Day 1 :  State vs. Christine - A Family Divided

by Edgar J. Steele

April 30, 2002

Roseburg, Oregon.  This will be a brief update concerning the "kidnap your own kids and go to jail" trial of Ruth and Brian Christine, which got underway today in this picturesque, hilly and wooded locale situated in west-central Oregon.  I'll provide others as we go along, time permitting.

The first items on the agenda at any trial are always preliminary motions of one sort or another.  Today, we had several, the most daunting of which was a motion to suppress evidence and testimony obtained after the Grants Pass police first illegally entered the Christines' motorhome, terrorizing and interrogating both parents and their three, small girls.  The Assistant DA wanted time to prepare a response, which is why the judge delayed further proceedings until tomorrow.

We also filed a motion to preclude the state from putting any of the Christine children on the witness stand during the trial.  

First, because they are all too young to appreciate what is going on or to be reliable in what they might have to say about anything.  

Second, because they have been too long in state custody, being prepped for this day, thus are even more unreliable as witnesses.  

Third, and most importantly, however, because it is outrageous for the state to use them in its quest to imprison the Christines for the rest of their lives.  Imagine the psychological ramifications when they get older, if their testimony actually is used to railroad their own parents into prison.  Supposedly, this whole case is about the welfare of these children, yet the state brazenly attempts to utilize them in this offhand fashion to get another trophy conviction and kick over the traces of what it has perpetrated in the pursuit of "justice" in this case.

We also filed some other routine motions concerning witnesses and evidence.

The most remarkable and, thus far, overlooked motion, however, was  to preclude the state from putting on any witnesses at all.  Farfetched?  Some would think so.  However, Oregon state law requires that the state identify the witnesses it will use in advance to the defense.  This is so that we might prepare our case by lining up our own witnesses and evidence to counter the state's case.  Precisely 3 minutes before the trial was to begin, I was handed the state's witness list, composed of 48 individuals.  The state has far too big an advantage in these cases to be allowed this sort of edge, as well.  Realistically, the judge isn't likely to grant our motion, but he could well use it to force the state to cut its case to the bone.

Finally, we filed a motion for Judgment of Acquittal on the three charges of kidnapping the girls. I was going to hold this for filing as soon as the state rested, but decided to file it today when the DA said he was inclined to dismiss those charges, anyway.  You see, Oregon has a statute that says parents can't kidnap their own kids.  

So, why have they been charged with kidnapping their own children all along?  There is no penalty to the DA for doing so, and he gains some serious advantages in being able to press for large bail amounts (granted in this case) and forcing defendants to plead out to lesser charges without the inconvenience of having actually to try a case (not possible here because we know the score).  Measure 11 increases the horsepower of this tactic because it requires minimum sentences.  I was sorry to see him roll over on these charges, because I wanted to pound on them to the jury all through the trial.  Oh, well - I'll use them to pound on the DA in closing argument, anyway. As I told a local reporter, "The big guns of this case were silenced today."

The other serious charges will also go away on our motion, once the state rests, I am confident.  You see, there are other Oregon statutes right on point.  

Side note:  Oregon is a fairly bizarre state, with a law for most everything.  People think Oregon is cutting-edge liberal due to the medical-marijuana and doctor-assisted-suicide laws.  I think it is really cutting-edge fascist, and this Christine case is one of the best examples of that around.  "In Control We Freak" should be the state motto.

Anyway, back at the trial, we think the charges of kidnapping the social workers go away because Oregon law requires that, in order to be guilty of kidnapping, one must "interfere substantially with anotherís personal liberty" (Oregon Revised Statute 163.225(1).  In another case, State v. Garcia, 288 Or. 413 (1980), the Oregon Supreme Court noted that the phrase was added to Oregon ís kidnapping statute in order to distinguish cases involving true abductions from those in which a victim is merely moved or detained incidental to the commission of some other offense such as robbery or rape. Gee, kinda reminds one of the Christine case, doesn't it?

The charges of robbery, more Measure ll stuff, should go away for similar reasoning.   Theft is defined at ORS 164.015.  In relevant part, theft is committed whenever a person takes property with the intent to deprive another of the property or to appropriate the property.  "Deprive" means permanently; so does "appropriate."  These terms are defined in just that fashion in other Oregon statutes.

We will move to kill all the rest of these Measure 11 charges when the state rests.  They should be granted.  If not, an appeal is guaranteed.

So, what does that leave us with?  Custodial interference, that's what.  And, for that, there are at this moment several network sound trucks sitting outside the Douglas County Courthouse, reporting to the world about the ongoing events of this case.  

Incidentally, we offered the DA a plea bargain quite a while ago:  Ruth cops to misdemeanor custodial interference and gets time served.  Brian pleads to anything the DA wants, so long as he qualifies for diversion to Oregon's "boot camp" program, whereby convicts are rehabilitated quickly and placed back into society.  Nothing doing, said the DA; he wants them both doing 7 years hard time.  

In the immortal words of Dirty Harry:  That ain't gonna happen.

Meanwhile, the American justice system gets another black eye.  Your tax dollars at work.

Incidentally, Court TV and all the networks are taking the live feed directly from the courtroom, so you might actually get to sit in on the trial as it goes along.  Hopefully, someone will let me know so that I can pass it along to you.  Honestly, I'm a little too busy to ask.

Like they say in the funny papers:  see you in court.


"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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