I got angry a few times, was surprised by a few things and was choked up three different times as I sat through the last day of testimony in the Keate case in Eldorado.
I was angry when I listened to Dr. Write from San Angelo testify that in his expert opinion the chances Mr. Keate would ever repeat his offense if he were granted probation by the jury were "tiny". That burned me up. In one breath he was testifying about how Mr. Keat was simply a religious and highly conscientious man trying to fulfill the tenets of his faith and in the next declaring him of being at an infinitesimally small risk of repeating his offense.
I'm always angered by blatant ignorance. If the man was so conscientious about maintaining obedience to his faith, what on earth could lead an expert to testify there was only a "tiny" risk that he would repeat the offense? His offense was, indeed, caused by his conscientious adherence to his faith, through perfect obedience to his "prophet".
I was also angered by the character witness who winged his way down here from Utah to testify what good character Mr. Keate had. In one breath he was giving sworn testimony about the nature of his relationship to Mr. Keate being a business relationship, upon which millions of dollars of business had been conducted on a simple handshake, and in the next, when asked by the prosecutor if Mr. Keate's conviction for sexually assaulting a minor child had changed his opinion of the man, he was saying "It has not". He testified that he had lunch with Mr. Keate on several occasions and had been fishing with him. His biggest endorsement of his character was that Mr. Keate had never even told him a good "fish story". When the prosecutor asked Mr. Rostenburger if Mr. Keate had ever mentioned any of his wives [naming his legal spouse and each of his concubines], he said "no" to every one.
How do you manage to do "millions of dollars of business on a handshake", have multiple lunches and go on fishing trips with someone and never hear a single word about their spouse or the love[s] of their life? Yeah, these women obviously mean a lot to him.
For the first portion of the testimony I sat with Mr. Keate's family and friends. I was surrounded by FLDS members. I never mind if they look at my notes as long as they don't mind if I peek at theirs, too.
The only time it freaked me out was when Willie passed me and his butt brushed my hand. Antibacterial soap took care of the after effects of the internal "eeww". I was quite irritated a couple of times when we were asked to "all rise" for the entrance or departure of the jury and Willie was yammering on in conversation with the people sitting around him. I wanted to say, "Hey, dude, that's a jury of Texans doing a sacred civic duty. Show some respect and shut yer yapper!" But I just shot him an icy stare and pursed my lips in disapproval.
I can never see Willie that the boy in the window of his house in Cedar City doesn't haunt me. I see that baby in my dreams sometimes. I figure that is more a reflection of my own psyche than anything else. Having buried the only son I will ever have, it is beyond me to think of a little boy looking so lost and unloved. For me, he is the literal poster child of the Lost Boys. Every time Willie says, "there is no victim" my stomach churns and I wonder where the bruised little boy in the window is now, what his name is, who holds him when he is hurt or if he goes to bed at night wishing someone would love him. I sometimes picture myself scooping him up into my arms, hugging him and stroking his hair, whispering to him about what a good boy he is... These are things I try to let go of... like death, which Lonesome Dove's Captain Woodrow Call was right about, “The best thing you can do with death is ride off from it".
Sometime that morning I ran into a character involved in this drama and was informed they read my blog. I was shocked, and quite humbled. I know many people read it and never comment but it truly was a surprise, and I will cherish that little revelation for a long time.
I have never said anything here about the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice of the Office of the Attorney General, Mr. Eric Nichols. I have held my tongue [something I rarely do] and waited to see what would happen as these trials progressed. I have to say I was surprised. I was very pleasantly surprised by the tact taken by Mr. Nichols during sentencing.
Mr. Nichols is slowly building a case against polygamy. He is not building a case based on persecution of the FLDS, or of Joseph Smith or any religion. Mr. Nichols is wading into the water of going after polygamy as an abuse of women. I was stunned when I saw it for myself. The defense was adamant in it's continual objection to the testimony of Dr. Lawrence Beal. At one point Mr. Wilson, Keate's attorney, jumped up and insisted that Dr. Beal's testimony was irrelevant to the case and that the generalities of identifying polygamy as an abuse would prove grossly prejudicial to the jury, since the case was not about polygamy. Twice within a ten minute period Judge Walther asked the jury to get back up and leave the courtroom to hash the issue out. She overruled his objections and allowed his testimony, basically saying that his testimony that polygamy is abuse was indeed relevant to the case. His paper is currently undergoing a peer review process.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for Assistant Attorney General Angela Goodwin, who was given fifteen minutes of the prosecution's allotted time in the closing argument phase. She succinctly explained the betrayal of trust that Keate's victim had endured, along with three of his daughters. She asked the jury to send a message to the victim and to all the girls on the YFZ that she is free, they are Americans, they have rights, they can say "no". This is America and they have choices. They do not have to get married or have babies if they don't feel they are ready. I sat spellbound listening to her almost gently say these things and I felt my chest tighten, my lips quiver and the tears filling my eyes. She was speaking for women, giving us a voice in that courtroom. I had to swallow hard to keep from "losing it". When she was done I had to clasp my hands together, lest I begin clapping.
Mr. Wilson, in his closing arguments, reminded me of a character actor delivering a soliloquy as Benjamin Franklin. I must say his frumpy physical appearance is a dead ringer for the founding father, right down to the balding head on top, with longer hair in a blunt cut on the back and wire rimmed glasses.
Someone later told me that he was suffering stomach problems and had been forced more than once to run for the bathroom. He was also, according to a source, caught twice smoking in the bathroom and run out and chastised by the Rangers. This was [again according to a source] after he had been twice before locked out of the courtroom when he had run out for a quick smoke previously. Mr. Wilson, to me, seemed like a man who was doing the best with what he had, which wasn't much. He was obliged to give a competent defense for Mr. Keate. He had to defend the indefensible. He had to argue, using freedom of religion, that his client deserved probation.
I was angry when he told the jury that Mr. Keate was guilty of nothing more than trying to serve his G-d. He actually said that the state of Texas, the government was waging a "religious war" on the FLDS, and asked them if next Texas might come after parents who allow their children to take communion, "Will the Catholics be next"? Then he pandered to the jury's two black members, using the civil rights movement and comparing a woman who simply wanted to ride a bus to the FLDS trying to be true to their faith. Um, yeah, sips of communion wine/child rape...same deal, uh hu, okay.
My opinion? Poor Mr. Wilson should have a blessed Christmas holiday and the greatest gift he could possibly have is that this stressful nightmare, and his role in it, is over. I think his rumored tummy troubles should all go away now, and quite possibly his nicotine intake will level off as well. Those of us who smoke know that stress drives you to smoke more than you should. I almost felt sorry, and afterwords relieved for him. I've always adored Benjamin Franklin.
Mr. Nichols closed strongly. He is an astute practitioner of his field. I cannot say I ever warmed to him on any personal level but I was impressed with his litigation skills. He hammered home the fact that this girl "believed” to please G-d, she must please Mr. Keate and that he had her ticket to the celestial kingdom in his hands. She had no choice but to submit and obey. He asked them to think about Mr. Wilson's argument that this was a religious right and said, "They just don't get it". He tackled the comparison to the civil rights movement and again said, "They don't get it". He asked the jury to show them that they do “get it”.
When it was over I had to go up to Ms. Goodwin. I threw my arms around her and gave her a big long hug and said "Thank you, thank you, thank you". When we finally let go I saw that she was about to cry, too. I didn't want anyone to see me cry so I was trying to pull it back together but I was honestly shaking in my boots. I was verclempt for sure. I wished Flora could have been there to hear what I had heard.
After the jury was sent into deliberation, as I was leaving two young FLDS boys [I call them boys but am sure they were 18 or over] were lurking around the car as I was getting in and they were pointing and laughing at my signage, which reads "POLYGAMY IS ABUSE". I was in the middle of leaving a message for Flora and rolled down my window when I saw them start taking pictures of me with their camera phones, "Hey y'all, Flora says hey!” Then I backed up to leave, briefly blocking in their vehicle and took a couple of pictures of their license plate.
What I heard in that courtroom was a vindication of my faith. I do not believe in the Fed but with everything inside of me, I do believe in Texas. I always have.
I would like to thank Greg Abbott, Eric Nichols, Angela Goodwin, the Texas Rangers, Judge Barbara Walther, Sheriff David Doran and his staff, the citizens of Eldorado and Scleicher County and most of all the jury members for giving me undeniable proof that the faith I have, and have always had in Texas is justified.
After the sentence was read I ran from the courtroom just like last time but this time I was shouting for joy, "G-D BLESS TEXAS!" as I ran for the vehicle to call my friend Flora who wanted so badly to be free and no one would help her as a child.
I believe, I believe, I believe....
The eyes of Texas are upon you all the live long day....