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9.12.2003

(All italics below were added by this blog's author; the All Caps are part of the official record)

Perjury from the state's star witness. From the court's minute transcripts, May 16th 2002:

OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF THE JURY:...[Defense Attorney] Mr. Kohn advised the Court he has all the handwritten kites/exemplars of [state witness] Karinda Martin {sic, should be Korinda} and have a letter preliminarily showing Karinda Martin lied to the Court; Ms. Martin wrote the letters to Brenda Self. He further argued, there is an element of malice attributed to Karinda Martin; District Attorney cannot prove murder without her. He moved for a continuance to until an opinion has been rendered to as to whether to proceed forward with testimony of Brenda Self, or to exclude the testimony of Karinda Martin....

Later, on August 22, 2002, the final judgment on this was:

re: Korinda Martin: Jurors had an opportunity to evaluate her credibility in light of her convictions of felony and prison time, but, the information regarding her letters written on sentencing was collateral and extrinsic and ruling was appropriate; therefore, DENIED.

In other words, because Martin's perjury was about whether or not she tried to scam her way out of prison by forging letters to a judge, it was therefore unconnected to the charges against Kirstin Lobato. So the fact that she lied on the stand doesn't matter. Never mind that she had a deal with the District Attorney in exchange for her testimony.

And how about alibis? You may be skeptical about family and friends, but what about people in the neighborhood? From the same date:


OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF THE JURY:...[District Attorney] Mr. Kephart advised the Court he was served over the noon hour with a Supplemental Notice Of Alibi of a neighbor of the Deft. [Kirstin Lobato]...Mr. Kephart noted his objection to the use of the witnesses noticed in the Supplemental Notice of Alibi; filing is not timely or proper under statute. Upon the inquiry of Mr. Kohn Court clarified its prior ruling and ORDERED, new witness noted in the Supplemental Notice of Alibi WILL NOT be allowed to testify as the disclosure was not timely. Mr. Kohn moved for a continuance. COURT ORDERED, motion DENIED.

For more of the public defense team's lack of proper timeliness, May 10th, 2002:

OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF THE JURY: Notice Of Defendant's Expert Witnesses FILED IN OPEN COURT. Mr. Kephart objected to the filing arguing the curriculum vitae needed to be filed 21 days prior to start of trial. Court stated findings and ORDERED, objection OVER RULED; state will be allowed to contact the witnesses.

That time the prosecutor was over ruled. But note, it is only to contact the expert witness. Here's how it ended on May 16, 2002:

OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF THE JURY: Mr. Kephart noted his objection to the late/improper notice of and expert witness and would further object to any testimony by the expert...Mr. Kephart moved for the exclusion of the testimony of expert Schiro. Court stated findings and ORDERED, defense counsel may call Mr. Schiro regarding expert testimony. Due to late disclosure, Court requested an offer of proof as to the issues of latent fingerprints, footprints and blood splatters. Offer of proof presented by Mr. Kohn. Court stated findings and ORDERED, objection SUSTAINED as to the objection to the footprint testimony; ruling RESERVED on issues of latent fingerprints and blood splatters. Mr. Kephart moved for a 1 week continuance. Due to Court schedule, COURT ORDERED, state's motion for continuance DENIED.

In other words, the defense expert was only allowed to talk about fingerprint lifting and blood analysis, rather than give the testimony that would have shown forensic evidence excluded Kirstin Lobato from the scene.


Skepticism

For most people, it is a natural thing to doubt. Some of us are very good at it. I, myself, am a very discriminating person. I don't mean this in any prejudiced or bigoted sense, but more as a sort of cautious intellectualism that evaluates facts carefully and personally rather than accepting them straight out as legitimate. This sort of thing has certain amount of cynicism as well in this day and age, because it seems like everyone from the telephone company to the President is trying to fool you. So it is understandable that a person could surf by this page and think "this is probably just here because another convict is trying to get out of their deserved punishment."

So for those who think that doubt is healthy approach to this sort of thing (as I do), I ask you to consider the events both leading up to Kirstin Lobato's trial and the trial itself, not as proof of innocence, but rather as proof of her inability to obtain justice within the court system. I have found that, in this case, it is the justice system that deserves a skeptical examination, more than the accused.

Looking at the evidence on Kirstin's behalf is one thing. Looking at the facts and noting that her case was treated unjustly is another. Without judging that which you cannot know - whether she is guilty or innocent - you can still analyze the events of her trial. I'd direct your attention to one example: a forensic expert would have testified to the impossibility of Kirstin committing the murder in question. Another example is the prosecution's central witness being a person who had a history of doing anything she could to lessen her own sentence. Outside of the prosecution or defense, the medical examiner's report likewise portrays events on a timetable that make it impossible for Kirstin to have committed the crime.

Yet none of these points were ever brought up (for the jury) during the trial. They should have been, except for the ineptitude of Kirstin's court-appointed defenders and the prosecutor's relentless hunt for a conviction. From the prosecution's deal to get a witness on the stand who had forged letters to a judge in an attempt to get her own sentence reduced, to the public defender's inability to turn documents over in a timely fashion (not to mention admitting to the judge that he was daydreaming during the trial), there is no evidence that Kirstin Lobato received the fair trial she had a right to have. That has nothing to do with innocence or guilt. It has to do with a system that failed to render proper justice, and anyone looking at the course of this trial would easily come to the same logical conclusion.

The penalty for this failure is an innocent woman in prison, but for those who are skeptical of this, at the very least it can be seen that the events of this proceeding did not meet any reasonable standard for a fair trial.


9.11.2003

September 11th, 2001

It's been two years, though some days it feels like longer. Not because I have trouble remembering, but because it often seems impossible to forget. Like it was with J.F.K.'s death in a time before I was born, everyone knows "what they were doing when they first heard" that planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers.

I was at work, talking to an acquaintance online, who happened to have her T.V. set on. When the first plane crashed and the news broke, she told me what happened. I didn't get much more out of her, probably because she was glued to the news. I remember wondering how many people had died. Then the second plane hit, and I knew immediately that neither one had been an accident.

But I didn't know what it meant, then. All I knew, and what continued to be revealed to me as the day progressed and the tragedy grew worse, was that many, many people had died. And I kept seeing them not so much as human beings, but as beings of thought and emotion and hope, each one with a world as big as mine. I guess you could say I saw them as souls...not being terribly religious, it's a strange label for me to apply, but it fits well enough.

I also saw that every one of them was blameless for the political and idealistic agendas that motivated their murder.

Above life (in the biological sense), I respect dreaming and hope. I discover more by listening to the nuances of emotion than by listening to the articulation of words. The only problem with doing that sort of listening is that I tend to hear, and understand. So, it haunts me when dreams and hopes and emotions are crushed by events under another person's control. No innocent that died during the tragic events of September 11th ever chose to put themselves on the front line. They had never made a purposeful decision to mark themselves for the possibility of the death that claimed them, nor was it any accident - no tragic quirk of fate that is wholly unavoidable because it could not be foreseen. On the matter of choice, perhaps a weak argument for those in the Pentagon could be made, that they were targets because of what the C.I.A. did every day. Or you could say the firefighters and police in New York City knew they may have to sacrifice themselves one day, so there is their choice. But that is exactly what makes all of them heroes...and to me each one is still an individual who possessed an entire world of hope and emotion.

So it haunts me. If this tragedy had been the first to affect me in such a way, it might or might not be easier to bear. I really don't know. But I have seen many lives drowning in a sea of choices that were not their own. I grew up watching the weight of disinterested and careless authorities breaking the will of innocent kids around me. And as dreams go, I know of none that survived except mine. As emotions go, I know of none that weren't warped, including mine. And it was not through their choices that this happened, but because of the motivations of others, motivations that placed these kids' thoughts and dreams on the chopping block. For me, there is little difference between biological murder and forcing an emotional death while still alive. Either way, in the end it is the same tragedy. My memory of these kids' spirits being destroyed piecemeal affect me on the same level as those lives that ended suddenly in the mass destruction two years ago.

In a similar way, to have hope in prison seems pointless, especially if you are looking at spending most of your life there. To know that Kirstin Lobato is in jail not because of the choices she made, but because of severe injustice...well, it strikes a chord within my mind. I've seen this before, this ending of dreams, and September 11th tends to remind me that now everyone else has, too.

It cannot be allowed to end in this way. Kirstin deserves her chance to seek out whatever dreams she has, and her right to this was not made forfeit by any decision she made. And unlike those who died two years ago, her future can still be made free. I just trust she will hold onto her spirit long enough for those who are fighting for her to win.

And we will win.


9.09.2003

Okay, so it took me a little while to explore how to insert an image. Now that I have figured it out (sort of...when I Refresh the page the image disappears), this is me...



I'm not really sure if inserting images is going to be all that useful for this blog. But I thought people might be curious. Maybe. Anyhow, I also added a banner to Justice4Kirstin.com, but it keeps showing up at the bottom of the page. I guess I need to work at this, heh....


9.08.2003

Here's A Warm Body...Now Good Luck!

In 1963, Gideon vs. Wainwright ensured that all accused receive the assistance of counsel in a court of law. Prior to that, it was a fairly hit-and-miss process for various reasons that changed from state to state. And if you were on the 'miss' side of that equation, you had little choice but to defend yourself (also known as pro se litigation, which is a citizen's right in any case) if you could not afford a lawyer. While this can have it's advantages in some cases, the task of doing it effectively is problematic, and more so in severe felony cases.

So Americans do have the right to counsel, but we cannot guess at what the caliber of that counsel will be. In far too many cases, the court-appointed counsel is an overworked, uninspired 'case-by-case' worker whose office is also underpaid. This is certainly true for the public defenders in Kirstin Lobato's case. So that puts a person directly between the rock of indigent defense and the hard place of self-representation. And many of us would rather take our chances on a lawyer, since they are supposed to know what they are doing.

But what if they don't know what they are doing? Or don't care? You only have one real chance to defend yourself against a very hostile environment. Forget presumption of innocence; we have become an extremely cynical society, and by the time we reach the point of trial, most people would assume that the officials - whom they'd like to think they could trust - were right in their accusations. Far too often, though, a public defender just isn't motivated enough to change this perception on their client's behalf. And appeals are generally a very lengthy process, often taking years of time. After all, by that point, we have been separated from our right to a speedy trial. But these are years that cannot be returned.

The point is that we are given a defender per our rights, but there is no assurance that the counsel will try to be reasonably effective in the courtroom. Nor is there any assurance that a court-appointed attorney will keep their mind on their work, even with your freedom on the line. The 'defender of your innocence' could very well end up being some guy who sits next to you and occasionally objects to the mispronunciation of his name. And we certainly cannot rely on the prosecutor to pursue any thought of innocence. The 1935 Supreme Court standard that it is in a citizen's interest that the prosecutor's duty "in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done" has long been abandoned.

But while a person may feel it is forgivable for a prosecutor to ignore this demand upon their office, it is not so possible where public defenders are concerned. It is their very job to defend, and yet too many are unable and unwilling to do so effectively. Kirstin Lobato's case is only one instance where this has cost an innocent person their freedom. This cannot be an atmosphere where justice thrives.


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