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.