I want to start by sharing a lovely gesture, for which I am grateful. I had been chatting about my drive to and from Mount Vernon each day (ok, maybe complaining a bit). The very kind Gail Taylor, who’s also been attending the trial, today gave me a very nice note with a very generous gas gift card! So sweet and unexpected. Such a reminder of people’s good hearts. Thank you, Gail!
The first witness of the day was Dr. Jordan Haber, Board-certified in diagnostic radiology. The defense spent quite a bit of time reviewing Dr. Haber’s credentials, including that he is in Mensa. (Is one “in” Mensa? Or “of” Mensa?) He does age estimations based on bones, and based on x-rays. At the request of the defense, he reviewed 3 CD-ROMs of Hana’s x-rays.
I am not a lawyer, and I am not a doctor. There was much jockeying of medical terminology today. Dr. Haber charges $500 an hour. He said he will probably earn between $20,000 and $25,000 for his work on this case. I am making substantially less following this case lol, so bear with me.
Here’s the bottom line, from Dr. Haber’s testimony of about 4 hours. Based on Hana’s left hand, Dr. Haber estimated Hana’s age at 15 years of age. Based on her left hip bone, the estimate would be at least 16. The right hip estimate would be older than 16. The heel bone estimate would be at least 15.
One “outlier” (it may have been “outliner”) or inconsistency was her humerus (the funny bone), which he estimated at 13-15 years of age. He noted that only to indicate that there was a difference from his other general findings, which placed Hana somewhere in the 15-17 year age range.
This all matters because of the charge of homicide by abuse, which requires victims to be no older than 16. Manslaughter is the other charge that Larry and Carri Williams face in regard to Hana, plus first degree assault of their other Ethiopian adopted child, Immanuel.
There was much discussion about how radiologists look at x-rays, and about the “gold standard” of special medical atlases to which they all refer in their determinations of age via bones, since the dawn of time, or at least the 1940’s. The prosecution showed an enlarged photo of Hana’s pelvis x-ray, and Dr. Haber explained at great length that enlarging photos is simply not done in the “clinical real world.”
The most heartening part of Dr. Haber’s testimony was during questioning from Larry Williams’ attorney, Rachel Forde. After again reviewing Dr. Haber’s credentials and his use of the “gold standard” of medical atlases, she asked about his determination of Hana’s age. “She’s at least 15,” he said. Could she well have been 16 or 17? “I can’t exclude 16-17. But I feel more comfortable saying she’s 15.”
There was then much discussion of calcium, bone development, food served in Hana’s orphanage, and diet in Ethiopia. Ms. Forde and Dr. Haber chatted about an article in a peer-reviewed British journal about forensic radiology.
After lunch, the lawyers and the doctor discussed the data again (today’s new words: “trochanter” and “epiphysis”), with Dr. Haber appearing frustrated fairly often about not being allowed to explain his answers fully. (It made me wonder what all our lives would be like if we answered only the question asked of us, as is the standard in the courtroom.) Dr. Haber also said, in response to a prosecutor’s question “That’s reductio ad absurdum!” It’s a phrase which we don’t hear often enough.
After Dr. Haber wrapped up, Carri Williams again took the stand. Cassie Trueblood, a defense attorney for Larry Williams, started off asking about whether Carri had noticed Hana’s weight loss–she had. Then a recap of various items: modesty was very important to the family (none of the girls wore bathing suits, for example, but wore tee shirts and shorts instead, including Carri). “We definitely covered ourselves,” Carri said, about general clothing practice. Ms. Trueblood confirmed that Larry Williams was not home the day Hana died, until he arrived after 911 had been called following Hana’s collapse outside.
The prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula then began questioning Carri. (My writing may seem a little choppy here, but it reflects to some extent the way that the lawyer moved from subject to subject in the cross-examination.) She asked Carri about the word “oppositional,” which Carri used multiple times yesterday to describe Hana. Ms. Kaholokula asked: “That’s not a medical diagnosis, is it? You didn’t take Hana to a doctor?” Carri agreed it was a term she used, not from a doctor.
Religion was discussed at length. Carri said that she and Larry lived by Godly rules, that she believed that men are head of the household, and wives need to respect and support them. If Larry had told Carri not to treat Hana a certain way, she would not have. Carri made clear she never “hit” Hana or Immanuel. She did swat and spank them, as part of their child-raising approach.
About the glue stick: No, Carri hadn’t gotten that from her mother; it was Carri’s own idea. It was used for training and discipline.
She got the idea of the plumbing line (a plastic rod about a half-inch wide, about 16 inches long–my estimates from seeing it in court) from a book. Larry agreed with her on its use.
Carri used a belt occasionally as an appropriate consequence. Larry agreed with that also.
Ms. Kaholokula asked about something Immanuel had mentioned in his testimony, Carri’s rolling the plumbing line up and down his face. Immanuel thought that was funny, Carri said. (Maureen: that wasn’t the impression I’ve had, reading about it. I wasn’t in the court room when Immanuel testified about it. Ms. Kaholokula seemed a bit skeptical as well.)
The prosecutor asked about the Boot Camp, noting that Carri had yesterday referred to it as a “fun term” for the system of extra chores. Ms. Kaholokula asked, “Was there a fun term for the closet? For the shower room?”
Larry and Carri agreed that the 3 older boys had authorization to swat (not spank) the younger children. (This would seem to conflict with Carri’s testimony yesterday about how each of the 3 boys went out and spanked Hana on her bottom when she was outside refusing to go in on the night she died. I imagine Ms. Kaholokula will ask about that tomorrow.)
Ms. Kaholokula began a long line of questioning about the Williamses’ adoption process, primarily focusing on Carri’s knowledge or awareness of Hana’s age. Hana’s age (as provided by the orphanage and/or agency) was listed on the Medical Information Report, the Child Assessment Report, and the Initial Medical Report.
Carri was also asked about whether she had disclosed that they believed in corporal punishment on the adoption forms. She said very firmly that she had put down that they spanked. Ms. Kaholokula showed Carri the Personal Data Sheet, signed by Carri: the section on “Parenting Style/Philosophy of Parenting” said nothing about spanking.
Carri said she had done some basic reading about hepatitis B, information provided by the adoption agency, Adoption Advocates International. Yes, Carri knew prior to adoption that Hana was a carrier of hepatitis B.
Ms. Kaholokula reviewed the Post-Placement Reports completed after Hana and Immanuel arrived. Hana was described as enjoying knitting with Carri, as well as beading, soccer, cooking, bike riding, sledding, and other activities. Carri said these weren’t the only activities that Hana enjoyed, just the ones she included on the reports.
There were no punishments the first year after Hana was in the United States. Things went sour after about a year and a half. Carri denied the allegation made earlier in the trial that she had said she wanted to have Hana’s birth year changed so that when Hana was 16, she could get rid of her.
Carri said the doctor who examined Immanuel “chose not to include” information about Immanuel’s scars in his report.
The Williams’ household had rules, which everyone was expected to follow, and on which Larry and Carri agreed. Hana and Immanuel were punished more, because they were more oppositional than the other children. Only Hana and Immanuel slept in the shower room, or barn, or closet; only they had wet sandwiches and cold leftovers with half-frozen vegetables.
About Immanuel’s proficiency with sign language, Ms. Kaholokula noted that Carri had said yesterday that after about 6 weeks’ time in the US, Immanuel was using ASL fairly well, including sentences. The Post-Placement Reports, signed by Carri, said however that even after a year in the US, Immanuel was at about at the level of a 3-4 year old in terms of language.
Ms. Kaholokula showed Carri many photographs, including one of Hana wearing a towel “as a wraparound skirt,” Carri said, because of “lying about her pants.” Hana received several verbal corrections before she had to wear the towel.
Toward the end of the cross-examination, Ms. Kaholokula began questioning Carri about the book To Train Up A Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl (This is a very controversial book about child-raising.) The book, which the prosecutor showed to Carri, was found in the Williams’ home. Carri said that she had read it, though she has read “thousands of books.” She did get the idea for the plumbing line from the book, but didn’t agree with everything in the book. Carri believes “spanking shouldn’t cause pain. Just discomfort, being uncomfortable.” She did not get the idea from the book of hosing down Immanuel after he wet himself; that was Larry’s idea, and she agreed.
The clock struck 4:30, and the judge declared the day over. Testimony will resume at 9am tomorrow.