Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ayres Molestation Trial Jury Watch: One Week and at a Standstill Today

San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, California

It is exactly one week today that the jury in the Dr. William Ayres case has been deliberating the fate of the child psychiatrist accused of molesting six boys, now men—and that has not gone smoothly. It was not expected to be a quick verdict, with nine counts, and strict instructions that each count stood on its own; each in-statute victim stood on his own, and that a guilty verdict with one victim did not necessarily mean an automatic guilty verdict in others.
But it was not expected to be an impossible verdict, and that’s what seems to be happening.
Despite no verdict, there is lots of news at the Ayers Watchdog blog, and I’d like to direct you there eventually. I’m not going to steal their news and represent it as my own.
A coupe of days after they began to deliberate, bloggers learned that the jury foreman was indeed the man in the front row, who wore hiking shorts to work every day, who took notes when appropriate, and who was very attentive. Court goers observed that was a good choice.
Later in the week, the jury asked for a read-back. Of course those of us waiting for a verdict did what we always do: look for meaning. Was this a good thing? Or is it a bad thing?
On Friday, a juror was dismissed because she stated during deliberations that if she were able to retrieve a long-forgotten childhood memory, why couldn’t the men who testified in the trial? Bless her, she did the right thing. This juror was prepared to talk to media-types after her dismissal, but in this day and age, there are no media types hanging around the courthouse. She has spoken to the Watchdog bloggers, and her observations give much reason for concern.
There is a deep divide amongst jurors. The individuals who believe Ayres is guilty believe it as strongly as the ones who do not believe in his guilt. Interestingly, the not guilty contingent are all childless young women in their 20s.
The dismissed juror revealed that they’d examined four of the six in-statute cases, and had yet to look at the other two. With the seating of one of the alternates, another male, certainly the complexion of the jury might change, but the naysayers are said to be of closed mind and not willing to listen or negotiate anything.
The dismissed juror was in the guilty camp.
Today (July 21) a juror called in sick.
Now we are left wondering: was this case lost at jury selection?
I did not attend the proceedings until testimony began, but observers at the Watchdog blog report that a jury was seated fairly quickly. As of yet I have not been able to locate/read a copy of the juror questionnaire. I have a feeling it will be very insightful.
Neither side employed a jury consultant.
It has been said there were two nurses and one new-grad attorney on the jury.
Are you as shocked as I am?
This case went quickly; the original timeline had it going to the end of July. However, when one witness backed out at the very last minute (that witness himself had ten counts, and his story was the most horrific, with no question that the abuse had happened. He’d undergone a digital rectal exam.), no doubt that cut off a few days. The defense shaved off a day or so when the decision was made not to call Dr. Marvin Firestone, a personal friend of Dr. Ayres, who was prepared to testify how Dr. Ayres did not fit the profile of a pedophile (stop laughing). Firestone is not an expert on identifying pedophiles. Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan promised to bring up a “hypothetical” about the books found in Ayres’ files—books containing nude photos of boys. The books were banned from evidence, but they hypothetical would have asked (paraphrasing): “Would your opinion change if that person was known to have in his possession, but hidden away, books full of photos of nude boys?” Voila, the books would have been in evidence.
Defense attorney Doron Weinberg is no dummy. Adios Dr. Firestone.
Mind you, the questions being asked of the jury are that not difficult; they’ve received a lot of information and to do an honest, good job so they can be at peace with their decision, each victim needs to be evaluated, the decision needs to be made if the juror believes something did happen to the boy, and that something was either lewd & lascivious behavior on a child under the age of 14, or simple battery.
In other words, for each count, the decision options are not guilty (juror doesn’t believe anything happened or the DDA didn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt), guilty of a 288 (a) crime—lewd & lascivious behavior on a child under 14 (nine possible counts), or guilty of simple battery. The process must be repeated for all nine counts.
My readers already know that I utterly believe each of the men who were molested. I remember information from my child development and psychology coursework that children don’t remember or experience things like adults do. I can remember my own childhood and believing that if a grown-up told me to do so, he or she probably had my best interest at heart. Think about your most fond or traumatic memories—do you recall every little detail about the Christmas when you received your first bike? Do you remember a minute-by-minute account of the day your dog was run over in front of you when you were eight years old? 
I can imagine what went through the heads of each boy—no doubt each wondered what his penis had to do with what was going on in his brain (I am going to refrain from making jokes here—these boys were not yet old enough to be consumed by the need to listen to his penis, period.), and how strange the exam was nothing like those his pediatrician had done, on a proper exam table, with gowns and drapes and a countertop of medical devices—otoscope, ophthalmoscope, perhaps a hammer for checking reflexes, a tuning fork for hearing checks, and perhaps a nurse in the room. They had to be thinking “No way my parents would have put me into this situation. Or are they that angry with me that they knew this was going to happen?”
For the boys who did vocalize how strange they thought the whole thing was, they were listened to by sympathetic parents who assured their sons that a physical exam was normal. What’s a kid to do when your own parent says what happened to you is normal? So they buried the memory, and once they became adults, of were in what they felt was a safe place mentally or physically, brought the memory out for reflection and concluded that what happened wasn’t cool. 
I think what is bothering me most about that small group of naysayer jurors is the coldness in their thinking. They are essentially calling 10 men who sat in front of them, with various degrees of discomfort ranging from crying to being concerned if his real name got out, it could hurt his fledgling business, liars. Wait until they realize there are 41 known victims, and that there has been a civil suit against Ayres that was settled out of court.
They are also calling their supportive parents liars. According to the dismissed juror, one of the naysayers thought it was strange the parents of the now-grown men were waiting in the halls for them, being supportive. Some testified.
Which brings me to a problem I’ve had with this case from day one: the jury has been mishandled in my opinion. The jurors should never have known there were families of the molested men onsite at all. They reported to the hallway outside of Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s courtroom, standing amongst spectators, witnesses, family members, and yes, the defendant and his wife and adult son. They wore no badges identifying them as jurors. God knows what they overheard that first morning of testimony! Think of the possibility of the “sympathy factor” for the defendant, who uses a walker to toodle around the courthouse, yet who was also seen in San Francisco a few weeks back (by a very reliable person), attending an opera with no walker in sight.
It says much toward the devotion of the parents of the boys who attended every day of the trial. Every single day there was at least one parent, usually two, in the galley. Imagine what went through their heads. Even if they weren’t hearing about their own son’s case, they heard enough that was similar to their son’s story.
In every case we’ve heard about, what walked into Dr. Ayres’ office was an adolescent boy, doing things that are normal for adolescent boys to do. Psychiatric or psychological treatment is not contraindicated in these cases, but these boys were not troubled monsters—they were middle or upper middle-class boys going through the uncomfortableness that is adolescence and pre-puberty. What came out was a victim, a kid who had more to work out in his head than he ever did because of his ADD/ADHD, or self-esteem or anger issues.
No matter how many times defense attorney Doron Weinberg said the boys were troubled, “troubled” is a relative term. They were not potheads, or thieves, or animal torturers or sexual deviants. Two may have gone on to have problems with the law, but is that a consequence of the abuse, combined with their ADD/ADHD impulsivity?
I’m sure that in the naysayers group there are individuals who look at Dr. Ayres and sees a very ill (possibly dying) old man who couldn’t possibly be a threat to anyone. That’s certainly true—his complexion is pale with gray undertones, he’s lost weight during the trial itself, and he uses a walker to get around the courthouse.
The doctor’s health issues were put right out there at the beginning of the trial in opening arguments. It’s well known that his health caused at least one of the trial delays. Over the past several years he’s been treated for prostate cancer and also had major surgery for an abdominal aneurysm repair. As a consequence of these treatments, Ayres’ claims his memory is spotty.
Older memories are fairly immune to such bodily insults. I know from personal experience that my memory suffered terribly after undergoing a 9-hour spinal surgery that was supposed to take only four—there were complications. I have a 5-year period of time when the years are all the same and there are things I don’t remember happening that my daughter, then a pre-teen, totally does. I can remember dance routines from when I was a kid, but I can’t remember for sure what year my sister died.
I’ve been told that is a perfectly normal response to a grave bodily assault, including cancer treatment, and especially for a surgery that requires the patient to be on cardiac bypass (abdominal aneurysm repair fits here).
So the “I forgot” defense could have worked for Dr. Ayres if he’d been accused of molesting while he was undergoing those treatments. And he may not have remembered every single time he “examined” a boy—remember, it was not extraordinary to him. Unless a boy screamed or hit or bit him, one exam is as memorable as the next.
Supporters of Ayres’ survivors are all heartsick—we are praying that the jurors who believe Ayres is guilty stick to their resolve, and that if Ayres can’t be convicted because of mistakes made in selecting jurors, that at least a hung jury is the result, with a mistrial of course, but with the opportunity to re-try the case.
I encourage you to catch up at the Watchdog blog. You’ll also have the opportunity to read the text of a solicitation letter that has been sent out via e-mail to Ayres’ “colleagues” in the psychiatric community. 
Please stop by and offer the blog owner, Deep Sounding, your support and prayers for some sort of miracle in that jury room.


Anonymous said...

"Bless her, she did the right thing."

Actually, no, the dismissed juror did NOT do "the right thing". Not even close.

Even IF this juror (contrary to her answers in the jury selection process) suddenly "remembered" that she had been sexually molested in the past her duty at that point was to IMMEDIATELY inform the court (with a note) that she inadvertently misinformed the court during jury selection.

What she should NOT have done is to simply share this information with the other jurors--let alone to argue to them that if she could 'suddenly recall' an abuse experience then the charged victims in the case could too.

This was juror misconduct plain and simple--which is why she was dismissed from the jury.

The Patient Advocate said...

Wow, CaliGirl,

Thanks for the fantastic and inspiring write-up. I can tell you that many of us who were so hoping for a swift resolution to this case, by that, meaning a guilty verdict are becoming increasingly frustrated with the wait.

I guess in our eyes and from knowing more facts than the jury received, we just don't see how the jury didn't come back within a day with a guilty verdict!

With emotions running high and time narrowing in, it is most difficult to keep up hope, but I suggest we all try.

I hope that the victims and families can see how much awareness was brought to the issue of a pedophile in high places using his power and authority to harm innocent children.

This awareness no matter what the outcome of this case has hopefully decreased the chances of this happening to another patient or child who enters therapy and gets a genital "exam."

I certainly agree with you that the jury should not have been able to mingle in the hallways or be ushered in the same door as the general public. I am sure they felt a bit under the microscope.

I always thought they had a different way to enter the courtroom, thus sequestered. This was hardly that.

I don't care how ill Ayres is, was, or old he is, I can see that he has no remorse whatsoever for what he has done.

I hope they jury can truly weigh the evidence and come back as you say with a separate verdict for each and every count and each victim.

My worst regret by far in this case has been having the "boy books" suppressed. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, all to late now.

Anonymous said...

The juror did not suddenly remember that she had been sexually molested. She was not. She just remembered an inappropriate incident when she was 20.

It would have been juror misconduct had she kept the incident to herself.

Little harsh on her, aren't you? Could it be because you don't like that she thinks Ayres was guilty?

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is that she told other jurors that she had remembered something that she hadn't remembered before, and if she could so could a witness.

The problematic thing is that she was trying to influence others by her own experience which in some way is like being an expert witness.

I believe the jury is bound to use facts, and in particular, the facts presented by both defense and prosecution and judge which facts hold up the best. A third fact used to convince, thrown in by a juror, is not the way things work, so even though I think he's guilty (from the facts I've heard) it's probably best that she was removed from the jury.

Anonymous said...

"Little harsh on her, aren't you? Could it be because you don't like that she thinks Ayres was guilty?"

Not at all on both counts.

I just hate to see taxpayer money wasted on a mistrial and retrial--which is what would haved happened if the court had not been informed of the incident.

If a juror says in jury selection he has never been a victim, and then "suddenly recalls" that she was a victim, he or she MUST inform the judge immidiately.

What he or she may not do is fail to tell the court, and then to use the "newly recaled" incident to attempt to pursuade the other jurors to reach a certain verdict or that a certain witness is telling the truth.

That is why the jurors where asked about that in the first place, so what happened would not happen, and if Ayer's was convicted with this juror the trial judge would have been required to grant Ayres a new trial.

Trapellar said...

So many victims who were more severely abused are too afraid to testify. Here's hoping they do if there is a retrial.

Anonymous said...

You mention the boys and their parents or the boys who had family intact who cared and loved them. They still do love them and they show it by being at the courthouse to this day.
“No way my parents would have put me into this situation. Or are they that angry with me that they knew this was going to happen?”
There is another category of boys that were omitted from this trial. All boys who were referred to Dr. William Ayres by Hillcrest Juvenile Hall.

Hillcrest Juvenile Hall works with delinquents and abandoned, neglected or abused youth, they were told nobody is going to believe You. That pretty much is how it turned out for all this time. Dr. William Ayres was hired by San Mateo County in 1963 he work for Hillcrest Juvenile Hall till 2005.

Michael G. Stogner

ritanita said...

The Patient Advocate

I've been following the trial every day both here as well as your blog and Ayers Watchdog Site.

Having watched the first Spector trial through to a hung jury, I can understand to some degree the stress that the victims are under. I will never be able to be in your shoes, so I won't say I totally understand.

My heart is with each and every one of the victims and I also hope that the newly constructed jury will be able to go back to step one in deliberations and educate some of the members on what being a juror really means.

I know you and CaliGirl and the others will keep us posted.

Thank you all for a wonderful job.

Deep Sounding said...

WOW! This is an outstanding article. Thank you very much for posting it. I was having a miserable day, but I'm feeling much better right now. I was going to read it again right now, but I'm going to wait, and re-read just before I hit the sack.

Thanks again!

Trapellar said...

Dr. Ayres' memory is just fine. He remembered every last little office he has ever held for the last fifty years; he remembered that he received a phone call from a teacher of a victim because he said, she was married to a friend of his. BUT he doesn't remember that victim in question, or any of the others he's molested. Except for Scott T, the boy who was forced to give a "pee demonstration" to him. He also remembered the exact words that civil lawyer Bob Tobin asked him during a deposition - and what he said was Tobin's combative, angry manner.

Bizarrely, the one thing he forgot in his testimony was the word "AIDS."

Anonymous said...

I am hoping finger nail picking girl will have to drop out and be replaced with that alternate juror who is an older woman. She was very attentive during the trial.

Anonymous said...

The judge erred by allowing only four out of statute victims to testify instead of the twenty or so men the prosecutor was hoping for.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that one of the Gang-of-3 tattled on the dismissed juror and got her bounced for relating her recovered memory during deleberations.

If things have become that partsian and contentous in the jury room, it is highly unlikely that your so called "nail-picker" will drop out now.

Trapellar said...

Some of the mothers who testified returned to watch the rest of the trial. That's how the jurors knew who they were there.

The Patient Advocate said...

Latest development is:

The Jury is getting another alternate juror this morning.

Starting from square one.

Posted by Michael Stogner this morning!

Thanks Michael!

Anonymous said...

I hope the judge didn't err in only picking four alternates for the jury.

According to the Ayres Blog another juror dropped. Juror #6 was replaced with an alternate this am.

Two alternates are left.....

Deep Sounding said...

They replaced another juror today. Juror #6 is gone. Back to square one. Again.

It was not the fingernail-picker that left.

Trapellar said...

Over at www.williamayreswatch.blogspot.com they are saying that the new African American woman juror might not be such a bad pick. She's a rehabilitation therapist and word is that she's very pragmatic.

CaliGirl9 said...

Ah, yet another mandated reporter!
Pray she gets it, and is able to persuade those with the closed minds that what happened was indeed sexual abuse.

Trapellar said...

Jurors also have the option of going for the lesser battery charges.

This should be interesting....

Trapellar said...

Just heard that the first dismissed juror said that one juror initially wanted to convict Ayres of the battery charges but then changed his mind and now is going for the felony convictions.

Stay tuned...

Trapellar said...

The folks over at www.williamayreswatch.blogspot.com caught Weinberg spreading misinformation to the San Francisco Chronicle. Fortunately they were able to bust Weinberg and the Chronicle retracted his information.