Wednesday, July 1, 2009: 8:35 am: After having Tuesday off, out in the hall outside the Ayres courtroom, the chatter among the Ayres jurors was how much they enjoyed having the day off. Everyone was in a sprightly mood: one older woman was knitting a sweater; several were talking animatedly about their day jobs. A heavyset woman juror whose bun is always held together with a purple scrunchy sat quietly reading a magazine that looked like Time or Newsweek. We weren't sure, but it looked as if she had a screwdriver stuck through her bun.
Around the corner from the jury on a bench in the hall was the gloomy triumverate: Robert Ayres, Solveig Ayres and the Doctor. No words were exchanged between these family members. They stared straight ahead and didn't acknowledge one another. One shudders to think what dinner time is like in the Ayres household.
Peter V. was the fourth and final out- of -statute victim to testify. Like many of the victims, he wore a blue shirt and chinos. He actually resembled Steve A., the victim who settled the civil suit against Ayres. Like the majority of victims, Peter V is not a tall man. It makes us mad to think about how the gargantuan doctor must have towered over Peter and all the other undersized victims in therapy. Come to think of it, we really don't know of any tall victims of Ayres, other than Eric B, an in -statute victim who testified . That guy was super tall - so much so that the good doctor accosted him in the hall last week as Eric waited to testify. It is not clear whether the good doctor knew he was speaking to a victim, but what he did say to Eric B was "You should be a basketball player." We suspect he did know he was a victim, and that this either was some creepy flirtatious come-on, or an attempt to disarm the victim and keep him off guard. Note to Dr. Ayres: we are well aware of your little tricks to catch people off guard and they don't work! We have also heard that a complaint about Ayres' remark was made to the bailiff or such, and that is a good thing.
Back to Peter V's testimony. He said he was 40 years old, married with two children, works in the software industry. He came across as very, very smart and very articulate. (We've noticed that Ayres picked on boys who were brainy) Peter told the jury that he was sent to Ayres because his parents were going through a divorce and that his grades started dropping at school. When he spoke to the prosecutor he was very strong and confident. He told the prosecutor that when he was sent to Ayres he had no physical problems. He told the jury that it was in his third session that Ayres asked him to drop his pants, and that subsequently Ayres "cupped his scrotum." Peter said that he telegraphed to Ayres that he objected to this violation through his defensive posture. He said Ayres used no gloves, did not use a stethoscope or take his blood pressure or engage in any other medical procedure.
After he had been molested, Peter told the jury that he felt violated, but that he didn't tell his mother because he didn't have an intimate relationship with her.
It wasn't until 2004, he said, when he was having lunch with his wife, who is a mental health professional and her friend Kimberley, who was also a mental health professional, that he told them that Ayres had molested him. The subject came up because somehow, the friend Kimberley had mentioned Ayres' name in conversation .He testified that both his wife and Kimberley said " A psychiatrist shouldn't do that!" ( No kidding, but try telling Weinberg that.)
Weinberg asked a lot of nitpicking dates about when Peter and his wife and Kimberley had this discussion about Ayres. This is his job, to point out inconsistencies in witnesses' testimony but man ,did it put us to sleep.
We thought Peter was a great witness and we thank him for his testimony. He is a hero.
Next up was Detective Rick Decker, the lead detective in the Ayres case. Decker is 35 but looks 25. With his round face and cropped hair, he reminds us of Charlie Brown. He was a pretty good witness, we thought. He walked us through the interviewing procedure of the victims. He insisted that the police did not ask leading questions. What sticks out in our mind is that when he first contacted Orion B, he said that Orion was driving in Malibu and got so upset when he heard Ayres' name that out of concern, he asked Orion to pull off the road.
Midmorning, three older women, obviously cronies of the Ayres, made a rather noisy entrance into the courtroom. One had a superduper deluxe walker that seemed to have a motor or something and it made Ayres' walker look rather puny and outdated. One of the women had a gray ponytail and we kept wondering if it was Ayres' groupie Dr. Etta Bryant, who wrote a letter defending Ayres to the County Times three years ago. These three new cronies made us wonder what happened to the well preserved society dame who appeared with the Ayres at the opening arguments, who scowled at the victims and scribbled in her notebook furiously. We haven't seen hide nor hair of her since. That seems to be a pattern... the Ayres solicit pals to attend the trial but once they hear the testimony, they're never seen again.
On the other hand, we were delighted to see a pair of parents who were attending the trial for the first time. After reading our blog, they had decided to make a trip to the courthouse. They told us that their son had seen Ayres for just one visit. But after telling them that he got a" bad vibe" from the good doctor, he refused to go back. Smart boy!! We welcomed his parents in the courtroom because they exuded such strong positive energy. We hope they return. We also encourage other parents out there to attend.
It kinda bugs us, but Robert Ayres appeared to be trying to get brownie points by being super obsequious. When the bailiff opened the doors to the courtroom at 8:45 am, Robert made a big show of holding the door open for mom and dad. Then he held the door open for the bailiff. (Ick.) During the day's testimony, when the jury entered and left the room, Robert was the only one of the courtroom spectators to leap to his feet and stand at attention. We also noticed that in the morning's testimony, Robert went to the back of the room to fetch a cup of water from the cooler for dear old dad, who hadn't asked him for it. He tapped him on the shoulder and handed it to him. It all seemed a bit too showy for our taste. We know Robert is an erstwhile actor and we couldn't help thinking : Is he doing this for show, as in "Hey, lookit jury, look at what a great son I am !" But there was no warmth to it or genuine caring to his action. He was acting as if he thought that's what sons do for fathers, but there didn't seem to be any love for his father. We continue to feel sorry for him, even as we continue to be angry with him for defending the pedophile. It sort of drives us crazy to feel both pity and anger towards this man who - as one spectator pointed out to us - does not carry himself like a man. With his goatee, he bears a strong resemblance to the beatnik character Maynard G Krebs in "Dobie Gillis" (now we're really showing our age.) Krebs was played by Bob Denver, later known as "Gilligan."
During Weinberg's cross-examination of Detective Decker, he kept harping on the fact that in the police questionnaire that was used to interrogate victims, the talking-sheet called Ayres a "psychologist" instead of "psychiatrist." Weinberg seemed to think that this made all the difference in the world in terms of the victims' testimony, but we know better. We think the real reason he harped on it because Ayres once wrote an essay in which he said that psychiatrists were superior to psychologists because they had gone to medical school. He said psychiatrists were the Rolls Royces, the expensive crystal, the creme de la creme of therapeutic professionals. We have learned that his arrogant attitude towards psychologists in the essay made many psychologists angry.(Wonder what forensic psychologist Al Fricke thought of this essay?Fricke and Ayres worked together a lot... We have heard stories that Fricke knows things about Ayres but has never come forward to police. We think he's a coward.)
We bet it drives Ayres crazy every time he is referred to as a "psychologist" and so we hope people continue to make this mistake for as long as he lives...
After lunch, Pete Bahnmueller, a retired detective from the San Mateo PD testified. He said he was brought in from retirement to help call victims. Bald and with a mustache, he bore a strong resemblance to Delta Burke's husband, actor Gerald McRaney. He was soft spoken. Not much stands out about his testimony other than the fact that when he called one former patient of Ayres and said,"Do you know why I am calling you?", he said the man replied "Is it because I missed an AA meeting?" This elicited chuckles from the judge, jury and everyone else in the courtroom.
At one point during Banhmueller's testimony, we looked over at Ayres, who sat like a grey stone. In spite of a roll of fat that spilled over the back of his chair, it appeared to us that he has lost weight in the last few weeks.
Next up, Deputy Police Chief Mike Callagy. Callagy is a very tall chap, who - at least in the courtroom- has the demeanor of an altar boy. Unlike the other police officers, Callagy addressed the jury directly and kept up a steady stream of "Yes, Ma'am's" to the prosecutor. We're not sure if he's really that polite outside the courtroom, but it wasn't a bad performance. We did like it that when Weinberg started complaining that the police had never consulted with mental health professionals before starting to call former patients of Ayres, Callagy shot back firmly "Mr. Weinberg, we are trained to interview people under these cicrumstances."Score one for the police.
After that, the prosecution rested its case. They put on testimony for just six days. We wonder why theexpert in the Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome didn't testify, because Weinberg fought so hard to keep her out.
Weinberg's first witness for the defense was Detective Rick Decker, who had just spent the morning on the stand for the prosecution. The defense attorney nitpicked and nitpicked and zeroed in on inconsistencies with victims' testimonies - in particular that of Scott E.. Weinberg noted that in his first two interviews with police that Scott E had never said that Ayres had touched his penis. On the third interview, he told them it "might" have occurred. We thought Weinberg was pretty good at pointing out discrepancies, much as we hate to admit it. He's doing a good job, and he is a good lawyer, though we still believe Ayres will be convicted.
It was a tiring day for everyone. Even Robert Ayres abandoned his usual on the edge- of-his-seat exclamation point posture and was drooping drowsily back in his chair. One young female juror kept looking and picking and picking at her fingernails, driving many courtroom observers crazy. All along they have been concerned about her seeming inattentiveness.
The trial is in recess until Monday, with Weinberg finishing up his testimony of Decker.
There was a rumor going around today that Ayres himself will take the witness stand next week. But if his testimony is as filled with holes and lies as it was in his deposition for the civil suit against him, we think he'd be committing suicide by doing so. Remember, readers, that in Ayres own deposition, under oath he stated, " I don't know that I've ever asked a child to take his pants down."
And, oh, yes Solveig was decked out in her peacock blue jacket today with matching sweater.
Finally, thanks to the fine pro-bono work of two top-notch criminal defense attorneys -John Halley and Geoff Carr- journalist Victoria Balfour was permitted back into the courtroom today. Halley and Carr argued that Balfour as a journalist was protected under the shield law. We don't think Weinberg or the prosecutor ever expected Balfour to keep fighting her exclusion and we suspect that Weinberg has pulled this witness exclusion shenanigan many times in his career without ever being called on the carpet. We're not sure what to make of the prosecutor's hostility to Balfour's presence in the courtroom, but we know there was no legal reason for it.
We heard that Detective Decker told a victim's parent that if Balfour were to be called to the stand, it could potentially destroy the DA's case. Huh? Did it ever occur to the DA that the testimony would destroy Weinberg's case? We think that Weinberg used the threat of calling Balfour to the stand only to get under the prosecutor's skin. Once he saw that it freaked her out, he kept doing it.. Just a little psychological warfare.
But to that end, the prosecutor - who wouldn't be trying the case at all had it not been for Balfour- has made the last month very difficult for the journalist. We also put the blame squarely on her boss Steve Wagstaffe and his boss, Jim Fox. Don't tell us they all didn't know that the prosecutor was trying to keep Balfour out of the courtroom. Don't tell us they didn't know that the prosecutor was hostile to Balfour's lawyer John Halley when he informed her she was filing a motion to get back into the courtroom. And just on the off-chance that they didn't know what their prosecutor was up to, well, then that would just be a shocking case of lousy management. Whatever... someone up at the top wasn't being truthful to Balfour, even as he claimed that he had never lied in public office ( Yeah, right) and she did not appreciate it one bit. The trouble with many career government officials is that they want desperately to be liked and strive to please everybody by saying things that people want to hear -- even when it's not always the truth. But many people- pleasing government officials don't seem to realize that they will get into trouble when the people they've tried to please find out instead that the official has not been totally truthful. A word of advice to government officials; try telling people the truth - even if that truth isn't what the person hopes to hear. Because when people find out that the government official has been hiding and obfuscating instead, it just makes them really angry.
Some nationally known legal analysts have now weighed in on Balfour's unfair exclusion from the courtroom. Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy - who's been an analyst and CNN and defense attorney Mickey Sherman - who regularly appears on CBS's "Morning Show" talked on Robin Sax's radio blogspot show on Tuesday June 30 about how prosecutors and defense attorneys often collude to keep people out of the courtroom by unfairly saying they are witnesses- when in fact they are never called. Indeed, Murphy stated on the show that Balfour's exclusion was "unconstitutional." and that quite likely the prosecutor's actions had been "malicious." Sherman called the actions of both Weinberg and the prosecutor "chickenshit."
Bear in mind that the practice of unfair witness exclusion is a growing epidemic in courtrooms, and must be stopped. Balfour learned about this unfair practice first hand, and no thanks to the San Mateo District Attorney's office, who would not be trying this case if it were not for Balfour's five year efforts to make the case happen.
Balfour also wishes to thank Wendy Murphy whose long list of accomplishments also includes visiting scholar at Harvard Law School. Murphy is an expert on unfair witness exclusions and has written about it in her book "And Justice For Some." Murphy spent many hours writing up an emergency writ for Balfour pro bono, and it was ready to go in the event had Judge Freeman not granted Balfour's motion to allow her back into the courtroom. Many thanks to all these lawyers - Murphy, Halley and Carr who worked around the clock for Balfour to make it happen. Balfour also wishes to thank LA sex crimes prosecutor Robin Sax for her Huffington Post piece on her exclusion from the courtroom. Despite Steve Wagstaffe's uncalled for put down of Sax in emails to citizens who had protested Balfour's exclusion that he had never heard of Sax, Ms. Sax is a regular legal analyst on Larry King Live, the Nancy Grace Show and Fox News. We think Wagstaffe would kill to be on some of those shows himself.
One only wishes the San Mateo District Attorney's office had displayed some grace and courtesy towards Balfour during this difficult time. Balfour hopes she never has to go through the hassle, heartache and emotional anguish she went through to get back in to the courtroom- ever again. All we can say is that if Balfour lived in San Mateo County, she would campaign for a clean sweep in the District Attorney's office in next year's election.