted a Comment which stimulated a long response by me, which I wrote right after I read the Comment, as I sat here, where I still am, in the Dunkin Donuts on South Main Street in Midddletown.  Those of you interested in this topic may find Anonymous's Comment and my reply of similar interest.   Here they are:


Anonymous said...

Hello Bob -- thanks for writing your blog - always find it interesting -- always read it. I work in the mental health field -- in fact, for a time, I worked at Elmcrest. Many folks suffer, under the skin, with untreated emotional disorders, ptsd, neglect, etc. I don't make excuses for those who step over the line of civil and acceptable social behavior. I don't applaud those who don't. I don't make excuses because of 'conditions'. We all come to the planet with lessons to learn, challenges to face, problems to overcome. I hardly know anyone who couldn't qualify under some code in the DSM-TR. In general, I have to say I disagree with capitol punishment, though I acknowledge how satisfying it might be for the family of a victim (and I DO get that). Instead, I can't think of a more permanent punishment than life without any possibility of parole -- and with prisoner rights removed....like recreation, access to libraries, computers, television, appeals etc. Now that is a lonely existence that forces 'THOUGHT' and, just maybe, some true penance. We don't have to see it -- it just needs to happen. Let God or the universe judge. What are your thoughts?

Bob Dutcher aka Grandude said...

Good morning, Anonymous (12-22-11 at 5:47 p.m.),
Thank you very much for your substantive Comment. And thank you for reading "Bobs blog."
I've thought deeply about this subject. During the Komisarjevsky trial, I posted a lot of Comments on courant.com, especially following the article reporting the death penalty verdict by the jury. My online moniker was "Intrigued Lawyer."
Most of the Commenters following the penalty phase were convinced that there was NO QUESTION that Komisarjevsky should and would get the death penalty. They saw the trial as a farce and pointless. How, they wrote, could anyone think otherwise? How gleeful we would be, they Commented, to pull the switch and let the lethal poisons enter Joshua's veins in the execution chamber. They viewed him as "vermin," to be exterminated the way he killed Dr. Petit's daughters and wife. They predicted the jury would make a decision quickly, since there was no alternative to the jury ordering Komisarjevsky killed by the State.
I made it clear, in all of my responses and comments, that I made no judgment about Dr. Petit wanting Komisarjevsky and Hayes to get the death penalty. How do I know how I would react under similar, unthinkable circumstances. I had only compassion for him, but also hoped, as I've written on "Bobs blog," that Dr. Petit is able, as Job was, in the Old Testament tale, to move from a focus on the horror of life to a search for love in the face of tragedy. Again, whether he is capable of achieving that transition, whether I would in similar circumstances, is unknown. But Job shows it's possible. Elie Wiesel shows it's possible.
Consider Elie Wiesel. He survived the Nazi death camps. He lost family members. He looked evil in the face and, in his novel "Night," he wrote that his faith in God went up in smoke from the chimneys of Auschwitz. But somewhere along the line out of the death camps, Wiesel regained his faith.
When Wiesel spoke at my alma mater, Wesleyan, earlier this year, about the death penalty, he said the State should NEVER kill anyone in retaliation for murder. Hard labor, yes. Imprisonment for life, yes. But never capital punishment. Death is not the solution for death, he intoned.
The courant.com Commenters argued from the Old Testament, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." That, I suggested, was an argument for proportionality in sentencing. While it can also be seen as a justification for capital punishment, that principle must be reconciled with the even older principle that "Thou shalt not kill." In that Commandment, there is no exception for capital punishment by the State.
Now we are humans, not Gods. We live a mortal life of pleasure, pain, and woe. Our souls are more complex than the Ten Commandments may acknowledge. So we make exceptions to the blanket rule: killing in self-defense is fine; killing in warfare is fine, even celebrated; it's okay for the United States to invade Iraq without justification and cause the death of hundreds of thousands of people, thousands of soldiers, and countless maimed people; it was okay for the United States to unleash the atomic bomb on the world, and the world's subsequent history, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because the end justified the means; it was okay for America to firebomb Dresden and Tokyo, because the end justified the means.
In the Komisarjevsky case, the courant.com reported that the jurors were in tears because they wanted to find a way to save Joshua's damaged life and still give Dr. Petit the satisfaction of seeing Joshua killed. They could not, so they decided on death.

(Continued in next Comment, due to length limitations of the blog program)

Bob Dutcher aka Grandude said...

(above Comment is continued here)

The jury took four days to weigh the evidence and reach a verdict. This infuriated the angry, enraged mob of Commenters on the courant.com Comments section. How, they raged, could the jury be so stupid? How, they ranted, could our justice system be so dysfunctional? How nice, they vented, it would be to pull the switch, to fire up Old Sparky, to see Joshua treated like a bitch by the other prisoners in Somers?
Appalled by their reptilian reaction, which, I Commented, mirrored the reptilian reaction of Joshua Komisarjevsky during the Chestire Home Invasion, I suggested they might, instead, take a different approach. If Lady Justice determines that Joshua must be killed by the State, then let him be killed by the State, by all of us, but we then should ask for God's forgiveness for our own act of killing a creature of God, In Cold Blood. The executioner who pulls the switch to release the killing brew into Joshua's veins will, I hoped, do so with difficulty, with reluctance, and with tears of sadness running down his cheeks. That, I suggested, was the only proper way to possibly reconcile the legal duty to kill the young man with the moral responsibility to refrain from all killing, no exceptions.
The problem with Wiesel's recommendation (death, never; hard labor, forever), and yours, is that we have another moral principle in play in America: the Constitution. The 8th Amendment (no cruel or unusual punishment) has been interpreted in a way which would prohibit some forms of "hard labor" "no recreation, no library access, no computers, no television, no appeals, etc.", as you suggest.
You have raised some VERY interesting and challenging issues. That's why my response has been so long. We've only scratched the surface of this fascinating and enormously complex subject.
I'll leave you with this thought. Our dialogue calls to mind this Zen koan:

WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING?

I do hope you'll make more Comments on the blog about this or any other issue.

Happy Holidays,

Bob Dutcher







Monday, December 19, 2011

90 Degrees from Vertical: The Joy of Sawing Fallen Trees with The Little Saw That Could

I didn't know that deciduous trees don't drop their leaves if the canopies are decapitated from the trunks.  Nature revealed this secret to me, rudely.

It was as if a bomb had been dropped by an off-target military drone.  Our backyard was a welter of half-felled trees.  Large trees, trees with trunks several feet in diameter, had been uprooted and were lying in the horizontal plane.  It reminded me of those funny home movies where it looks like the kids are walking up the walls of the family room at the birthday party.  But that's just a cheap parlor trick, where Dad turned the 8 mm camera 90 degrees from vertical and makes it look like we were defying the laws of nature.  After the late-October snowstorm struck this year, the laws of nature were defying our human expectations.  The big trees in my backyard really were 90 degrees from vertical.

So was it with all the neighbors.  But we weren't in a war zone.  This was no man-made explosion.   It's just that the snowstorm struck out of order, in late fall, when the leaves were still on the deciduous trees.

Here are two photos I took up the street from our cul-de-sac.  The first one shows what happened when I tried to drive to the food store the morning after the storm.  When I got to within a quarter-block of the main road, a large tree had collapsed across the roadway.  And a transformer from the utility pole was down on the ground.  I walked gingerly through the downed wires to take a look at the other side.


The second photo is taken in the opposite direction, looking south on Jacobs Terrace in the direction of our cul-de-sac at the end, Chimney Hill.  It sort of reminds me of what Santa and Mrs. Claus's home territory looks like year-round at the North Pole.



The snow didn't stay on the trees long, but the damage to the power grid was done quickly.  The wheel of seasons had not yet turned from fall to winter.  We hadn't even finished having our pre-winter, late-fall Indian Summer.  That was still a month-and-a-half away.

This time we lost electric power for six days.  After the hurricane-force winds of Irene blew the trees and branches into the electric wires back in late October, we lost electricity for only four days.  The power company had taken so much heat from the public and the politicians that the trees and branches which were at risk of breaking and falling across the transmission lines supposedly had already been taken down or trimmed by the time Mother Nature decided to have some fun with us and threw all that heavy white frozen water all over the still-intact leaves of our lovely trees; maples, oaks, and willows, and the stately but pain-in-the-butt cottonwood trees (the ones that drop thousands of those tiny parachute-like seed pods with cotton-like albino Afro which get all over the garage and have to be swept up to prevent the garage from camafloging itself as a cotton field in Alabama).

In our backyard there is what's called a retention pond.  It's shaped like a pond but it's only been full of water one or two times in the quarter-century we've lived here.  Our cul-de-sac has a storm water catchbasin connected to a pipe which empties the storm water from Chimney Hill into a little stream which runs through the retention pond.  The city required the pond be dug because of fears from a downstream neighbor that storm waters from our street would flood their land.  As it turned out, that fear was unwarranted except for those two occasions since we moved here in 1986 when the depression to the rear of our backyard filled with water from an extremely heavy, and unusual, rainfall.

The developer of the Chimney Hill subdivision never turned the maintenance responsibility for the retention pond over to the city, as was permitted by the city ordinances at the time.  Had she done so, the city public works department would have become responsible to maintain the pond.  Our developer lives on her family homestead which adjoins the retention pond but she has chosen not to maintain it and over 25 years what used to be a relatively open area became thickly overgrown with large deciduous trees.  These are the trees which were weakenend by the high winds of Hurricane Irene in late September and finally pushed over or entirely felled by the anomalous late-October snowstorm.

Hurricane Irene brought us high winds and heavy rain which, in combination, loosened the root system of the trees in the retention pond.  When the snowstorm added heavy frozen water (snow) to the canopies of these trees, the trees simply gave up any further resistance and moved to horizontal, as if they were so stressed out and tired from all these insults from Mother Nature that they needed to just stretch out and take a power nap.  Unfortunately trees do not sleep a few hours or so for their naps and then get up to vertical again, energy restored and outlook refreshed.

Here are three photos of our backyard after the snowstorm dropped its bomb.






I had hired The Tree Man, Mike Mitchell, after Hurricane Irene to remove some fallen branches from our ancient willow tree in the backyard.  And Mike and his crew (Mike's son and James Hepburn) were in the neighborhood after the snowstorm so I paid him $350 to chainsaw and remove the biggest of the now-horizontal trees in our backyard.  Our neighbor who owns the retention pond said she had no money to do any tree removal work in the retention pond so it was fine with her if I took matters into my own hands or hired someone to trim the trees there.  "If you know anyone who wants firewood, tell 'em they can take anything they can find," she told me when I called for permission to remove the trees which had been transformed by the snowstorm into debris to be removed.

In an earlier "Bobs blog" post I mentioned that one of Mike's crew members is James Hepburn, a nephew of Katherine Hepburn (yes, the actress, not just somebody with the same name).  Here's a photo of Mike's son, me, and James Hepburn mugging for the camera during a break from the post-Hurricane Irene clean-up work.  James is the tall guy to my left.


After Mike and his crew took down most of the big trees which were resting at horizontal in our backyard, there was still a humongous quantity of tree trunks, branches, and cut logs which created an unpleasant-looking backyard and retention pond beyond it.  Since Susie and I are selling the house, I wondered how I could clear out some of the debris without paying somebody else to do it.  

Then I remembered The Little Saw in my basement.  Several years ago I bought the saw to prune some tree branches but I'd forgotten about it.  I happened to see it last week when I went to the basement to pack up some items needing transport to the new house.  It looked kind of puny compared to the size of some of the tree trunks which needed to be cut and the multitude of large broken tree limbs which had split off from their main trunks.   Here's a photo of The Little Saw.


Over the next few days, I found myself wanting to go out in the retention pond and saw wood.  The Little Saw only has an 18-inch blade, double-sided, with larger teeth on one side and smaller on the other.  It takes a lot of effort to saw through large limbs and trunks with elbow grease alone, but it turned out to be both excellent upper body strength-training and mentally focusing.  I found a lot of pleasure in learning how to be cautious around bent, but strong tree trunks.  It's critical that you pay careful attention to the sound of cracking of the wood, which indicates that the cut in the wood from the saw is beginning to undermine the structure of the wood, it may be beginning to break apart, and you had better look and listen to what's happening, to avoid getting hit in the face by two pieces of wood splitting apart under great tension caused by the tearing apart of the wood fibers under the heavy pressure to the fibers by the gravitational force which is pulling the heavy trunk or limb downward, to earth.

I put the branches and the cut wood into two piles, one totally within the retention pond, the other on the pond's south side. Here are two photos of the sawn wood piles.



All my adult life, until now, I've done only intellectual work, in the law.  For years I hated doing yard work.  But now that I'm retired, it seems I've regained my zest for alternative ways to keep my body fit.  A few hours sawing wood, with The Little Saw That Could, leaves my entire body, and my mind,  feeling relaxed, happy, and energized.  This exercise is certainly a form of meditation.  

Here's a photo of how our backyard looks now.  For the most part, the remaining trees are back to vertical.  Hopefully, prospective buyers will appreciate how the yard looks now.  While I was unhappy when I first saw what the late-October snowstorm surprise did to our yard and the retention pond, I am happy now that the storm gave me the chance to learn The Joy of Sawing Fallen Trees with The Little Saw That Could!






Saturday, December 17, 2011

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity or Cold-Blooded First Degree Murder, and Psychiatric Treatment or Death by Lethal Injection: Three Confounding Case Studies: Stephen Morgan, Joshua Komisarjevsky, and David Messinger

The three-judge panel found Stephen Morgan not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich today at 12:30 p.m. (Friday, December 16, 2011).  I was in the courtroom for final arguments from 10 to 11 a.m. and then hung around the courthouse until the verdict came in.

The chief judge of the panel, Susan Handy, announced the verdict from the bench, flanked by the other two judges.  First she announced that the prosecutor had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt,  that Morgan was guilty of murder, guilty of killing Johanna because she was jewish, and guilty of illegal possession of a hand gun.  At this, the young red-haired woman whom I believe to be Johanna's sister shook her head in satisfaction and agreement.

Morgan's family was sitting on the other side of the spectators' benches.  Morgan's two sisters were sitting with their right hands to their mouths, tensely awaiting the decision on the insanity defense.

"We the panel also find that the defense has sustained its burden of proving, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that Morgan was unable at the time of the offenses to appreciate the wrongfullnes of his actions or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law," intoned Judge Handy, as the other judges sat to her left, staring straight ahead, with eyes down, expressionless.   Therefore, she went on, Morgan will be committed to the custody of the PSRB, the Psychiatric Security Review Board, for evaluation and treatment.  "A hearing will be held after 60 days to hear evidence and argument about the conditions and terms of his confinement at Whiting Forensic Institute at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown.  He will not be going back to Garner Correctional."

With that verdict, Morgan's two sisters, and his brother, began to cry.  They were obviously tears of joy that their brother will be serving time, and getting proper psychiatric care,  in a psychiatric facility rather than a prison.

Johanna's immediate family, her father, mother, and other relatives, other than her sister, had returned to Colorado, so they distributed a statment thanking the court system, the prosecutor, and the court marshals for being so kind and helpful to them in making their stay in Middletown safe and comfortable.

Stephen Morgan himself showed no sign of any reaction to the verdict.

Tim Liston, the prosecutor, remained cool, calm, and collected.  He turned and walked over to Johanna's sister.  They shook hands and Tim said a few things to the sister which I could not hear.  It was obvious from their body language that Johanna's sister was very comfortable with Tim.  She knew he had done the best job a prosecutor could do to present her sister's case to the world.  Tim then turned away to pack up his papers and files in order to leave the courtroom.

Stephen Morgan's father, the tall, bald, red-faced Irish-American retired businessman walked forward to try to reach Richard Brown, his son's lead defense lawer, to thank him, but Brown made a facial expression and said to Mr. Morgan, "Let's meet across the hallway to talk."  On the other side of the corridor outside the courtoom, on the third floor of the courthouse at One Court Street in Middletown, is a small conference room where the Morgan family met privately during breaks throughout the trial.  Before taking the stairs down to get to the first floor and exit the building, I walked down the corridor and looked into the conference room through the tall rectangular window in each of the cherry wooden doors of the conference rooms, to catch a glimpse of the Morgan family, hoping I'd see a bit of emotion.  I didn't want to seem to be invading their privacy, so I only saw into the room for a few seconds.  Mrs. Morgan, Stephen's mother, was sitting down and one of his sisters was standing.  I couldn't discern what was going on there emotionally.

Afterwards, I followed the TV and newspaper reporters outside to the front steps of the courthouse, where Richard Brown, the lead defense lawyer, gave a little press conference.  He stood with his back to the building, facing City Hall across Court Street.  Six or seven reporters and 5 or 6 still and TV cameramen stood in a semi-circle facing the courthouse steps as Attorney Brown strode down the steps and into the waiting media.  Brown was reserved, calm, and serious in his demeanor and answers to the questions.

He expressed the Morgan family's positive reaction to the verdict, which means that their son will get proper psychiatric treatment at the state hospital.  He also said what a tragedy this is for Johanna's family.  "Nobody 'won' today.  This was a tragic loss of a vibrant, intelligent, happy human being.  No words can express the sadness the Morgan family feels about the horrible thing their son did.   He also explained that Morgan is likely to remain in the custody of the PSRB "indefiinitely."  Brown also said that to this point, Johanna's family has not wanted to speak with the Morgan family about the case because their grief is too raw, still, and they need time and space to mourn Johanna's passing in their own way.  There was no cocky gloating by Brown.  He was very matter-of-fact about it all and was appropriately low-key and serious.

After the press lost interest in asking more questions and the news conference ended, I walked with Brown back to the parking lot.  There was no need for me to introduce myself as he clearly remembered talking with me after the October court appearance, following which I had explained my past as a trial lawyer and he told me what I've reported in an earlier blog post.

Yesterday, in talking with Brown, I compared the insanity defense outcome in Morgan's case with the verdict of death in the Joshua Komisarjevsky case.  I asked if he agreed with the defense strategy in Komisarjevsky of requesting a jury trial rather than a three-judge panel, given the egregious nature of the crimes charged and the lack of an insantity defense.  "Do you agree with the idea that a three-judge panel would have been more psychologically open to giving Komisarjevsky life than a jury, assuming the judges had credited all the evidence that Komisarjevsky had such a horrible childhood.  Brown shared my concern about that choice, of jury versus judge trial.  "Whenever you have a stranger killing another stanger, it's almost impossible to get the insantity defense, especially from a jury.  But here, the state's own psychiatric evaluation agreed with the defense's assessment, that Morgan was a paranoid scizophrenic and thought that Johanna was out to hurt him."

Why, I asked Brown, did Tim Liston go forward with the prosecution, calling 38 witnesses from all over the country, putting into evidence over 100 exhibits, going through all that sturm and drang when the outcome was so clear once the State's psychiatrist issued a report agreeing with the defense psychiatrist that Morgan suffered from paranoid schizophrenic delusions when he killed Johanna?  "I don't know," Brown said, somewhat puzzled himself, "but at least this way Johanna's family knows as much of the story of what happened, and why it happened, as they could have learned without a trial."

What should we make of the capital punishment ordered by the jury for the murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky (the death penalty), but the non-capital punishment of the killers David Messenger and Stephen Morgan?  All three of the crimes were horrific. Why were two of the killers going for medical treatment (Messenger and Morgan), but Komisarjevsky has been sentenced to die?  And after only ten years in psychiatric confinement at Whiting Forensic Institution, David Messenger is making serious progress in getting permission from the PSRB to be released into society.  What's going on?  Is this fair?

In the case of Komisarjevsky, he clearly suffered from depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder, probably the result of the sexual abuse he suffered growing up and the lack of any psychiatric care or attention because of his adoptive family's distrust of the modern psychiatric establishment.  The problem in his case is that because his adoptive parents never sought the psychiatric care which Joshua Komisarjevsky clearly needed, there were no pre-murder psychiatric reports for the prosecution to be able to go to Dr. Petit and appeal for him to agree that the prosecutor could accept the defense offer to put Komisarjevsky away in prison for the rest of his natural life.  Alternatively, such pre-murder reports would have enabled the defense to consider mounting an insanity defense; and the reports would have made it somewhat easier to appeal to the jury to spare Joshua's life.  I do continue to wonder why Komisarjevsky's lawyers did not waive a jury trial and seek to save their client's life by making the appeal to judges to spare his life, since the facts of the crime itself (rape, arson, murder) have no jury appeal.  When I next see Jeremiah Donovan, Komisarjevsky's lead defense counsel, I'll have to ask him why they felt they'd do better with jurors than judges.

Stephen Morgan's is the easiest case to understand why he was acquitted by reason of insanity.  The psychiatrists for both prosecution and defense agreed Morgan was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time he killed Johanna.  Also, he had pre-kiling psychiatric treatment, essentially throughout his life, culminating in a report of a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia when he was at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007 or 2008, more than a year or so before Morgan killed Johanna.

David Messenger is the hard case to understand.  David was a successful engineer who lived with his pregnant wife and 8-year-old son in eastern Connecticut.  He had no history of any psychiatric illness or treatment.  David heard voices which told him that his wife was going to harm their son if he didn't kill her.  He beat his pregnant wife to death with a 2 by 4 board, right in front of their son.

Psychiatrists for both the prosecution and the defense concluded that David had suffered a severe, one-time psychotic break.  Temporary insanity, the hardest things for laypeople (including me) to understand.  But the prosecutor was moved by the agreement of both forensic psychiatrists that David was insane, so there was no trial, just a stipuation by both sides that David should spend a long time at Whiting Forensic Institute, and no time in prison.  Now, 10 years later, the psychiatrists gave testimony to the PSRB that David is, in their view, ready to be released from Whiting Forensic into the community.

It does not make sense to me that Joshua Komisarjevsky, who demonstrably had a childhood and upbringing which severely compromised his ability to find pleasure and balance in ordinary human interaction, has been ordered by the jury to die by lethal injection, yet David Messenger, who had no evidence of a bad upbringing, nor any evidence of pre-killing psychiatric disorders or treatment, may be released back into the community after only 10 years.

I got to know David Messenger personally because he gradually got permission to be escorted outside the mental hospital and his locked building, under the supervision of an aide who had to be near him at all times.
My good friend and former minister, John Hall, struck up a friendship with David and eventually invited him to First Church, my former church.  David eventually joined the church and has now ingratiated him into the lives of some of the church members.  David is a very intelligent man, but somewhat guarded when asked for details of what it was like for him at the moment he lost control and killed his pregnant wife with a 2 by 4.
I don't wish David ill, in any way, but I do wonder about a system of justice in which a young man like Joshua Komisarjevsky gets the death penalty, where there's lots of evidence he had all kinds of psychiatric problems before he killed his victims, yet David Messenger, who had no evidence at all of pre-killing mental illness or treatment, may be released from confinement after only 10 years.

It is such considerations as these, and others, which lead me to question the morality and justice of the death penalty.  My reptilian brain says "Fry the bastards," but my cerebral cortex and, I hope, the best part of my spirit, replies, "Now just hold that thought there a minute, serpent, while we think this one through a bit more."  Go figure.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Arbitrary Application of the Death Penalty---Evidence of Pre-Murder Mental Health Treatment Avoids the Death Penalty but Not Evidence of Untreated Pre-Murder Mental Health Problems---Compare State vs. Stephen Morgan with State vs. Joshua Komisarjevsky

My hunch is this--where there is credible evidence that a cold-blooded murderer received psychiatric treatment for serious mental health problems before the crime, prosecutors do not seek the death penalty.  But a defendant who had an equally long history of pre-murder serious mental illness may well face the ultimate blood-penalty if he came from a family which did not believe in modern mental health treatment and never sought such help for the defendant.

This prosecutorial dynamic is being played out in two of the murder cases currently on trial in Connecticut.  Both cases involve brutal, senseless, cold-blooded murders of wonderful young women, but only one of the defendants is under serious threat of execution.  Both men are in their early 30's, but the one who does not face capital punishment came from a well-off, modern-thinking family which early-on in their son's life realized he had mental health challenges and sought appropriate psychiatric treatment.  The other man had the misfortune to have been adopted by evangelical Christian parents who were very loving of him in their own way, but their understanding of their Christian faith was incompatible with the modern faith in the efficacy of modern psychiatry; hence, his serious mental health challenges went untreated by modern psychiatry.

Stephen Morgan is on trial for the murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University junior, in the college bookstore.  Morgan's lawyer has now conceded in open court that State's Attorney Tim Liston has proven that Morgan murdered Johanna in cold blood with a 9mm automatic handgun.  The question now is whether the defense can prove that Morgan was legally insane when he fired seven bullets into Johanna.  If so, Morgan will be treated at Connecticut Valley Mental Hospital and could be released from the hospital once his mental health has been restored.  If not, Morgan will go to state's prison for a very long time, with only hit-or-miss psychiatric treatment.

Joshua Komisarjevsky is on trial for his life.  The jury found him guilty of murder, rape, arson, and kidnapping Dr. William Petit's wife and two daughters.  The question the jury is now deliberating is whether the evidence of Komisarjevsky's severe developmental and psychological problems, for which his adoptive parents never sought psychiatric treatment, amount to mitigating factors which offset the aggravated nature of the crime itself.  The legal algorithm is extremely complex (and well-explained in The Courant's coverage of the case).  Essentially, if the jury finds there were mitigating factors in Komisarjevsky's life, or in his role in the crime itself, and the aggravated nature of the crime does not outweigh the mitigating factors, then the jury must sentence him to life in prison.  But if they find the aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors, they must return a verdict of death by lethal injection.

In Morgan's case, the uncontroverted evidence so far elicited by the defense shows that Morgan was a troubled child, whose parents took reasonable measures of getting him appropriate professional help. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan had their young Stephen evaluated by psychiatrists as early as age 6, took him out of the public school and put him in a private school in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  Stephen did well in the structured environment of the Navy, where he served honorably for four years.  He went to the University of Colorado and in 2007 and 2008, the year before he shot Johanna to death, he referred himself to the psychiatric service at the school.  The doctors there diagnosed Morgan as schizophrenic.  This long history was well-documented in written reports, so there was no hint that it was a fiction conjured up by lawyers, or the defendant himself, to save his neck from the gallows.  (I use the archaic noun "gallows" because that is what the bloggers on the Hartford Courant's website articles would like to happen to both Morgan and Komisarjevsky.  These crimes stir the blood-lust of many people.  Their bloodthirsty cries for vengeance call to mind the "furies" which the ancient Greeks recognized needed to be transformed into the modern rational legal system for responding to cold-blooded murder.)

A forensic psychologist, Dr. Madelon Baranoski, did extensive psychological testing on Morgan in the months following the killing.  She is affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine and its Law and Psychiatry program.  Dr. Baranoski testified yesterday that Morgan had an IQ of 86 and is a paranoid schizophrenic.  He suffers from anxiety disorder.  His thinking is disordered and scattered.  As he has throughout the trial, Stephen Morgan rocks in his chair, at the defense table, during this testimony.  He seems to be paying very close attention to every word which emanates from the animated mouth of Dr. Baranoski.

Down in New Haven, Joshua Komisarjevsky has been diagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists with mood disorder, depression, an inability to regulate his feelings when they become intense, and an inability to feel anything at times, leading him to cut himself to feel something.  But all of these evaluations were performed after he murdered the Petit women.  His evangelical Christian adoptive parents never got him any psychological or psychiatric help, despite clear signs he needed it.  Instead, they hoped that keeping Joshua in Christian church groups and putting him through exoricism ceremonies to try to force the Devil from his soul was a better way to deal with his mental and emotional problems than modern psychiatric treatment and medication.

The State's Attorney in Morgan's case decided not to seek the death penalty.  Now that the evidence about Morgan's pre-killing and  long-standing psychological problems, and pre-killing diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, has been revealed, it's easy to understand why State's Attorney Tim Liston decided not to seek the death penalty.

On the other hand, Michael Dearington, the New Haven Judicial District's State's Attorney, IS seeking the death penalty for Joshua Komisarjevsky.  And Dr. Petit seems desperate to see that Joshua is executed by the State.  While Komisarjevsky's crimes are more heinous than Morgan's, the effect on the victims' families is the same.  Three loved ones are dead in the case of Komisarjevsky and one is dead in the case of Morgan.

Why did Tim Liston not seek the death penalty for Stephen Morgan but Michael Dearington did seek death for Joshua Komisarjevsky?

I suspect it's largely because Stephen Morgan's family wisely sought psychiatric treatment for him from an early age, culiminating in the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia just a year or so before he killed Johanna.

But Joshua Komisarjevsky got no such treatment.  His psychiatric demons were never treated with the tools of modern psychiatry.
Instead, his parents chose the "Christian" option of excorcism and church fellowship.  Joshua Komisarjevsky was a lost soul, in a troubled family.  His adoptive parents were loving, kind, Christians, but they had no faith in the value of modern psychiatry.

Faced with Morgan's extensive pre-killing psychological treament, and his pre-killing diagnosis of schizophrenia, Tim Liston, the Middlesex County State's Attorney, recognized that Morgan had a documented history of severe mental illness, such that the death penalty would be an inappropriate outcome to the case.

On the other hand, Komasarjevsky did not have the benefit of such medical treament throughout his formative years.  Dr. Petit is understandably furious at what Komisarjevsky did to destroy the doctor's family.  State's Attorney Dearington makes his own decisions about whether to seek the death penalty, but the feelings of the affected famkly are also considered.  And with no evidence of pre-crime serious psychological disturbance, it was probably impossible to get Dr. Petit to agree to let the defendant live, rather than die, by not seeking the death penalty.

The murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich was clearly pre-meditated.  Johanna was jewish.  Stephen Morgan expressed anti-semitic hatred in a journal found in his car after the killing.  Morgan shot her at close range.  He had been stalking her for months and was angry at her for, in his mind, rejecting a relationship with him.  He disguised himself with a long wig.  He escaped the police dragnet in and around the bookstore.  Absent his long history of pre-murder documented psychiatric treatment, the State's Attorney probably would have sought the death penalty for him.

Joshua Komisarjevsky had no history of violent crime.  He had no animus towards Dr. Petit's family.  The crimes he committed were not directed at people he wanted to hurt for a long time.  The murders were impulsive, "crazy," and not pre-meditated in the way Stephen Morgan's murder of Johanna was pre-meditated over a very long time.

But Joshua Komisarjevsky had the misfortune, unlike Stephen Morgan, of being born to biological parents who didn't want him and raised by adoptive parents who were religious "nuts," at least by modern secular standards.  Those accidents of fate, over which no one has any control, mean that Komisarjevsky may be killed by the State but Morgan will at worst be imprisoned.  That seems arbitrary to me and not the basis for the state to consider killing one of the men but not the other.

There are lots of problems with the death penalty,  but some aspects which make it seem tailored to certain criminal offenses.  I suspect American society will be struggling with the pros and cons of the gallows for some time to come.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Trial of the Killing of the Wesleyan Co-ed, Johanna Justin-Jinich, by Stephen Morgan--Was it cold-blooded Murder or the result of an Irresistible Impulse?

She asked Johanna if the chicken salad was good.  "It's okay but why don't I give you a sample to see for yourself," Johanna offered, helpfully, just moments before Johanna was gunned down in cold blood.

"How did Johanna seem that day, what sort of mood was she in?" asked State's Attorney Tim Liston on Thursday at the Stephen Morgan murder trial.  "She was in a good mood.  I think she was looking forward to Spring Fling that night.  And it was a warm Spring afternoon," replied Ms. McFee, who had graduated from Wesleyan, was now living in Chicago, and returned just to testify in the trial, where Stephen Morgan will try to convince the three-judge panel that he was insane when he pulled the trigger of his automatic handgun and pumped four rounds into the standing Johanna and then, for good measure, shot the handgun three more times into Johanna's body once it was lying on the floor of the Red and Black Cafe at the Broad Street Books bookstore at the corner of William and Broad Streets in Middletown, CT.

I felt moisture in my eyes at that moment, thinking back to the photos of Johanna Justin-Jinich in the Hartford Courant.  She was a beautiful girl, the product of a short doctor with pepper-gray hair and a close-cropped beard, and a taller mother.  Johanna was better-looking than either of her parents.  This sometimes happens.  Homely mother and father, very beautiful offspring.

Combining my recollection of Johanna's beauty, the thought of that beautiful Spring day when she was cut down in cold blood by an older man who was clearly obsessed with her, and the tragedy of it all, I felt a need to release some of the emotion through my tear ducts.  My vicarious grief was compounded by the presence of the two families in the two rows in front of me in the courtroom.  The Morgan clan was on my left and the Justin-Jinich family on my right.  Stephen Morgan sits in front of the bar at the defense counsel's table, on the left side of the courtroom.  His lawyers, Richard Brown and John Maxwell sit to his right.  Tim Liston, the State's Attorney sits on the right side, to the right of his investigator, Mr. Decostanzo. Dr. Jinich and Ms. Justin, Johanna's divorced parents, sit behind the prosecutor.

At the mention of Johanna's mood on May 6, 2009, just moments before Morgan pulled the trigger on the automatic weapon, her mother and father quietly wept.  A man to her mother's right began sobbing in a more audible way.  He and Johanna's mother got up and left the courtroom.  The man had been lightly massaging Ms. Justin's upper shoulders earlier that day. I figured he might be Johanna's stepfather, although he has a somewhat Middle-Eastern look, which also led me to wonder if he were Dr. Jinich's brother when I first saw him on day one of the trial.

One day earlier, Wednesday, November 30, 2011, the first day of the trial was the first time I saw Johanna's parents moved to tears.  It was during the testimony of the guy I told Susie she should have come to watch.  He was a tall, blonde man with close-cropped hair and dark brown rectangular glasses.  He was a state police officer assigned to the Eastern Major Crimes Division.  This man had handsome, TV star looks.  He looks like one of the actors on CSI, one of Susie's favorite tv shows.  His job was to collect the evidence at major crime scenes and insure there is no compromise or contamination of the evidence.

During his testimony, the prosecutor walked over to the court clerk, on the left side of the courtroom, and took out several large manila envelopes from boxes of evidence awaiting authentication by witnesses before it could be offered in evidence by the State through the prosecutor.  One-by-one the state CSI guy was permitted by the presiding judge on the three-judge panel, Susan Handy, to open the envelopes and, wearing white latex gloves provided by the prosecutor, remove each item and identify it to the judges.  The order of admission was the black tee shirt, the long brown woman's wig, a Cleveland Indians baseball cap, the black glasses, the computer case, the notebook inside the computer case, the expended bullet shells, the bullets, and the handgun.

When he held up the wig, I flashed back to Hitchcock's "Psycho."  I think Tony Curtis wore a woman's wig and dressed up in his mother's clothes in the movie.  Unless Stephen Morgan has a satanic sense of humor, he probably failed to see the "Psycho" allusion in his amateurish attempt to conceal his identity in the Red and Black Cafe the day he killed Johanna.  In "Psycho," Norman Bates kept the corpse of his dead mother in her bed in the haunted house next to the Bates Motel.  Stephen Morgan's mother is very much alive, sitting right in front of me as her son's misdeeds are publicly recorded on the third floor of the Middlesex County Courthouse.  His father, a bald-headed man of about 70 always sits at the end of the second row behind the bar.  He sometimes has his eyes closed during the more boring parts of the testimony, when witnesses are laying foundations for their testimony.  I wonder if he ever sees is son in his mind's eye as a small child growing up in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

It was when the blonde CSI guy removed the handgun from the cardboard evidence box that I first saw Johanna's father turn his head to the right as if he couldn't bear to look for long at the weapon which Morgan used to kill his daughter.  A ballistics expert later gave a matter-of-fact explanation of how the handgun was configured to move a fresh bullet into the firing chamber, how the hammer's point enters the chamber through a small hole, strikes the rear end of the bullet's metal casing, impacts and explodes the primer, which then ignites the propellant, which expands rapidly and through the high pressure thereby created propels the lead bullet out of the metal shell casing, into the gun's barrel, through the barrel and out into the world to hit the human target, when the gunmen is so inclined, as Stephen Morgan certainly was on May 6, 2009, just after the lunch time crush at the Red and Black Cafe.

Whatever grief Johanna's father was able to conceal up to that point spilled out in the tears from his eyes when he finally saw the instrumentality of his daughter's death.  And I too, at that moment, experienced his grief, vicariously, and my own eyes moistened up.  There they all were.  Both families: Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, who seem like nice people, their children and relatives, the Dr. Justin, Ms. Jinich, the doctor's second wife, and two female couples, one consisting of a young woman with Betty Davis eyes, very sultry-looking, with reddish-toned dyed hair and her bleached-blonde female friend, and the other consisting of a black-haired pixie haircutted woman and her taller female friend with tattoos which just barely show the tops of them over her rear neckline.

If we were not in the courtoom, where the judicial marshals make sure nobody makes too much noise, falls asleep, or otherwise disrupts the due process theater, I wonder if somebody would cry out at these moments for healing words by one or the other families to the other, to recognize their common humanity and the pain which Stephen Morgan's homicidal urges has laid on the house of Morgan as well as the house of Justin-Jinich.  Of course the pain of Johanna's family exceeds the Morgans'.  For Stephen Morgan is still alive and may well live a long life behind bars, whereas Johanna will never again kiss her father's cheek or be held in warm embrace by the mother in whose womb God knitted Johanna together.

I knew before the trial that Stephen Morgan had become obsessed by Johanna Justin-Jinich during the summer of 2007 when they were in the same summer school class at New York University.  The newspapers reported some of this history.  What I didn't know until yesterday's testimony is that Morgan stalked Johanna at least as early as December 12, 2008.  She was a Wesleyan junior.  He was living out of his car and in motels, including a motel in Cromwell, Connecticut, the next town north of Middletown, where Johanna was a student at Wesleyan.  A former Middletown Nissan mechanic testified yesterday that he recalled Stephen Morgan's name when he read in the papers about the shooting of Johanna at the bookstore.  He called the police and told them that Morgan had gotten his red Nissan Sentra repaired at the dealership on Newfield Street, about two miles north of Wesleyan.  The mechanic recalled that Morgan's car was full of stuff in the back seat, clothes and other items which made it look like he might have been living out of the car.  One thing particularly caught the mechanic's eye.  There was a long brown woman's wig on top of the mess in the back of the car.  The same wig as Morgan put on six months later when he entered the bookstore to kill the object of his obsession.

The dealership's service manager also testified.  The repair invoice was put in evidence.  It turns out that Morgan had no money to pay the bill.  So the dealership's driver took Morgan back to a Cromwell motel for the evening.  Morgan returned in the morning with enough cash to pay the bill and get his car back.

It was also December 2008 when emails offered in evidence by the prosecutor were exchanged by Morgan and Johanna.  Morgan wrote to her that he thought there failure to communicate meant that she might "need" him.  Johanna, whose Yahoo email address was SunkissJo@yahoo.com, immediately wrote back to tell him to get out of her life.  Her Subject line was "Stop."  She couldn't understand how Morgan had found her new email address, as she had closed her Gmail account back in the summer of 2007 after Morgan wrote 37 pages of emails to Johanna and she filed a harrassment complaint with the New York police department.  She told him she didn't want to know him, didn't want to ever hear from him again, and would call the police if he tried to contact her again.  She called his prior emails psychotic and told him that women take self-defense classes to protect themselves against men like him.  At this point, both of Johanna's parents left the courtroom.  The repetition of this interaction between the killer and his prospective victim was too much for the parents to bear to hear.

The prosecutor and the defense attorney are real pros.  I haven't heard a single objection by either of them to the other's questions.  It's been a very non-contentious trial.  In large part that's because there's really no disagreement that Stephen Morgan did, in fact, kill Johanna.  What IS in dispute is his mental state at the time he pulled the trigger.  The psychiatrists will probably get to tell their competing stories about Morgan's mental health, next week.

There is a kind of preview of the respective positions of the defense and the State about Morgan's insanity or not at the time of the killing.  The preview takes place each time the defense lawyer cross-examines a witness who had any contact with Stephen Morgan in the bookstore after the shooting.  The defense lawyer emphasizes in his line of questioning that Stephen Morgan did not seem to be acting as a person who just killed someone with a gun.   The point seems to be that the defense will claim, as will their psychiatric experts, that Morgan may have dissociated during the killing incident and not even have been aware of his actions after he completed the killing.

When Tim Liston gets to ask questions on re-direct, he brings out the other side of the argument.  For example, the head of the Middletown Police Department SWAT team, which had been engaged in a training exercise about a mile from the bookstore, on the day of the attack, testified that he saw Stephen Morgan in the bookstore when the SWAT team got there.  By then, of course, Morgan by then had taken off the black tee shirt and put on a red Wesleyan tee-shirt.    He also had removed the wig and the dark glasses.  After Richard Brown, Morgan's lawyer, elicited the officer's view that Morgan didn't look like a man who had just killed someone and was trying to conceal his involvement in the killing, the prosecutor, Tim Liston, asked one simple question in response.  "Based on your training and experience as a police officer, does it seem to you that someone who wears a wig and conceals his identify before he committs a serious crime is trying to be open about his actions and exhibiting an attitude of not caring if somebody finds out what he just did?"  Of course the cop answered "No."

The differing approaches to the witnesses reveals the theme of each side in this case, even before their respective "hired gun" psychiatric experts testify.  For the defense, Morgan's actions show that he was out-of-touch with the consequences of his actions and, therefore, he was probably insane.  For the state, the actions of wearing a wig and false glasses, changing into other clothes after the shooting, and otherwise trying to conceal his identity, shows that Morgan is a cold-blooded, calculated, rational killer.

On this point, it matters not what you and I think about his case.  All that counts is THIS jury's decision.

The trial continues on Tuesday.  A verdict is expected to be reached before Christmas time.