(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 stop me from pondering what happened in Judy's trial.  It has been an interesting look into our criminal justice system.  We know, personally, good policemen and excellent prosecutors who work hard for truth, fairness, and speedy justice, so any negative comments are not a blanket indictment, but food for thought.
  • I can't help wondering if Heather and Jon were treated differently because they lived in the city, rather than in a wealthy suburb, where the police might be more likely to find themselves facing a lawsuit for interrogating a cold, naked, hungry, and exhausted woman immediately after a traumatic birth and in the midst of unimaginable grief.
  • I learned that if you are accused of a crime the police can take away your computer, no matter how essential it is for your for your daily life and business, and no matter how much personal and irreplaceable data is on it.  Memo to self:  buy an "emergency" computer, make frequent backups of all data, and figure out a search-warrant-proof hiding place.  I'm not planning to get in trouble with the police—but who does?
  • The proceedings were dragged out for seven years, prolonging the agony for Heather and Jon, leaving Judy and her family in limbo, and incurring great financial costs to both Judy and Allegheny County.  Why not, since there was little incentive for the powers that be to move it along?  The prosecution got what it wanted in the interim—Judy prohibited from doing her work—so why should they rush to judgement, and risk losing their case, as they did?  Delay increases lawyers' fees, and even ordinary civil servants go to work and go home and get paid, independent of whether any one particular trial takes seven years or seven days.  The only person with any incentive for speedy justice was Judy herself.  And in the cases where the defendent knows himself guilty, even his desire would probably be to delay the verdict.  No wonder our court system is overwhelmed.
  • I learned something of how frustrating it is for those who know better to see false evidence enshrined as truth.  In this case, the medical examiner, who exhibited an obvious prejudice against all midwives, testified—and his word was taken as authoritative—that the injuries he found on Isaac were due to Judy's efforts to assist the birth, despite the verifiable fact that all injuries except for one (a small mark on the back of Isaac's head) corresponded exactly to the locations of the various injections, sensors, and other bodily indignities that were part of the attempt to save Isaac during his two-day stay in the hospital.  I wish this testimony had been properly contradicted during the trial, but it was apparently not part of the defense attorney's strategy, so it was left to become "truth" forever. (See Jon's comments after this Daley Ponderings post.)
  • Knowing that the judge was also a medical doctor, I wondered at the decision of Judy's attorney to go with a non-jury trial.  There is a strong and often acrimonious division between physicians and midwives, especially traditional midwives who work independent of a doctor's control, but even nurse-midwives feel the sting.  My guess is that he knew the integrity of the judge, whereas juries can be swayed by emotional appeals.  The judge clearly wanted to throw the book at Judy, and, had he had the authority, at Heather.  (What he thinks about Jon he apparently kept to himself, but I doubt it's complimentary.)  However, in an exercise of that increasingly rare commodity, judicial restraint, he ruled according to the law, contenting himself with a tongue-lashing from the bench and imposition of the maximum allowed penalty ($100 fine) for the most minor charge of practicing midwifery without a certificate, a grey area in Pennsylvania's law.  (See the ruling in midwife Diane Goslin's case.)
  • While I had been hoping for an enthusiastic endorsement of the rights of Pennsylvanians to be attended in childbirth by the assistants of their choice, and of the value of traditional midwives in retaining critical knowledge that is rapidly being lost in an overly-litigious and highly medicalized society, I consider this case a solid victory for midwives, because a judge with an intense desire to convict Judy ruled that Pennsylvania's law would not allow him to do so.

Tribune-Review article, with Heather interviewed

Post-Gazette article, with Jon interviewed

KDKA report, with misinformation including number of subsequent children
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:09 am | Edit
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Comments

If I remember correctly, Judy's computer didn't actually contain any medical records at all - that she used paper for all of that.

I think all they used it for was logging onto her instant message account and tried to talk to her friends (who were surprised to see her online, since they knew her computer had been taken, so I assume that strategy didn't work all that well)

Presumably, the district attorney should return it now, right?

Your last point is a good one, though it didn't seem to me that he was horribly biased in the medical direction. He didn't seem to understand that the prosecutor was being antagonizing, but Lee didn't seem to see it either, so I think that must just be normal in a courtroom, so it didn't seem out of place to them.

Apparently (according to the newspaper reporter) this case is different than Diane's, because Judy was charged with practicing midwifery without a certificate, rather than practicing medicine without a license - which I didn't notice the difference before. So, Diane was cleared given the statutes that clearly separate midwifery from medicine, but Judy was found guilty of not having a certificate (though the state doesn't provide a certificate anyway, and I don't think ever has, so I don't know what the point of that law is).



Posted by Jon Daley on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

Here's a good letter to the editor published May 1 in the Post-Gazette. (It's on the bottom of the page.)



Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, May 04, 2009 at 6:27 am
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