The Associated Press hasn't taken up the story yet, though I know from experience that will probably change.  I wish private grief could remain private; since it is not, however, I need have no qualms about providing updates for those whose love and prayers support the particpants in this unfortunate drama.

Nearly six years after Isaac's birth, and more than four after she was charged in his death, Judy Wilson's formal trial began.  Although they support Judy and never wished her to be charged, Heather and Jon were subpoenaed by the prosecution as witnesses—the only eyewitnesses other than Judy herself.  Required to report to the Allegheny County Courthouse by 8:30 a.m. on Monday, we packed ourselves up—three sleepy children, breakfasts for eating in the car on the way, a cooler with lunch and snacks, an overstuffed diaper bag, Jon's laptop bag (Lime Daley service must be available, trial or no), a bag of books, toys and games, plus jackets, blankets, baby slings, and oh yes, legal paperwork—and headed for Pittsburgh, in the middle of rush hour.

Eventually we found a parking place and began our assault on the courthouse.  If you're going to try to bring half a mountain of belongings through a security scan, make sure at least one of them is an extremely cute two-week old baby.  Faith was the hit of the courthouse, winning hearts and smiles all day long, even from people stuffed into the elevator with us—though some folks took one look at our entourage and murmured, "I'll wait for the next one."

After reporting to the witness room, we set up our encampment outside the door, as the room was small and not a good place for two active boys to wait.  The courthouse is not exactly laid out to be family-friendly.  A door labelled "Children's Playplace" promised to make our stay more enjoyable, but reneged on that promise:  children are only allowed in if they leave their parents behind the closed door, and there are strict sign-in and sign-out procedures.  Well, the building did originally house the County Jail....  The true function of the Playplace is apparently as a holding area for children whose parents need to be in court and who have no other adult to watch them.  Bring your own adults and the cool toys are off limits.  The nice lady watching over the often-empty room did thrill the boys by giving them some gummy candies, though.

If the set-up wasn't meant for families, at least the smooth marble floor of the historic courthouse was perfect for racing Matchbox cars.  Jonathan was pretty good about keeping the cars away from the other inhabitants of the courthouse, and the people going about their business were pretty good about not screaming when a car whizzed past their feet as they turned the corner.

The people going about their business were an interesting mix.  Suit-and-tied attorneys, neatly dressed witnesses, casual reporters, and people so grungy that one hoped they weren't planning on getting anywhere near the inside of some judge's courtroom. People who clearly were comfortable in that imposing and intimidating building, and people who clearly were not.  People black and people white, though oddly enough I saw no Asians and heard no Spanish spoken.  Male and female there were, but very few on the outer edges of the age spectrum.  Jonathan, Noah, and Faith stood out even in this patchwork fabric of humanity.

There was plenty of time to observe the courthouse denizens, because after checking in our chief occupation for seven hours was waiting.  There is a definite hierarchy in the witness world, and Heather and Jon were on the bottom of it.  Police officers and paramedics have to finish their testimonies early, so they can get back out on the street.  Doctors and other bigwigs can't be kept waiting too long, of course, and though the midwives were treated rather shabbily as well, they still came before the self-employed and the parents.  I guess they just saved the best for last—from the news reports, it seems the media would agree.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We spent the morning keeping the boys entertained and somewhat corralled, and feeding, changing, and holding Faith—punctuated by occasional trips to investigate one floor up (where the courtroom was) and one floor down (where the bathrooms were).  Memo:  if you're two weeks postpartum and supposed to be avoiding stairs, and the ladies room is a very slow elevator ride distant, bathroom breaks require advance planning.

The highlight of the day may have been our lunch break.  We enjoyed our tuna sandwiches, kefir, and Hydrox cookies in the courtyard, by the fountain.  The boys enjoyed running around (not in) the flower beds, which to our surprise contain lantana—one of my favorite flowers—which I thought would not grow this far north.

If we had been told to come at noon instead of 8:30, we still would have had a three and a half hour wait.  The afternoon was much like the morning, only we were all a little more touchy and a lot more tired.  Jon created a "nap cave" for Noah out of a table and some chairs; he blissfully slept away a couple of hours of boredom, lying on the floor with some diapers for a pillow.

Jon was to have testified first, but time was getting short, and they (mercifully) decided to call Heather in hopes she would be finished and not have to return for another day.  Once again it was a matter of hurry-up-and-wait.  She was called up to the hallway outside of the courtroom just as the person before her began to testify.  Jon was able to take hungry Faith to her, but the judge was annoyed by the baby noise outside the door.  What looked as if it might have been an uncomfortable scene turned 180 degrees when the officials realized the situation, at which point they allowed Heather and Faith to move to a more private (and quiet) spot.

It's a good thing Faith was topped up, because Heather's testimony took up the rest of the afternoon.  Apparently she held up well, responding clearly, calmly, and cogently.  She masterfully restrained herself from offering explanations and elaborations that she knew were "not her place" and would only rile the judge.  I don't think I could have done as well, as frustrated as I am by leading questions and surveys that require yes or no answers to questions that don't have binary answers.

We were all thankful that the cameras were not allowed in or near the courtroom, and that by that point Heather knew the courthouse well enough to return to us via a path that did not take her past where they were set up.  Very thankful we were, also, to pack up and be on our way, even though frustrated that Jon would need to return Wednesday.

Since we were now caught in rush hour, we made a side trip back to Carroll Street, where we showed Faith off to some friends and enjoyed a leisurely Thai dinner.  It was a great meal, although it was amusing to note that my "6" rated spiciness was hotter than Jon's "8."  Jonathan's "2" was fine, however, and he devoured more than half of a full-sized pork, vegetable, and noodle dish.

Rush hour was over by the time we were on the road again, but it was very late before we finally made it home, since we stopped at a friend's house for Jon to help one of their kids with a computer problem.  The wait was not bad for the rest of us, however, since it was accompanied by good company, good conversation, and awesome, warm-from-the-oven molasses cookies (yes, the same ones mention in the previous post).  But make it home we eventually did, and collapsed into bed.  I did take a few minutes to send a "we're okay" e-mail to concerned family members, which turned out to be a good thing, since this blog post has been longer in creation than I had intended.

No matter what those who schedule the order of testimony might have thought, to the media, Heather was the star of the show.  The news reports so far, with commentary:

The first one, Monday night, from KDKA.  This is the only one with video; click on the left-most thumbnail picture on the right hand side, or click here.  Although the report is current, all the pictures are from four years ago.  The baby with Heather is Jonathan.  It's a good thing court stenographers take more accurate notes than reporters.  I can't speak for all of the quotes, but one thing I do know is that Heather did not say that "what happened to their son was not a crime."  I suppose that technically that is the same thing as the way it was expressed in a previous report—"They don't feel anyone is criminally liable for this"—but it sure sounds different.  Footling breech presentation is what the article means, not footlength.

The best one, Tuesday morning, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  Generally accurate, from a reporter who was more observant than most, noticing that Heather smiled at Judy during the proceedings.  One misunderstanding that many people would make (as I would have) is that the statement that Isaac "had no pulse" meant his heart wasn't beating, which was not true.  Also, although the reports (and, I suppose, the prosecutor) made much of the fact that Heather spent an hour and 40 minutes pushing Isaac out, that's the same amount of time she pushed with Jonathan, whose birth was completely normal.  And I spent four hours pushing when Heather was born.

The not-so-good one. Tuesday morning, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  This seems more of a cut-and-paste effort from previous reports. The statement, "When they learned at about 30 weeks' gestation that the baby was breech and midwives [at the Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health, where Faith was recently delivered] might recommend an ultrasound or a surgical procedure, the Daleys found Mrs. Wilson," is untrue.  Heather and Jon sought out Judy because they wanted a home birth, and the midwives at the Midwife Center do not do home births, no matter what the baby's presentation is.  And for a baby to be in the breech position that early in the pregnancy is not unusual, which is why the midwives weren't worried about it.  Worse, as an answer to the question of whether or not Heather would have still wanted to continue at home if she'd known there was a risk of Isaac dying, "Yes" is not a fair summary of "There's a possibility a baby could die during any birth.  I don't know what I would have done. I can't say I definitely would have transported to the hospital or I definitely would not have."

The local angle.  Tuesday morning, from the Butler County Radio Network.  Short, but manages to make two new, blatant errors.  Heather was 23 years old, not 28, when Isaac was born, and she and Jon did not choose a home birth, nor to be attended by a direct-entry midwife, based on their religious beliefs.  Their religious beliefs do, indeed, affect every part of their lives, from birth choices and childrearing to what kind of work they do and how they spend their money.  But members of their (very normal) church would sure be surprised to find anything in the Bible forbidding hospital births.

What Heather would like to have been able to clarify in her testimony is the difference between the medical model of care for childbirth, which informs the assumptions of both the prosecution and the doctors who testified, and the Midwives' Model of Care.  I trust the defense will do that in due time.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 8:57 pm | Edit
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At this moment the court is on lunch break, and Jon expects to testify when it resumes.



Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Go sis! I'm proud of you. May it be over soon!



Posted by IrishOboe on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 4:14 am

Is there anything people can do to help Judy or J&H?



Posted by Mike on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Mike - if you're asking about financial help, there was a fund set up for Judy four years ago, which I assume is still there. You can email us personally if you're interested.
Other than financial, prayers are always welcome.



Posted by joyful on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 6:01 pm

If the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had the worst coverage of the first day of the trial, it's the only paper so far to cover the second, albeit only half the day and with worse accuracy, reporting on only one of the witnesses, and getting both Isaac's date of birth and his mother's name wrong. How they did with Dr. Omalu's testimony I don't know, as Jon reported that he contradicted himself several times, changing his story whenever what he said was interpreted positively in Judy's defense.

Since the rest of us were not at the courthouse, Jon being the only one called for that day, he attended the proceedings, even though Omalu was showing autopsy pictures that were hard to watch. It was also frustrating, because Jon could have superimposed his own pictures and shown that several of the injuries the doctor insisted were caused by Judy were actually inflicted at the hospital—unless it's a complete coincidence that there were injuries exactly where they struggled for so long to insert an IV line, and that the abrasions said to be caused during his birth were exactly where various lines and wires were taped to his skin.

The next witness, if I recall correctly, was a doctor from one of the local hospitals, and although it was obvious he has no love for midwives, his testimony seemed fair.

The biggest surprise was the final witness—or rather the lack thereof. After keeping Jon in the courthouse for another full day, the prosecution decided not to call for his testimony! No explanation was given.

The trial is scheduled to resume October 29, which is when one of the defense witnesses, who has had health problems, is expected to be able to attend. If we'd known that in advance, Heather might have been spared her ordeal so soon postpartum. I believe there are rules about how soon a new mother can be subpoenaed. But she and Jon did not want to be the cause of yet another delay. Ah, well, at least Heather's part is over (probably).



Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Oh man, does that make your blood boil! My heart and respect goes out to Jon for keeping silence in court. Not sure I could have done the same.



Posted by IrishOboe on Friday, September 26, 2008 at 3:15 am

Mike: there is a web site and a mailing list, primarily directed at folks in the Pittsburgh area.

There has been some talk about whether we should have a large contingent show up at the courthouse in October or not.

IrishOboe: I guess I have gotten used to Omalu's attitude and obvious lies, so it wasn't that hard, though I did lean over to Charlie (Judy's husband) a couple times to show the direct contradictions from my earlier testimony.

The Post-Gazette article was written by the same reporter who wrote the articles years ago, and unfortunately, I didn't notice him there, because I would have made a point to talk to him to make sure that he corrected the date of Isaac's birth, as the PG was the primary source of that inaccuracy, most other sources corrected it by the second printing.

As for the "religious beliefs" comment, I wonder if they are referring to Judy's religious beliefs, instead of Heather's. We have said statements along the lines of being more comfortable with Judy. On the other hand, I made a similar statement to what you said about religious beliefs affecting all of life in 2003, so someone might be partially quoting me.



Posted by Jon Daley on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 12:32 pm

This is one of two US court cases I've personally known people to be involved in, and in both cases the case drags on and on and on. You'd think it'd be easy to incentivize speedy and fair trial, but apparently nobody in a position to do that has any incentive to change things. Sad.

I read these reports with some disbelief - not because I don't trust the writers or those reporting events, but because I have such a hard time fathoming why a real-life doctor (not a James Bond villain doctor) would either outright lie in court or be completely uninterested in additional evidence. Does he hate midwives? Does his reputation ride on blaming the midwife? Is he afraid of losing patients if the midwife is acquitted? Or is he truly convinced of an almost holy purpose in bringing pregnant mothers to hospital births, thinking of himself as the lone crusader for good, blinding himself to alternate views that might send this vision crumbling down? Does anyone know what motivates this man? I am deeply curious - and at the same time hope the defense attorney picked him apart. Justice obviously trumps my curiosity!



Posted by Stephan on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 5:16 pm

He was trained as an obstetrician in Africa, and came to the States at some point. I think he only does autopsies and things now, and he certainly does like doing them - he is quite interested in the details of size of molecules, and tracking down clues to figure out what happened when the person was living.

So, I think he is well-suited to that job. I am not sure as to why he thinks midwives shouldn't be allowed to help moms. He made a few references to Africa in his testimony this time, and when he said it, I started wondering if there was something that happened with a midwife over while he was growing up. But, who knows.

I am not clear on the reasons, but the defense has mostly avoided the medical arguments - Lee said something about they could get their own experts, and testify back and forth, but it probably wouldn't amount to much.

I suspect the lack of arguments has something to do with arguing that yes, Judy doesn't follow the medical model of care, and so all testimony that says she doesn't is irrelevant, and effectively trying to throw out all witnesses that don't know anything other than the medical model of care.

I think that now that he has written that the cause of death was due to a midwife delivering the baby, his reputation is at stake, since he now has to prove that the midwife really did cause the death. Or perhaps his reputation isn't at stake, since folks in Pittsburgh know how he likes to stretch the truth, and folks in California haven't found out yet, and didn't ask anyone in Pittsburgh, so he goes happily on his way.



Posted by Jon Daley on Monday, September 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm
Trackbacks
The Trial - Some Final Thoughts
Excerpt: (This is a follow-up to previous posts:   Options In Childbirth: A Personal Odyssey; The Trial; The Trial, Part II; and The Trial, Part III.) I am not a lawyer, and I have no idea what Judy or her lawyer really think, but that doesn't sto...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: April 29, 2009, 11:22 am
The Trial, Part III
Excerpt: I have no more information yet than is in this Post-Gazette article, but it looks as if the seven-year ordeal is finally over.  If it's not the vindication and ringing endorsement of birthing rights I was hoping for, it's probably the best we coul...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: April 23, 2009, 4:42 pm
The Trial, Part II
Excerpt: To all those following and praying for Heather, Jon, and Judy Wilson:  Judy's trial resumes this afternoon.  I'm no longer there to continue my blow-by-blow commentary, but I'll pass on the news as I am able.  Jon is now scheduled to app...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: October 29, 2008, 7:34 am
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