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Running account of the two trials

February 15th, 2000 · No Comments

by Bob Krause - brother-in-law
originally published: 1999-2000
in: EveryPurpose.org

This is a series of e-mails sent during Heidi’s two trials. The notes went to relatives and friends who know the Anfinson family but do not know Heidi.

Note: during Heidi’s first trials, her original lawyer Bill Kutmus specifically excluded any reference to post partum depression or psychosis. But in later appeals proceedings, Heidi’s family insisted they asked for Heidi to be evaluated for post partum illness and to have that be part of the defense. A ruling is pending from the Iowa Supreme Court.

Subject: 9-7-1999 Trial update

Hi all.

Today was I think an easier day than expected. They called 65 potential jurors, which is the most this judge has ever called.

This morning, all they accomplished was to get the jurors to fill out their questionnaires. Then back at 1:30 and the County Attorney started questioning each juror. Got to #36. What do you do for a living? How many kids? Why did you decide to live in …? I think tomorrow they will start trying to get a jury of 12 + 4 alternates from the 36, but if they can’t they will go to #37-65. Each side can strike 10 jurors without explaining, if I understand the process. They haven’t been explaining it too well to us (“spectators”).

The courtroom is pretty small. During jury selection, we almost didn’t get a seat. 12 people sat in the jury stand, then the other 53 in the 3 rows of bench seats. They left 1 seat for Jane’s brother Mike and there were 2-3 seats left. A few of us stood by the doorway. There were no “outsiders” today, just family and friends totally 8-14 depending on time.

Those who will testify are not permitted to see anything including jury selection. That affects Jane, Heidi’s mom and one of her sisters. 3 other sisters are here from out of town for the trial as is her Dad (local).

No media today except the DSM Register ran a page 3 piece in the ‘Metro’ section and at least 1 TV station ran a short piece using file footage – basically saying jury selection has started and reminding people of the basic facts. I’ll try to get some Web addresses of the TV & paper which you can peek at when more info is posted.

Heidi’s sister Marcia got totally fed up with the DSM Register using a hideous picture of Heidi taken at her arraignment in jail clothes after 36 hours of no sleep, losing her baby and not being allowed to see Mike. Of course she looks like a monster. So Marcia gave the paper a nice photo a cruise Heidi & Mike were on. The photo editor scanned it into their system and set it as the “preferred photo” so maybe that will improve Heidi’s image a bit.

They held a nice informal remembrance at Jacob’s grave yesterday (1 day after his birthday because people were traveling). Some had poems, thoughts and little mementos to leave at the grave. Everyone remarked about a cornstalk that is growing 6 inches past the gravestone and perfectly centered. No one claimed planting it but then one sister remembered bringing broom corn last fall and it must have sprouted from that. But how it survived the lawn mower is puzzling. Anyway, weather was perfect and the 3 girls got to feed the ducks (and sunfish & carp).

The media circus is sure to start. During breaks today some guys were cabling the room. There was a control panel outside the room this morning and another appeared at lunch. As we were leaving this afternoon they were hauling a bunch of metal boxes up – I presume cameras, tripods and sound equipment. We’ll see.

That’s it for today. More is sure to follow …

Subject: 9-8 Trial Update

They empanelled the jury today. Everything was done by noon. The court recessed until Thursday at 9:00 when opening statements will begin. This afternoon was filled with the lawyers filing motions. None of us including Heidi attended that.

We did get to see the defense attorney in action when he addressed the prospective jurors. He is VERY good and really captured the people’s attention.

That’s all for today. I’ll have more in the coming days when evidence starts being presented.

Small items:

  • The DSM Register had a very small article today but they DID run
    the new photo of Heidi
  • They started hauling the TV cameras in at noon

Web sites, if interested:

Subject: 9-14 Trial update

Hi. I have gotten behind on the updates. I’ll try to catch you up on things.

I have been taking voluminous notes during the trial. I had intended to give detailed accounts as we went but it would be a lot of work to condense the information without losing a lot of it. I have watched the local news media hack away at the case and really hope to avoid that (no offense intended, Don). For example, during opening arguments, the defense attorney was about to close, then remembered his last point, turned to the jury and all but screamed “We will introduce NO allegations of post partum depression or mental incapacity of ANY kind.” So what does one station report that night? “A major part of the defense will be post partum depression.” Uh, hello. The trial is at the POLK County Courthouse – where did you guys park?

Anyway, I will go on record now:

I hope I never second guess a jury unless I too had heard all 100-200 or more hours of testimony they heard. I was surprised at how much information is shoveled at the jury, much of it conflicting. And obviously even the newspapers cannot do much more than outline some sound bites. But as the old saw goes “the devil is in the details” and the media cannot provide that to armchair jurists.

OK, that said, I will outline the issues being presented in the trial and leave the explanation of details until we are face to face.

As my last note said, jury selection took Tuesday & Wed. last week. Thursday the opening arguments started. Thursday, Friday and Tuesday (today) were prosecution witnesses. They generally came in the order they got involved in the case – patrolmen who first got the call to the house when Mike & Heidi reported Jacob abducted, then detectives, moving to the medical examiner and a New York State Police pathologist.

The defense called a few character witnesses today and will bring its own pathologists Wednesday.

Quick review of case (per Prosecution and my knowledge from what family has said):

  1. Heidi up at 8:00 Sunday 9/20
  2. Mike up at 9:00
  3. Mike leaves 10:30 to go 4-wheel Jeeping
  4. Mike returns 3:30. Heidi is napping. Noticed baby is gone. They call police to report Jacob missing. (We got a call from Mike about 3:30 asking if we had Jacob – and rushed over to their house.)
  5. Police question Mike & Heidi in separate police cars. Later police go to the station where Heidi is questioned further.
  6. About 9:00 2 squad cars – one with Mike & one with Heidi – drive up to Saylorville Lake. Heidi directs police to Jacob. He is in about 12-18 inches of water with 2 rocks on his abdomen.

Heidi told several versions of how Jacob drowned but they all involved the bath at home. During police questioning, she said he was in the baby tub on the counter. She later told Jane and her mom differing stories where Jacob either pooped or was too soapy and she placed him in the sink. She told police she was distracted by the phone and smoked 2 cigarettes. Told Jane she went to sit at kitchen table (10 feet away) and maybe dozed off. Told mom she felt light-headed and went to kitchen table. Obviously none of this helped her defense.

The key issue is: did Jacob drown at home or at Saylorville Lake? If at home – it’s an accident, if at Saylorville, murder. (All this my interpretations.)

There has much testimony related to lake bacteria and tiny algae called diatoms. Apparently, when you drown, it’s not the fluid in your lungs that kills you but the fluid passes quickly into the heart blood and congests the heart. In Jacob, they found “high levels” of lake bacteria in his heart blood, suggesting drowning in lake water.

Also, the diatoms which are unique to each body of water matched the Saylorville diatoms according to prosecution. The diatoms were found in the lungs near the trachea. But – interpretation of diatoms is controversial. Defense is arguing the diatoms migrated down the trachea post-mortem and is also arguing they should be discounted altogether as evidence because even expert pathologists cannot agree on how reliable they are as evidence.

The defense explanation for the lake bacteria in the heart blood involves some gruesome stuff. Leave now if you want to:

————————————–
Jacob was in the water for 6-8 hours. There was evidence of aquatic creatures nibbling at him, including the throat area. The defense is arguing the lake bacteria got into the blood vessels of the neck and had easy access to migrate into the heart blood, thereby contaminating it to appear as if lake drowning had occurred.

Also, there were some clean cuts on his face, head and neck. The prosecution has repeatedly discussed these, implied that Heidi must have inflicted them but never directly said she did (i.e. no knife presented, etc.) The defense will be arguing that the cuts were caused post-mortem by eagles, which are quite common at Saylorville. Also, the prosecution admits NO blood was found at the home, in the car, on the towel she wrapped Jacob in, or at the scene at Saylorville. Also prosecution cannot say whether cuts were before or after death.

—————————————–

I’m going to stop with this. This are several other secondary factors that came up but they take a lot to explain. I’m not sure when next update will be. I think defense experts will be here Wed and Thur and maybe closing arguments on Friday? But that could change as they have had a number of scheduling conflicts with witnesses.

Subject: 9-15 Trial Update

This will probably be short.

Defense witnesses continued today. Heidi’s OB/Gyn doctor testified – pretty basic stuff but showed that Heidi was a concerned & conscientious mother – initial visit at 13 weeks pregnancy, never missed a visit, had an amniocentesis, etc. Then their family practitioner testified – again – normal & caring: breastfeeding baby, including while waiting in her lobby for Jacob’s 2 week checkup. Heidi asked a lot of questions at 2 week check, including if the dye on some tie-dyed sleepers were safe (doctor said ‘safe’). Baby was entirely normal, earlier jaundice had disappeared.

There was some discussion of cigarette smoking – prosecution has been trying to portray Heidi as being more concerned about cigs than the baby. But I thought the OB/Gyn diffused that somewhat by saying in his experience mothers have a hard time giving up cigs. Also pointed out (at defense’s prompting) that baby was very vigorous at birth with APGAR scores of 9 and 9. In my opinion I don’t think prosecution scored any points on the smoking issue today but who knows.

VERY GRUESOME warning again:
———————————————-

A professor from Iowa State Univ. testified. He is a biologist. The goal of the testimony was to prove the cuts and other injuries to Jacob’s head, neck and face could have been caused by raptors (eagles, vultures, hawks) and other aquatic animals. The most graphic photos from the autopsy were unfortunately displayed again as the Dr. explained how raptors feed. In his view and experience:

1) Raptors tend to feed on the head first because it has most nutrition. No injuries to Jacob were found except on head & neck. (Also stated raptors will often leave feet of prey behind. Prosecution has questioned why there are no injuries to fingers & toes.) 2) Explained how raptors use beak to strip their food (makes long cuts). He pointed out areas of the head & neck that were “consistent” with stripping. 3) There was one area of sharp cut that I am unclear on – but I think he said he was not sure if it was stripping or not. 4) Jacob’s injuries could have been from either eagle or vulture – both are found at Saylorville.

There was some discussion about populations of eagles. No known nesting eagles in this county, but there could be roosting eagles. Migrations start around August but September sounded more active. Vultures nest from March/April to mid-late October (Jacob died 9/20).

The Dr. and raptor theory came across very plausible to my mind. But the prosecution countered with:

1) Eagles are spooky right? (yes) And the site of Jacob’s body was near the road, near a busy parking lot, right? (yes) [However: I have been waiting for this point to come out, and I'm surprised prosecution did it: The place where Jacob was found is not at ALL secluded like you would assume and like the prosecution made it look with their photos, videos and witnesses. Anyone walking along the road or in a high 4WD vehicle can plainly see the spot, only maybe 100 feet from the road. Why would anyone choose a site like that to do a premeditated murder???]

Also Dr. pointed out that eagles are getting more acclimated to human activity – are nesting in places where 15 years ago he would have thought impossible because of proximity to humans.

2) Eagle populations are pretty low.

3) Prosecutor cross-examined with some rapid fire quick logic that I could not completely follow or get notes on. He was trying to give the jury the impression that all the critters the Dr. spoke of could not be involved for one reason or another. I don’t know how effective this was on the jury – if I were a juror I would assume Prosecutor was trying to snow me and scrutinize the Dr.’s earlier remarks.

4) Saying the cuts are caused by raptors is speculation, right? “Yes.” Could be caused by knife or sharp instrument? “Yes” (However, same logic applies to the prosecution’s pathologists – they were reluctantly forced by defense to say the cuts could have come from an eagle’s talon.)

At least 2 jurors were in tears during the testimony. I was glad the testimony was helpful to Heidi’s cause but it was very hard to listen to.
———————————— OK to READ BELOW —————

We recessed until 1:30. Then there was a commotion, lawyers all went to judge’s chambers (prosecutor had his jaw set for battle), 20 minutes later they come out and the prosecutors grab their bags & leave.

We’re still not sure what happened entirely, but Mike said there is a big controversy over the lady who was to testify at 1:30. She was to talk about the diatoms I explained yesterday. Sounds like maybe some tests were not done that should have been done (prosecution’s error), and maybe results were late. I’ll leave it at that because we’re not sure.

Anyway – the witness is breastfeeding a baby and had to fly back to Michigan and will come back tomorrow. Hope she is not too tired. We’re all expecting fireworks – we think the prosecution is trying to exclude part or all of her testimony. However, the defense attorney appeared to be in a GREAT mood and until now he has always been pretty somber around the courtroom. We’ll see what happens.

More to follow … pray for wisdom & mercy in the courtroom

Subject: 9/16 & 17 Trial Update

Thursday was the last day of defense witnesses. Friday morning closing arguments were given and the case went to the jury about noon.

On Thursday the expert from Michigan returned. She was the witness who was to testify Wednesday but I think the prosecution was playing games. So she was back at 10:30 and had great information. She runs what sounds like a consulting firm specializing in lake ecology, sediments, algae, bacteria, etc. She was very nervous at first and spoke fast. This was her first criminal case – I would guess she normally works with universities, DNR’s, water departments, etc.

She covered 2 topics – diatoms and bacteria. The prosecution was objecting regularly during her testimony and was fairly contentious in cross examination (as they were all of Thursday).

Diatoms:

1) The Polk County Medical Examiner contacted a lab to do the diatom study (this background is from the Examiner’s testimony earlier). The slides were FINALLY sent to this Michigan expert only 2 WEEKS before the trial!!! Nearly 1 year after the incident!!!

2) A slide was passed to jury showing dirt from the water sample taken by the coroner’s office the day after Jacob died. Dirt is visible to naked eye.

3) The Medical Examiner testified that the lab reported finding a “few” diatoms and under fairly intense defense questioning could not define what “few” was (1? 100? 1000?). Well, the Michigan expert showed the state’s slide and there were only 2 diatoms, which she also pointed out were broken and therefore dead when they entered the body. She said the state did not do a quantity study to see how many diatoms were in a given volume of marsh water. This slide also showed lots of dirt (entire slide was full of dirt).

4) The Michigan expert started to say she had conferred with another colleague in Regina, a world renowned expert. Prosecution objected, they had a bench discussion, then left it at “The Regina expert essentially supports my conclusions.”

Extra water samples: As noted above, the state was not forthcoming in its evidence. The Michigan lady took water samples of her own in May 99 and September 99 to compare them with Sept. 98. The prosecution jumped all over her for this because she did not PERSONALLY take the samples and could not say with certainty they came from the identical spot Jacob was at. Hopefully the jurors will see through all this flim-flam. (The judge did allow further testimony using the newer samples.)

Based on her samples, she concluded that the lake ecology had not changed from 9/98 and she did further studies of the algae (diatoms) based on her samples. Some conclusions:

1) The lake water is FULL of diatoms (remember, only 2 broken ones found on Jacob’s lung sample).

2) The kidney or brains were not examined for diatoms, which she said is standard procedure.

3) Is certain diatoms were abundant in 1998
4) She has factored the effect of changing lake levels in her conclusions (prosecution pointed out reservoir level is 18 feet higher now than last year – her reply: Reservoir is 18 feet higher but not at the marsh were Jacob was.) Higher water levels would increase habitat for diatoms and decrease sediments.

Regarding bacteria in the heart blood (technical cornerstone of prosecution’s case):

1) The bacteria species involved are good swimmers. She has seen them swim off a slide.
2) She observed them and conservatively calculated they can travel 12-14 inches in the 6-8 hours Jacob was submerged. (Defense is arguing that bacteria entered through injuries are the neck and traveled to the heart, which is maybe 2-3 inches in a newborn).
3) The bacteria can multiply in blood.
4) Bacteria move directionally (Medical examiner stated they move RANDOMLY) – they go forward, hit an obstacle, back up a bit, and try going forward again.
5) During the autopsy, the Medical Examiner got lists of what bacteria were found in each lung. The MI expert said if Jacob had ingested lake water with the same mix of bacteria, she would expect to see similar lists in each lung. In fact they were quite different, indicating to her that a very small amount of bacteria got into each lung and multiplied at differing rates. (Gee, the prosecution never offered THAT information.)

FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST

A former acting State of IA Medical Examiner (also was deputy for 8-10 years) testified next. More prosecution shenanigans related to the slides we talked about above. This guy got all the autopsy reports, photos, etc. to review. At that time he asked for more information on the lake water because he was not familiar with Saylorville. At his deposition in May he said it was hard to tell if Jacob drowned in the bath or lake but he was leaning toward the bath. He said he needed water samples to make a better determination.

Just before his testimony Thursday, he had a chance to talk to the Michigan expert above and see the State’s slides from the 9/98 water samples. Based on that, he testified to the question “Dr., can you tell with a degree of medical certainty, where Jacob did NOT drown?” “He did NOT drown in Saylorville lake!” Main reason: lake is very dirty and lungs were clean. He defines “degree of certainty” for him is 90% or higher. He said others will go as low as 51% for their “degree of certainty”.

Also testified:

1) Some babies can lift their head at 2 weeks (others have said they cannot at 2 weeks).
2) Looked at tub and testified a baby could drown in it – others had said they could not
3) Thought the fact that bacteria are in heart blood is of no significance. Said bacteria will travel down the mouth into the lungs, pass through the mucous membranes there and into the bloodstream.
4) Diatoms: probably “percolated” into lungs after death. Says use of diatoms in forensics is very controversial. Since the 1920′s people have been trying to improve it as a technique.
5) Can a dead body be contaminated with diatoms? ‘Easily” Sand/debris on the body, Lab containers. Labs are compulsive about using disposable containers to avoid contamination. Diatoms can be found almost anywhere.
6) Wounds about the head & face: I accept (ISU raptor expert’s) testimony that wounds could be from a raptor (prosecution cross exam got him to say wounds could also be from a knife or other sharp instrument).
7) Any cut of scalp would bleed profusely (in support of defense’s “Why was no blood found?” theme)
8) Q: “If someone inflicted knife wounds would there be knife marks?” A: Yes, I’d expect to see them & some blood at the scene. Bruises? I’d expect some and there were none.
9) Yellowish granular lesions in the brain: Were not recent, 10-14 days. Can be caused by transient deficiency of oxygen. Can occur in utero
10) Thinks the reddish coloration on spinal cord is an artifact (something occurring after death). Polk Co. Med Examiner testified it was due to blunt trauma but Dr Stephens says there were no bruises, scratches, abrasions on abdomen. Big rock on abdomen would not cause scratches, etc. if placed gently on baby. If pushed might see scratches, etc.
11) If he had suspected trauma, there are additional dissections that can be done in the autopsy to look for bruising along the spine and abdomen. Polk Co Med Examiner did not do these.
12) The prosecution’s other pathologist disagreed with Polk Co’s conclusion of blunt trauma – he said normal settling of the blood (libidity) caused the spinal “artifact” reddish coloring.
13) Alcohol found in body: Disagrees that this was a factor in the death as Polk Co. Med Exam. claims. Says it’s well knows to occur in dead people – usually in well decomposed bodies but can occur shortly after death. Low levels were detected.
14) Bacteria found in Jacob – that kind can break up red blood cells and continue on their journey

During cross examination things moved fast and I only have partial notes:

1) Beat him up for changing testimony from his May deposition (remember – prosecution did not supply the critical slides of water samples until 2 week before trial)
2) Pointed out autopsy shows an occasional bronchial showing debris
3) Water would wash blood away? Probably
4) Re: baby lifting head at age 2 weeks: This contradicts defense witness family practitioner who said baby cannot lift at 2 weeks.
5) Bantering on drowning in Mississippi: when close to shore often have debris in lungs, out in channel usually not. But lack of debris does not mean person did not drown in close.
6) Brain lesions again: says a twisted cord at birth could cause them

MINNESOTA PATHOLOGIST

Another pathologist from MN testified. He runs a large pathology lab at Regina Hospital and is deputy coroner for about 1/5 of MN’s population. His findings were very similar to Dr. Stephens above and appears to be additional corroboration for the defense’s position. I’ll only cover points significantly differing from earlier testimony.

1) Discounts culturing of blood for bacteria after death because it is
“misleading”. He says gut bacteria can enter the blood and you do not
know how it got there, and it does not tell you whether it got there
before or after death.
2) Discounts use of diatoms – unreliable
3) Answered same as Dr. Stephens: “Baby did NOT drown in Saylorville
Lake.”
4) Under cross exam, he said medically there is no way to tell for
certain where Jacob drowned.
5) Also got beat up for changing testimony from the deposition (because
prosecution delayed getting crucial water sample slides to him)

PROSECUTION RECALLS DR. GARRITY (POLK CO MED EXAMINER)

During the day questions had come up about what Garrity had reported
finding in Jacob’s lungs. They recalled him for about 10 minutes. This
was a rapid fire exchange, with defense and prosecution firing off
questions way faster than I could copy them. Here is a flavor of the
answers:

1) There are 2 kinds of “debris” in pathologist terminology – a) cells
from the body and b) sand, dirt, etc.
2) Garrity was referring to “sand, dirt” debris in his report
3) Defense: You reported lungs “remarkably clean” Garrity: “Yes” D:
“Occasional bronchial tube with debris?” G: Yes (Later in questions
Garrity says the context of “remarkably clean” was to the naked eye not
under a microscope)
4) Never submitted sample of water to lab for analysis (not clear which
sample this was – diatom count, water clarity, etc.?)
5) Agreed water contained enormous amounts of debris. Is shown slide
#13 which is the slide that caused our 2 pathologists to firmly conclude
Jacob did drown in Saylorville. “I just saw this” (Oh really? and you
have a murder one charge up on someone?)

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

I decided to not take notes for closing arguments. I figured it would
move fast and appeal someone to the emotions rather than facts.
Prosecution goes first, then defense, then prosecution has the last
word. Before & after closing arguments the judge’s instructions to the
jury were read.

PROSECUTION: They went with theatrics. They put a picture of Jacob in
the water up on the TV monitor and kept it there. They put the 2 rocks
that help him in the middle of the floor – at one point slamming them
down to show how they were allegedly placed. They had 3 poster boards
showing all the points needed for a first degree conviction and stepped
though how they feel they proved their case. They reiterated some facts
but not an exhaustive listing.

The cheap part came when it was the defense’s turn. The prosecutor
left everything out in front of the jury box. It’s a remarkably small
area. The defense lawyer politely asked prosecutor to remove the
items. He kind of sauntered over, moved the tripods and posters, but
left the rocks, bathtub and picture displayed.

Defense started his arguments. He kept having to dance around the rocks
and eventually he was forced to move them.

However – my personal opinion is he did a masterful job. Without
getting in details, he called to mind all the holes in the prosecution’s
case, including a few they seem to have introduced themselves. He also,
now that all the facts are on the table, walked though a more human
scenario of why Heidi might have reacted as she did and not just call
911 when finding Jacob. He recalled a client he once had who was
involved in a hit and run. He would not have been charged in the
accident but he speeded away, put his car in storage and tried to hide.
Of course he eventually was found out & had a big legal problem. The
lawyer stressed this is NOT intended to be an explanation of what Heidi
did but an example of how people panic in vastly different ways.

He said the question at stake is whether she is guilty of involuntary
manslaughter – saying there is a fine line between guilt or innocence
based on whether the person acted “recklessly”. Then he argued Heidi
was negligent but not reckless while bathing Jacob.

He closed by saying Heidi will be a prisoner of this event in her mind
for the rest of her life. He was near tears as he said this (and I
believe it was genuine – I was in a small group speaking with him
afterwards and he commented on it.)

The judge gave the jury 10 verdict slips – they are to return one. They
range from ‘Guilty of 1st degree murder’, to manslaughter, to assault,
to “Not Guilty”.

The jury deliberated Friday afternoon & resumes Monday.

One TV station reported they talked with the 4 alternate jurors who were
released from the case. They said they were not willing to convict
Heidi but neither were they willing to acquit her.

Subject: 9-20 Trial Update – no news

The jury deliberated until 4:30 without a decision. Heidi’s lawyer says
it’s not unusual to deliberate 3 days or so.

While we’re in a lull here I need to correct an error started by the
prosecution & propagated by me. I reported that Jane’s conversation
with the County Attorney’s office was taped without her knowledge. They
called the night before Jane’s testimony and said it was not taped, and
that the attorney who told Jane she was taped was working from someone
else’s notes and got confused with Heidi’s mother, who apparently was
taped (I don’t know if the mom was aware or not. I need to ask).

That’s all we got right now. Thanks for all your support and prayers.

Subject: 9-21 Trial Update – Still nothing but …

The jury may be deadlocked.

First off, this morning’s paper reported that yesterday the jury asked
for definitions of the terms malice, intent and assault. (The jury
instructions that were read before deliberations gave the legal
definition of some words used in the instructions. I don’t recall if
these 3 were defined.)

At 10:30 this morning the jury sent a note to the judge saying they
could not reach a verdict. We saw on the news that Heidi, and Mike and
her dad and the lawyers were summoned to the courtroom. The judge read
the latter part of the jury’s statement saying they were having problems
coming to a verdict. The first part of the note, which covers what the
problems are, won’t be read until after the jury reaches a decision.

The judge sent them back to deliberations asking for a verdict. In
criminal cases the verdict must be unanimous. If there is a hung jury,
the prosecutors would have to decide whether to retry the case. I don’t
know what is involved in that decision process.

The jury deliberated the rest of today and will resume Wednesday.

We have no fingernails left, we’re moving to toenails…

Subject: 9-22 Trial Update: It’s a Mistrial

The jury has deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial at about 11:30
this morning. Heidi and Mike were called down to the court and told
there was another note passed from jury to judge. But when they got
there, the judge called the jury into the jury box and asked the foreman
if more time could break the impasse. He said no and the other jurors
agreed.

Jane saw the news on TV and called me. By the time I got to the court
(15 minutes later?) everyone was gone, and the TV guys were already
tearing out the cabling, mikes, etc., although live interviews with the
attorneys were being done on the sidewalk outside the court.

I caught up with Heidi, Mike and 1/2 the family at a restaurant. No one
really had much news. I think her Dad said the jury was 11-1 but we
don’t know if that was in favor or against. The lawyers will meet with
the judge in about 2 days and decide whether to retry. I don’t know how
long that decision takes.

I’ll keep everyone posted. Maybe the news will get to some of the
jurors and we’ll get some insight into their thinking. I think it is OK
for the defense attorney to talk with them as well so maybe something
will filter back from that.

Basically, everyone is stunned and trying to sort out what all this
means. The prospect of waiting another xx months and reliving a trial
seems mighty unappealing.

Subject: 9-22 Trial Update – More Info

The TV news had more information that I want to pass along today:

  • The hung jury was indeed 11-1, but 11 were for 2nd degree murder & 1
    for involuntary manslaughter.
  • They interviewed the jury foreman. He said the first poll they took
    had 6 people for 1st degree. They later got to 10-2 second degree
    (yesterday??) and finally hung today at 11-1.
  • The 1 holdout juror believed the drowning occurred at home while the
    other 11 thought it was a lake drowning.
  • TV reported the penalty for second degree is 42.5 years minimum, 50
    max. Involuntary manslaughter is 5 years max with an average 22 months.
  • County prosecutor was interviewed and said he plans to retry the
    case.
  • Defense attorney in interview said this was the toughest case he has
    ever tried (he looks to be age 55-60 so there is some weight to that
    statement.)

It goes without saying that the mood here has gone from guarded optimism
at lunchtime to depression . We’re just starting to speculate on what
might be done differently in the second trial, what the jurors might
have believed or discounted, should they ask for a change of venue, etc.

I’ll keep these updates going for a while. There will probably be some
news to report for a few days. Thanks for your support and notes.

Subject: 9-23 Trial Update

I have some news to report from last night’s TV and this morning’s
paper, but I think this might be it for a while. There was nothing on
TV at noon or 6:00 today. But the hung jury was lead story on all the
10:00 TV newscasts and was front page with color photo in the morning
paper (most articles have been in the “Metro” section).

This update may be more of a “News Analysis” than a “just the facts,
ma’am” report. I was a bit riled up after seeing last night’s TV
interviews.

First off, TV-5 had a phone interview and the paper reported on the
holdout juror who held to involuntary manslaughter. She said the
pressure in the deliberation room was “tremendous, and the stress was
tremendous”. She said they (jurors) “went after” the other holdout when
things were 10-2, then after the other juror switched they turned on
her. She said that after the prosecution rested and BEFORE the defense
even started she did not think the prosecution had proven the “malice”
needed for a 2nd degree conviction, only the “recklessness” criteria
used for involuntary manslaughter. She was leaning to the theory that
Jacob partially drowned in the tub but may have been alive when place in
the lake, unknown to Heidi. The paper did not report why she thought
that (though it was hinted at by the prosecution during the trial).

TV-8 reported they talked with an alternate juror. The alternates saw
every minute of the trial just like the regular jurors and were
dismissed literally 2 minutes before the jury started deliberations.
The alternate said that he would have acquitted Heidi outright.

Here’s what riled me up: TV-8 had a different cut of their interview
with the jury foreman. He is a retired truck mechanic who is now a part
time mechanic (if I matched him up with my notes correctly). He was
extremely gung-ho that it should have been first degree. He said they
failed to do their job of returning a verdict, but he hopes they will
impanel another jury that will return a first degree conviction.

TV-13 carried a similar clip and then had the defense attorney’s
reaction and I was surprised at what he said, because throughout the
whole trial I never heard him accuse anyone of blatant incompetence. He
said “That is a bad juror. He completely ignored the judge’s
instructions to judge by the facts presented and not by emotion.” There
was more but I can’t remember it. But he looked upset beyond a lawyer’s
professional posturing.

Here’s the kicker: The jury foreman said “We didn’t look much at the
scientific evidence, but more at her actions. (Here comes the line that
is literally verbatim from the prosecutor’s closing argument:) If
something happens, you call 911, or the neighbor, or a relative.”

So I guess the 75% of the testimony spent on forensics, water ecology
and microbiology was fluff. And if you ever panic, you better do it
“normally”. At least in Polk County.

Personal opinion and prayer of thanks: If that 54 year old woman had
not been on the jury, Heidi would effectively be serving a life term
because of a runaway jury. It will be painful to redo all this but
thank God there was one voice of reason.

Subject: 9-27 Trial Update

Predictably, things have quieted down. I have a few news items and then
a very nice piece from the Register’s Sunday opinion page. It was not
very obvious that it was an ‘Anfinson’ article. In fact, we mentioned
it to Mike and he had completely missed it when he read the paper that
day.

* Our jury foreman has been active. There is a rumor floating around
the family that he has been on a radio talk show in addition to the TV
clips from the first few days. But no one knows what show he was
supposedly on.
* No other jury members or alternates have spoken to the media that we
are aware of (excepting article below).
* There are family rumors that the defense lawyer may file a motion
with the Iowa Supreme Court claiming Heidi’s civil rights have been
violated by the foreman’s very public remarks. Also may file a motion
to remove the first degree charge since this jury deadlocked with a
maximum of second degree.
* There was a short hearing today that a few family members attended
(me included). It set a new trial date of Feb. 7. Defense went on
record as saying they would like to retry in Polk County but also stated
they will do a survey of the community to see if a change of venue is
indicated. The judge (same judge) agreed with it all and said he will
alert larger Iowa cities to keep the 2/7 date open. He said the case
will be tried 2/7 whether it is in Polk Co. or elsewhere. The
prosecution asked to retry within a month but said 2/7 would be OK.
When they asked to retry in a month, the defense attorney quite loudly
asked the prosecutor if he wanted the same foreman. The judge claimed
not to have heard Kutmus’ remark, but the prosecutor sputtered some
righteous protest for the record I suppose.

——————————————–

A juror of conviction says no

By Rekha Basu (published 9/26/99 Des Moines Register)

Toward the end of her first jury-duty experience, it seemed as if Joanne Saylor was on trial along with the defendant whose fate she was weighing.

Saylor was the lone holdout when 11 jurors voted to convict Heidi Anfinson of Des Moines of second-degree murder for the death of her infant son, Jacob. Because Saylor didn’t concur with the majority, the judge last week declared a mistrial. Anfinson will be tried again.

For Saylor, a religious woman, it was a matter of conscience. She felt the prosecution hadn’t proven that Anfinson deliberately killed her child. The evidence pointed to involuntary manslaughter, she said.

You don’t easily go up against the majority, especially in such a closely watched, emotionally fraught case, without paying a price.

Since Tuesday, it has been awfully chilly where Saylor sits.

After the verdict, the jury foreman refused to shake her hand – until she made a quip, and then he shook it looking the other way. “Whether I shake her hand or I shake anybody’s hand is my business,” the foreman, Verne Cake, told me, when asked.

Other jurors, unable to pressure Saylor into changing her mind, made no secret of their displeasure with her. “I was told that I thought this was a joke,” she related, “and I just come back and said, “I want you all to know that anybody who thinks I think that this is a joke is cruel and insensitive.”

A second juror who was also unconvinced it was murder was “harassed” during the 20-hour deliberations, to the point where she broke down in tears and later changed her vote, according to Saylor. Cake admits there was pressure on that juror to see the evidence differently, but says she came to her decision by herself.

And if you think Saylor’s independent-mindedness is drawing her praise at work, think again.

That’s no way to treat someone who took her job – and the Constitution – seriously.

Jacob Anfinson’s death was one of those shocking, incomprehensible cases that shakes everyone’s sense of order. How does a two-week old baby start out in a baby bathtub and end up with 25 pounds of rocks piled on top of him in Saylorville Lake? The mother first claimed it was a kidnapping, then led authorities to the baby’s body, and said it was an accident. The medical testimony was contradictory. Incisions the prosecutors said were slashes, the defense claimed came from raptors.

A murder verdict would allow us all the comfort of knowing someone was paying big. But, Saylor said, “Just because a baby is dead doesn’t mean somebody is guilty of murder.”

Personally, I haven’t formed an opinion about whether Anfinson is a murderer, but I do know that if jurors are prepared to send her to prison for 50 years, they had better be absolutely sure of it.

I’ve read of cases in which one juror stubbornly refused to acknowledge the evidence, but Saylor is hardly blind to the facts. She concluded that the baby died accidentally in the sink after his mother had moved him out of a baby bath he had soiled. [This was Jane's testimony. Bob] She believes a panic-stricken mother, fearing prosecution, then took the body to the lake and covered it with rocks to hide it.

It may be one juror’s interpretation, but that’s what we have jurors for.

Unfortunately, some people believe we have them to think in lockstep, to defer to majority will. Cake has been telling the media the jury fell down on its job. Asked about Saylor’s remarks about coercion, he said there was more to it, but declined to say what.

There’s always a danger that a resistant juror will cause a guilty person to go free. But it’s the prosecution’s job to present an airtight case, not the jurors’ job to convict for anything less.

Saylor, 54, won’t allow herself to be swayed by emotionalism.

“Granted it was a baby, but I’m sorry. I can’t value the death of a baby any more than a 60-year-old man,” she said.

Where does she get her independence? Mostly from life’s lessons, including the near loss of a baby from asthma, she said. She has learned that things are not always what they appear to be.

“I’ve had bad, bad times and good, good times . . . ,” she said. “I have learned from living that you cannot be judgmental. You have to wait.”

Of Anfinson, she said, “She was innocent until she was proven guilty.”

As the emotionally draining case progressed, the mother of four daughters told herself “the good Lord had a purpose in having me in there.”

Last week, she found out what that was.

Most of us implicitly trust the jury system to get it right. But talking to Saylor, you wonder how often “consensus” is really the result of bullying and “groupthink,” with the more assertive members drowning out the less forceful ones. And how many verdicts are wrong because of it?

Fortunately, for all her trauma, Saylor hasn’t been scared away yet. She readily says she’d serve again.

Subject: Trial update 2/13/2000

I haven’t been sending out detailed updates for the second trial. In
most ways it is similar to the first. Here’s where things stand:

1) Trial started last Monday (2/7). We have been through jury
selection, opening arguments, prosecution’s case and most of defense’s
case.

2) I’m guessing defense will rest Monday and closing arguments will
occur Monday afternoon or Tuesday.

3) The trial was moved to Davenport, which is along the Mississippi
River and I-80.

4) The same witnesses and evidence have been presented, for the most
part. A few minor defense witnesses were dropped (a next door neighbor
of Heidi’s from several years ago and a TV reporter that Heidi had
trained in waitressing a few years ago.)

5) The arguments seem more simplified and streamlined. Many prolonged
legal arguments about the permissibility & credibility of evidence have
been omitted or smoothed over “behind the scenes”. I think the overall
picture will be clearer for the jury.

6) I have some opinions on whether things seem to be going better for
the defense or the prosecution but I will hold those for later.

Subject: Verdict is in (2/15/2000 8:34 p.m.)

Verdict: Guilty of Second Degree Murder. Iowa law sets a 50 year
sentence with a 42.5 year minimum.The entire family is stunned. The feeling is somewhat akin to a sudden
death in the family, with everyone gathered around trying to console
each other.I’m not clear on next options. Apparently we have 10 days to file an
appeal. Formal sentencing will be March 29 if I heard the judge
correctly.Heidi was immediately taken into custody. She goes to Polk County
(ours) maybe until sentencing and then I don’t know where from there. And not a one of her parents, siblings or friends thinks she did anything criminal.

Talk about feeling helpless.

Tags: Legal · Trials