|Image Courtesy blog pal Patient Advocate|
Hearings in the last couple of weeks have finally piqued the interest of the news reporters. Everyone is allegedly shocked about the revelation that william hamilton ayres, accused of molesting many young boys, has been using his psychiatric training and knowledge to fake dementia in order to avoid criminal trial. Prosecutor McKowan's statement that ayres was "perpetrating a hoax" made all of the reporters perk up their ears.
Unfortunately, because they have not been following the case thoroughly and consistently, even the most hard-hitting reports lack the depth necessary to pursue the deeper questions that could reveal some of what's going on behind the scenes; why this has taken so long, where the inconsistencies are in the prosecution side of the story -- and indeed, even that there are inconsistencies.
Here's the overview of recent news articles:
I'll briefly critique the articles pointing out quality of content, errors, omissions, and where deeper digging could have been done within context of the article.
San Francisco Examiner 2012-08-08 (Mike Aldax) (pdf):
The article is a fairly good article for the limited coverage. It's worth a read if you just want to confirm what we'd already printed here from an outside, non-biased source.
Of note: The Examiner is the only paper which has consistently presented the correct jury count results from the criminal trial that ended in mis-trial way back in July 2009.
Also of note: The article quotes this blog. The quotes were lifted without contacting blog authors, and without providing adequate source credit. The source is listed as "a commenter wrote on a blog dedicated to the case." A comment was posted to the article requesting that they add the source link, but the comment was not allowed. email was also sent to the author and paper editors, but no response has been provided. The paper has been put on notice that we now reserve the right to use their content without source if desired, as this appears to be their policy.
Errors: The article states:"Only days before his competency hearing last year, a private investigator filmed Ayres" This is not correct information. The investigator filmed ayres AFTER the competency TRIAL, and BEFORE the DA conceded that ayres was incompetent, rather than pursuing re-trial. If' you're going to rely on the blog for information without verifying content from the authors, please AT LEAST read the blog carefully.
San Mateo County Times (Mercury News) 2012-08-09 (Joshua Melvin) (pdf)
I tepidly recommend this article for a read. Melvin has been doing an ok job with breadth of coverage, but not depth where there are important issues.
Minor note: Melvin doesn't appear to know what the jury vote count was during the criminal trial, and consistently prints some variation of "The jury voted 11-1 for conviction on at least one count."
Dig a little: In the article Melvin says ""He also worked extensively for San Mateo County's juvenile justice division and the board of supervisors in 2002 honored him for his lifetime of achievement in "improving the lives of children." But Melvin just leaves the statement dangling, to show his "tumble from notoriety" but he doesn't dig into the obvious implications: with so much County, Court and local politician reputational risk tied to ayres, why aren't officials taking steps assure the public that they are making every effort in spite of the risk. What about the errors that the prosecutor has admitted were made? Why wasn't the DA more involved? Was it BECAUSE of the reputational risk?
San Carlos Patch 2012-08-08 (pdf):
In general, I like these "Patch" articles. Although they aren't always hard-hitting, they do take an independent view from the other large conglomerate regurgitation machines, so sometimes they strike some important information. This particular article is not especially meaty. It's a fair overview.
San Mateo Daily Journal 2012-08-09 (Michelle Durand) (pdf):
I definitely recommend reading this article. Durand is somewhat scattershot. Sometimes she has some good depth of reporting, but then other times seems to accept information without further questioning. This article is a good read, and has some court dialog included that is of import. She was clearly paying attention in court, and trying to put the puzzle pieces together. If only she had been attending all of the hearings and listening to what we've been saying, she might have put some of the bigger issues at the forefront by now...
Minor note: Durand has also never consistently reported the jury vote count for the criminal trial, and resorts to "jury hung in varying amounts on every count." This is not strictly accurate, of course.
Of Note: Durand reports:"If Ayres is again found incompetent for trial, he will be transferred back to Napa State Hospital. If instead Grandsaert rules Ayres competent, the once-renowned former doctor will be retried on several counts of child molestation between 1988 and 1996." I think that in THEORY this is correct, but it would be good if she CONFIRM with all parties that this is EXACTLY what WILL happen. I think that in this case "he COULD be transferred back to Napa" and he "MIGHT be retried" are more precise language, unless she has actually confirmed intent with the DA. This is actually a KEY point that she should resolve.
Personal Point: Durand quotes McKowan as stating : "The public and victims’ also have a right to due process" and McDougall as stating: "... it is not the same. They’re not sitting there with their freedoms deprived” I hope that McDougall and his family never have to go through what child molestation victims go through. I'd gladly sit in jail for a couple of months if I could get rid of the mess that I have to deal with. I'm positive other adult victims would agree. McDougall needs to put the brakes on his impropriety if he ever wants any human respect.
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate) 2012-08-03 (Henry K. Lee) (pdf)
Overview with some procedural detail. Hit or miss.
Of Note: Lee makes the statement "Guidotti acknowledged that there had long been suspicions as to whether Ayres was pretending to have dementia and memory loss." But he doesn't clarify if Guidotti meant that the DA had "long been suspicions" or if she means that some of the victims and their families have long been suspicious. This is a fairly important point that should have been clarified, because Guidotti, DA Wagstaffe, and prosecutor McKowan have NEVER expressed suspicions that ayres was pretending to have dementia... in fact exactly the opposite. (More on this in the Daily Post review below....)
(Palo Alto) Daily Post 2012-08-08 (Jamie Morrow) (pdf)
The paper is print only, but I've attached an acrobat version in case you didn't buy the paper. (You are now on your honor to go buy a copy of a future issue.)
This is a strong recommend for a read. It includes some quotes from several interested parties, including the DA and McKowan. Morrow actually went out of her way to come up to speed on the case, and actually interview the prosecution, although there are some points that could have been more deeply pursued if there had been a longer-term following of the case.
Some general commentary on quotes attributed to McKowan:
According to Morrow, McKowan said that ayres' "time at Napa was the ﬁrst time people had been able to observe him in a nonforensic interview situation." My question is: Why is this so? We have been telling the prosecution about seeing him in stores and driving around without his walker since the criminal trial, and we provided the investigator's report to them before they conceded incompetency. Surely they would have saved county funds by hiring a person to tail him for a bit for observation. Had they done this EARLY during his bail release, they may have even attained record of further questionable behavior.
Further, Morrow reports that McKowan said: "a jury hung 8-4 over whether he was competent to aid in his own defense, with eight members saying he wasn’t. That jived with all the doctors who said he wasn’t" McKowan follows with: "I heard the court’s own experts say he was at best borderline competent” I was at the competency trial. This is not what the court appointed, non-biased doctors that McKowan called as witnesses said. They stated that ayres is competent. As did several of child molester william ayres' own medical test results. (Read here.) Had Morrow been fully up to speed on the prior competency trial, she could have asked this important follow-on question.
Last, but far from least, Morrow reports that McKowan states the following about the Private Investigator's video and report provided to the prosecution prior to conceding that ayres was not competent: “Without hearing the conversation, it had no ability to persuade anyone [...] The only evidence of what he was saying was the report of this paid investigator.[...] It was nothing that would have had any hope of persuading a jury"
Here are some important points:
1) Audio can't be recorded in California without consent from ALL parties, or a warrant.
2) a licensed PI report is admissible as evidence.
3) McKowan does NOT know that the "paid" report would not have persuaded a jury in a competency re-trial, as a jury was CLEARLY persuaded by the PAID testimony of the defense witnesses in the matter during the competency trial.
4) McKowan has made assumptions about what the jury would believe before, and was proven wrong, and she should have learned from this. During the criminal trial, she insisted that bringing medical professionals who went through the same training as ayres would not be relevant to swaying jury perception about ayres' "medical examinations," but a juror told the Mercury News on 2011-10-26 that "there was no doubt Ayres' exams were fishy, but unanimously deciding they were sexually motivated was too much. More experts, or someone to talk about Ayres' clinical background, would have helped."
I wish that Morrow had had this background going into the interview, because I think she would have been the one to dig deeper.
On the whole then,
I really wish these reporters had been following the story more closely, it would have allowed them to better identify inconsistencies in the story being told by the County, leading to more probing questions.
One point that really drives this home is the following observation made in the almanacnews.com "TownSquare Forum"(pdf) by Michael G. Stogner, local victims rights advocate, and political aspirant (emphasis mine):
Court Watching observation, Something has changed here, this was just a bail hearing where normally very few people attend or are interested because it is solved fast. Yesterday I couldn't help but notice that there were 5 reporters, Chief Deputy Karen Guidotti was there and we had an extra judge there who I believe to be Hon. Judge Craig L. Parsons. After Hon Judge John L. Grandsaert heard both sides, he took a 10 minute recess to make his ruling. He was joined in chambers or it looked like he was joined in chambers by our other judge, they both came back after 10 minutes and he made the ruling of bail denied.NO supervision from the DA's office has EVER been present during hearings or trials for ayres, as best as we can tell.
Something has indeed changed! And because the press has not had continuity in this very significant case, none of the press noticed this change, and none of the press questioned why there is this change.