Day 4 :  State vs. Christine - A Family Divided

by Edgar J. Steele

May 5, 2002

Roseburg, Oregon. It is exceedingly difficult to talk about a case while you're trying it, knowing that anything you say is immediately shown to the other side. The temptation is to toss out diversion, but that merely muddies the water for most followers and makes the post-trial analysis seemed more than a little contrived.

Thus, there are whole aspects of this case that I simply cannot address just yet. But I will later on - believe me.

One of the most interesting turns that things took on Friday, once we finally got to some witnesses, was the decidedly smarmy nature of the state's case. The state seems to have decided to place the character of Brian and Ruth Christine on trial. I think that was a mistake....and a fatal mistake, hopefully.

I know I wouldn't want to have to try to take apart a former Eagle Scout and his wife, who once was a missionary for Mother Theresa, on moral grounds.

Here's a photo of a T-shirt that one enterprising resident of Douglas County has put together and is selling for $25 each in front of the courthouse during the trial.  He put our www.PCLU.org website URL on the shirts to encourage donations for the Christine Defense Fund.  All profits above the cost of the actual shirts are given directly to the Christine Defense Fund.  If I knew how to do it, I would put one of those shopping/checkout pages on my PCLU website to accommodate direct orders.

The front says, "No Hugs...No Kisses...No Kidding.  My mommy and daddy vacationed in Oregon and now all I have is this lousy t-shirt."  The back says, "In Control We Freak...Visit Oregon...Lose Your Kids...Go To Jail...State vs. Brian and Ruth Christine...April 30, 2002...www.pclu.org."

Tell you what, though - everybody who contributes $30 or more to the defense fund via PCLU, either with credit cards through paypal.com or direct mail to the post office box...AND...who includes a return address and shirt size (XL, L, M, S)...will receive one of these shirts by return mail, in recognition of their support of the Christines.

The two kids in the photo are my own, Kelsey and Rex, ages 12 and 14, respectively.  It's a good thing we didn't live in Oregon when they were the ages of the Christine kids, because they were just as skinny.

The State's first witness on Friday was a guy who was one of Brian and Ruth's first "friends" upon coming to Oregon. He offered up that the family nickname for the baby was "Spam." He allowed as how that was offensive since it means "unwanted email." On my cross examination, he admitted that he never discussed his impression with any member of the Christine family, but that his interpretation was simply that - his. 

Also on cross, he seemed unimpressed to learn that every Christine family member has a nickname (like my own family, by the way, and most others), usually a play on the sound of their own name. The baby's name is Miriam, rhymes with Spam. Of course, some of the media chose to ignore that fact, preferring to run with the witness' interpretation that the parents didn't want their baby (death to KXL Radio for that bit of yellow journalism, by the way). Ruth was in tears for quite a while after court Friday over that indignity.

We're not done with this fellow, however, and will recall him as a part of the defense case next week, along with the head SCF employee who was similarly nasty in her assessment of the Christines...and unnecessarily so, which is our lever on her, of course.

We essentially gave the State its case for Custodial Interference and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in our opening statement. But, that's not good enough for this deputy District Attorney on the make for a name. He wants felony Kidnapping and Robbery, as well.  He runs the risk of offending the jury with his overreaching, which is the only thing that provides us hope of thereby exonerating Brian and Ruth of all charges.  He who lives by the sword dies by the sword, as they say.

Another country homily comes to mind, as well:  Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.  Let's hope this country lawyer can bring some truth to those adages.

The DDA begrudgingly gave up the charges of Kidnapping the children on the first day of trial, after I beat him up for over an hour the previous week about the Oregon statute that says you can't be charged with kidnapping your own kids.

But, he stubbornly refuses to abandon the charges of kidnapping the SCF workers.  Here's how they were kidnapped, per the State's own opening statement:  Brian told one worker to stand aside and the other to "get out of the car."  That's it.  Kidnapping, according to the DDA.  Never mind the Oregon Supreme Court, which has said that such incidental interference with another's liberty while committing another crime is NOT kidnapping.

The Unauthorized Use charge seems likely to stick, but the DDA wants to stretch Brian's driving the state car 1/4 mile to where his own was parked into felony Robbery.  Again, the Oregon Supremes have proclaimed that robbery requires an intent to permanently deprive another of the article stolen, so robbery seems an exagerration, at best.

I will view getting Brian and Ruth found "not guilty" of all the Measure 11 felony charges (5 kidnapping counts originally, now 2, plus 2 robbery counts) as being a complete win.  If we actually convince the jury to let them walk on UUMV or custodial interference, that will be a huge victory...and pretty unlikely, by the way.  Of course, there's that gun....that dictates an enhancement of whatever charge sticks, up to the level of "first degree," almost certainly against Brian only.  That means more jail time, but the minimum 60 months for the use of a weapon can be decreased in the discretion of a judge for a first offender, as Brian certainly is.

My objective:  Ruth walks with misdemeanor custodial interference and time served.  Brian takes felony custodial interference and UUMV, qualifying for diversion to Oregon's boot camp for prisoners program (the same punishment meted out to Tonya Harding's boyfriend for having whacked Tonya's archrival in the knees with a pipe, thereby securing Tonya's ticket to the big show).

Of course, before the trial, we offered to plead to Custodial Interference, but the DDA wanted none of that.  In this day of rapists getting probation and murderers out in 3, he wants Brian and Ruth to do 7-1/2 years hard time.  For what?  For loving their children enough to forcibly take them back from the state that had wrongly seized them in the first place, that's what.  For this, they are about to get painted as the parents from Hell, adding extreme insult to the injury they have already sustained.  If you're like me, along about here you might be asking just what is going on in this case.

By the way, here's another shot of the T-shirt front artwork: 

That's "Spam" (cute nickname - I like it), aka Miriam, sitting there on the bed.  She's the one that had been sick with the flu for two weeks.  She had been refusing food during that time and had lost weight.  This is one of the pictures that, until unveiled in court this week, has been under court seal for so long.  Miriam is the girl the anonymous call was made about, the one that started this whole sordid affair.  Supposedly, she weighs 15 pounds as shown, since this is one of the pictures taken by the State authorities in the hospital, just hours after all the children were seized.  You tell me - does this child look to be just days away from death due to criminal neglect by her parents?  Does this child look like she weighs just 15 pounds?

 



-ed

"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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