I went before the judge today to enter into the Alford Plea. We stood in the hall with my attorney before hand and he informed me that I would actually have to 'plead guilty.' Hold up! Stop! Saying the word guilty was not part of the plan. I asked if I could say the phrase Alford Plea of Guilt or Guilty by way of Alford Plea or just plain old Alford Plea. He shook his head and said I must say the word guilty.
After stewing in my frustration, I could either let this pit in my stomach grow, or I could find confirmation if this is ok. Jason and I found a quiet spot on a bench down the hall and bowed our heads to pray. I can't say that the frustration was swept away all at once, but I felt better by the end of the prayer. I will have a time to explain myself to the judge at a later time, so I felt good about that. I have to know that this has all been part of God's plan. He knew I was so headstrong to go into trial to prove my innocence. He knew I would need specific words ('sentenced to only weekends' and 'Alford Plea') in order for me to understand exactly how I could accept His plan. I am thankful for those specific answers to prayer. I just didn't want to say guilty.
By the end of court, I had a handful of papers in my hand. My rights were read to me, I signed papers that stated I understood what I was doing and was not under the influence of any substances, that a pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and a whirlwind of other legalities including no guns in our home and my voting rights would be taken from me. It's hard to comprehend it all and I wasn't really ready for all the details. They set a date of November 18, 2013 for my sentencing. That's when the judge will decide how long my probation will be, if there will be any jail time, any fines or other issues to be taken care of. Toward the end of our court appearance, the judge asked my attorney something about me needing a drug and alcohol test. He said confidently that it would not be needed. It's all a blur. I walked in to court today with 'innocent until proven guilty' status (even though I never really felt like I was treated that way). I walked out with a fist full of papers that only guilty people carry with them. I hope God knows what He's doing because this is all seems so wrong in the worldly scheme of things!
October 6, 2013
Today I came across a verse of scripture that has really got me thinking. Maybe it seems silly, but I've been scared to tell God that I don't want to go to jail. More than anything, I want to do what He would have me do. Maybe because of the impact of my jail dream, I am hesitant to ask for something otherwise. Today I read from the Bible in Luke when Jesus was kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was about to take upon himself all the sins of the world. I still can't comprehend how that happened, but I know that He did. As He knew the huge task He had coming, I'm sure he felt anxiety and stress and very overwhelmed. In Luke 22:42 He says, "If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." In other words, He's asking God - if there's any other way to get around this, please don't let me suffer. BUT - not my will, but thine be done. In the end, He was willing to be obedient if there was no other way to complete the task at hand. Anxiety and overwhelmed and all, God heard His prayer and knew there was no other way. Christ bled from every pore of His body, in great agony as He felt every sin from each person - past, present, and future - come upon Him. It's just incomprehensible to me.
This verse helped me understand that just because I voice my anxiety to God, does not mean that I'm being disobedient. He wants to hear from me. He wants to know how I'm feeling and what's going through my head. And in the end, after I have explained how much I want to stay with my family and not go to jail (He needs to know it scares me to death!) that I will also end with "Not my will, but thine be done." Bottom line. So that was my prayer. I did it! I found the courage - through Christ's example - to tell God I don't want to go to jail. But I also told Him I would be obedient to what He asked of me, and if it comes to that, then I will go, knowing it's His plan.
October 8, 2013
I received a call a couple days ago, early one Saturday morning, from the Department of Corrections, stating that I needed to set up an appointment for my Pre-Sentence Investigation Report. She threatened jail time if I didn't schedule. (Sheesh!) So much for a lazy Saturday morning; my heart was beating, trying to keep up with all this new jargon. What is it and why and when and where?
So today I went for my PSI (presentence investigation)... All these new acronyms and vocabulary! I sat in the waiting room at the Department of Corrections. On the walls were posters for AA meetings and counseling services and warnings about how pit bull dog fights are illegal. There were signs on the bathroom doors that said not to use the bathroom unless you've gotten permission from the probation officer first. Is this a dream? Somebody please wake me up!
Finally a lady opened the door and called my name. She called me back and very sternly told me to stand up against the wall. She spoke short and choppy, to make sure I understood every single word she was saying with an urgency that paranoid me. "Stand against this wall and don't move. I am going to walk down the hall and get the camera." She stearnly stated that she would take my picture, then I would remain standing there while she put the camera away. Then she would escort me to her office. She treated me like I was going to whip a gun out or something. Here I am, completely harmless in my kahkis and nice shirt, while a group sat in the waiting room with oily, ripped jeans, grubby sweatshirts, and baseball hats. Maybe I should remember who she deals with everyday.
She started the interview just as briskly as she did our introduction. She went through all my paperwork and asked if I had any other explanations as to what happened. I hesitated and then said no. I have been taught to say no, so that the prosecution doesn't have any 'leads' to dismiss. I don't know if I answered that right or not. Honestly, there are many things that go through my head about what could have happened - everything from the neurosurgeon's diagnoses of chicken pox and meningitis to one of the kids helping with her that day. At Bryer's last appointment her doctor asked about the very large birth mark that runs the back of her neck. He suggested I look up café latte spot, as there are a lot of disorders associated with those types of birth marks. As this lady asked about any other explanations, I didn't let on that there's a bunch of possibilities, but nothing for certain. At what point do I not have to worry that they will turn my words against me?!
She pointed out that the judge didn't order a drug and alcohol screen and testing. She said there are only about 1% of people that come through her office that aren't required for this screening. Should I have felt honored? It's just something I don't do and never have. It doesn't make me better than someone else, it's just one of those life's choices I've made. She treated me like I should feel special for making those choices. Just my life, nothing out of the ordinary.
As she worked her way through my file, she came to the stack of reference letters. I had asked people to witness to my character through letters, as the court forms required. She flipped through pages and pages of them. She said usually people come in with anywhere between two to five letters of reference... Not over 20 like was in my file! I didn't tell her that these were only the ones I could get on such short notice. There would be more letters ready before sentencing. Was she holding this against me? She paused at the letters printed on letterheads.... from doctors offices, therapists, the school district - all people willing to sign their name to my integrity. She said the stack was highly unusual, and by this time her voice had softened and she was talking to me like another human being instead of a felon.
At the end of our meeting I was asked to take a personality test - strange questions like "When someone cries, does it make you sad?" and "Do you ever blame someone else for your situation?" and "Do you ever feel like someone is following you?" and "Do you find yourself getting angry over minor things?" I answered as honestly as I could, but partially thinking of other motives they had for me. Of course I feel sad when someone is crying! Doesn't everyone? Is there such a thing as being too compassionate? Question after question made my head spin. I was glad when it was over.
October 17, 2013
I don't know how it snuck up on me. I've spent 2 years preparing, and then I felt like I just let it all go. I didn't deep clean the house. I didn't make freezer meals. I didn't even talk with teachers and therapists to let them know what was going on. I just hope that I will come home tomorrow night. My emotions are toast. I have had enough and can't do anymore. Running 5 kids to/from basketball, soccer, dinners, cleaning up, preschool, homework, and a million other mom things is ENOUGH. I seriously don't have energy for all this court stuff - as important as it is. My husband and kids should take highest priority, so I guess that's just what I've done subconsciously.
We talked with the kids over the past few days, but in more detail tonight. They know there's a possibility I might not come home, as they could arrest me or book me straight into jail. Sawyr is the most worried so I told him I would call the school to leave him a message when we knew the outcome. (What exactly do I say in that message anyway?) For the rest of the kids, it's been so long and so many court dates. All they ask is, "Will this be your last court date?" They just know that when it's the last one, then it will be decided what's to be done. This is it. And when I'm so toast and ready to be done at this point, I have to put on my big girl panties and go for just one more court appearance.
For 2 weeks I have been worried and thoughtful about what my closing comments will be in court. Do I take the position of compassion, "It makes me sad that doctors can make this big of a difference in one family's life," or do I be bold enough to say, "I physically do not have it in me to hurt a child." The bottom line is - I am not a victim here. And Bryer is not a victim. I have been straight and true with this challenge from God, yet every time I tell the truth or re-iterate it again, it gets twisted or used against me. How can I find the strength again to say what's on my mind, speak the truth, and have it be heard and felt the way that I feel it in my own heart and know that God knows it? Can it just be enough to be an understanding between me and Him? Do I have to put it all out there again for the world to see and hear? It makes me feel so vulnerable to try over and over to tell the truth and have it not be 'enough.'
Today I asked for a Priesthood blessing. I knew it was the best medicine for the situation, as I finish up my comments to the judge before he sentences me. As Jason and our friend Todd laid their hands on my head, most of the blessing was done in a spirit I cannot explain in writing. Only a small part of our brain is used for actual communication. The rest is utilized for movement, reasoning, seeing, smelling, tasting, etc. So I literally don't have enough brain to explain in words the spirit that I felt. I can say that I was reminded four different times that this is God's plan for me and He is in control of this situation. It may have been the longest blessing I have ever had, and was certainly one of the most peaceful blessings. As Jason and Todd first layed their hands on my head I felt a heaviness settle in. I didn't realize it right then, but it was almost like I could feel Heavenly Father's sorrow for me. It makes me think of the Bible when Lazarus dies and Christ weeps with Mary and Martha. Christ knew He would resurrect Lazurus, but it didn't keep Him from having compassion in that moment and crying with them. That's the only way I can explain how I felt about God's feelings for me. I knew that He felt my worry and pain. As the blessing continued, I felt a lighter, peaceful feeling come over me. He is in control. This is His plan. He is orchestrating all of these details just right to give me the experience I need. I was in tears by the time Amen was said.
I am all for doing the Lord's will. Reading scriptures? Check. Family prayer? Check. Treating others how I would like to be treated? Check. Help the needy? Check. A checklist of the Lord's will. Going on a mission to jail? I have to say I am hesitant. Willing, but very hesitant. I felt like when we took advantage of the Alford Plea then everything would work together. I felt so much better knowing the extreme, the limit, the very worst scenario. And now I think, "What if what God thinks that is the very best scenario for His plan is what I consider to be the worst?" Can I trust Him with my physical safety in jail if it comes to that? For 180 days, if the judge decides that? With my spiritual safety as I try to help those around me?
Tonight after the blessing I sat down and wrote my thoughts to the court. They flowed through my fingers onto the keyboard. I stopped every once in a while to change a word or phrase, but for the most part the words came as God prepared me. This whole experience takes "I will go, I will do" to a whole new level.
Oct 28, 2013
Bryer got her new set of wheels! When we ask her if she wants to get out, she shakes her head no and says, "MmmmmmORE!" As hard as it is emotionally not to have her attached to my hip, it makes it that much easier that she likes her bright pink set of wheels!
Nov. 12. 2013 - Hansen Family Picture... As I looked at this picture again today, I kind of got teary. Maybe it is just coincidence that Jason and I are placed right in the middle. We have so many around us willing to stand with us, to help us protect our family, to keep us in tact. They have not told us, "Let me know if there's anything you need." They have encircled us, put their arms around us, prayed with us, and kept us going. I. am. blessed.
November 18, 2014 - Sentencing
Jason and I stood in line for the metal detector at the entrance of the courthouse and met a few friends that were there to support us. We took the elevator up to the 3rd floor and I was not prepared for what I felt as I got off the elevator. Was it a spiritual feeling or a physical feeling or both? The hall was packed full of people to support me. Friends, family, professionals, our character witnesses... I made it through about the first 5 to give hugs and then I had to stop. I couldn't get 'soft' and emotional. I needed to stay focused. Strong. Confident. Ready to face this huge trial in front of me on sentencing day. On the way in to the courthouse a friend gave me her ipod and said to listen to the song on it by Hilary Weeks. In fact, that's just what I needed to hear exactly at that moment.
I felt so overwhelmed with support - people that had driven hours and hours to show their support, friends I hadn't seen in years, family from near and far. The halls were packed. Here we were, at a pivotal point in our case - nearly 3 years after it had started. It was all coming down to today. All these people who have fasted and prayed for us, donated money, helped with our kids, brought meals, been a shoulder to cry on - were now all in one place (and many others with us that couldn't be in that hallway today). The energy and overwhelming amount of tenderness I felt is beyond words.
As we walked into the courtroom, I took a seat between my two attorneys at the table marked Defense. Jason took a seat as near to me as he could possibly be without sitting next to me. The prosecutor and a couple other helpers she had sat opposite us. Our support filed in quietly and sat squished together on the benches to try to fit as many in the room as could. They were informed that they had to be sitting, there would be no options of standing along the walls. I learned later that there were still more out in the hall that didn't get seats, and some stayed anyway to show support.
After the "All rise" for the judge and some information stated for the record, the judge began with witnesses for the prosecution. The child abuse doctor from the hospital took the stand. It bothers me to hear him testify. A lot. I get a sick-to-my-stomach feeling as he tosses around phrases like it's every day vocabulary. Shaken Baby. The words still make me physically sick. Yet he has become so accustomed to saying it that he doesn't hardly stop to hear what he's saying. "To a high degree of medical certainty" is the phrase. We are human beings. So complex, so magnificent, so awe-inspiring, so intricate, and he thinks that we can narrow something down to a 'high degree of medical certainty?' It's 'medical practice.' Just that - practice. In the end, I'm not mad or frustrated. I feel a deep sadness for him that he lives a life that when he goes to work each day he is called in to diagnose child abuse. The physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse of children - sweet, innocent children that Heavenly Father loves and cares for so deeply. I know that it happens. I realize there are people out there that should be punished for crimes against children. But to have to go day in and day out and diagnose abuse? What a sad, lifeless journey. It makes me sad for his spirit of the things he has witnessed and helped prosecute. Some maybe were in the same boat as me; innocence.
After showing pictures of Bryer in the hospital - pictures of her hooked up to all the machines that I will never, ever get used to seeing - and discussing in strange, vague terms, my attorney asked him what exactly he thought happened on December 19, 2010. He couldn't really say. He had his medical evidence to a 'high degree of medical certainty,' but he couldn't explain the skull fracture without any outward marks. He couldn't explain the lack of broken ribs and no whiplash symptoms or injury to her spinal cord. The doctor acted a little frustrated that we were expecting him to say what happened. After all, if they are going to accuse me of this, then they better know what they are accusing me of. He sited the triad of symptoms - the ones I read over and over about in all the similar misdiagnosed cases I learned about - the brain bleeding, brain swelling, and retinal hemorrhaging. I was glad when he finally took his seat.
In addition to all the support that lined the benches, we also had excellent character witnesses for me. We had a friend of ours who is retired from the FBI and was a captain at the sheriff's department. He did an excellent job at talking about what he has seen in his years in law enforcement and how he personally knows my profile does not fit the mold. He testified to my integrity, my honesty, and my role in the community. He shared specific examples of ways I have dealt with our kids in a respectful, calm manner.
Each witness that was called had a different point of view of who I was. The next that testified was a close friend of ours we knew through church and the schools. He was a past County Commissioner and continues to be very involved in the community and schools. He talked about setting up the tech side of things for a broadcasted conference to the schools through The School for the Deaf and Blind. He talked about the process it took for me to attend these conferences with Bryer and two other kids in tow. The conference was mainly for educators of children with visual impairments, but they allowed me to attend as one of the few parents interested in the training. He testified of me going 'above and beyond' for Bryer's needs. It became apparent through my attorney's questions that my importance in Bryer's development was essential. I watched my attorney prove that I was a necessary component to be in the home for Bryer, fighting for no jail time.
Next up was a teacher Hunter had and who I was Art Mom for. She testified on the relationship I had with the kids in the class - that I came dressed in character to entertain and make learning fun, how I sent them on scavenger hunts to find clues about our artist of the month, or came up with games to quiz them. She brought a lighter side to my personality, and then immediately got choked up trying to defend me. I blinked back the tears myself, listening to all the good things she had to share about me. She testified through tears to my character, my influence in the schools and community, and dedication to my own children. She gathered herself, to try to remain professional, and then talked about how she had applied some of the trainings I had taught through the library with her own daughter. She pointed out that she has trusted us with her own daughter in our home and testified that she wouldn't hesitate and, in fact, would feel lucky for her little girl to have my influence again.
It's a humbling thing to go through all of this- and then to ask others to stand and witness to my character is just that more humbling. Our witnesses talked about details of my life and how I have touched them that I never would have thought were a big deal.
Our last witness was Bryer's Occupational Therapist from Infant Toddler. The lady I had such mixed feelings about in the beginning - that I felt we should just do this program to satisfy Health and Welfare. But we had grown to love her like family. We looked forward to her regular visits and what she had to teach us. Now, she was testifying on my behalf. In my heart, I never wanted to ask any of these people to put themselves out there for me. But they were more than willing to bear my burden, to shed some light on the kind of person I am. Bryer's OT talked about her own reservations when she received the initial paperwork on Bryer's case. It caused her to mill it over in her head before meeting me and she had to get in the right mindset before coming the first time. She talked about how not too far into our visits, that things obviously didn't make sense. She watched my patience when Bryer was so inconsolable in the beginning. She saw how I treated my kids and pointed out that I get down to their level to talk and treat them with love and compassion. She is acutely aware of Bryer's needs and therapy services, as she has made regular visits to our home over the past 3 years for Bryer's therapy. She questioned quickly the things that were in her file and the family she saw taking care of Bryer, as they did not match up. She pointed out how much research and learning I do for new therapy methods/care/services for Bryer. She said several times that it was hard to bring 'new' things to work on with Bryer because I was always a step ahead on what the next phase of therapy was, and that she wished more of her families would be like us.
At the end of all our witnesses, I had my chance to address the court. I stood at the podium in my white button up the front shirt, skirt and chunky heals, ready to finally say something more than stating my name and saying "Yes Your Honor."
I gathered myself and took a deep breath. And then I started in on what God had helped me prepare in the weeks before, taking pauses every so often as I tried my best not to get emotional.
"On December 19th, 2010 my daughter Bryer’s life was changed forever. We returned home from church where I had taught 3 and 4 year olds about the birth of Jesus. Bryer was fussy most of the day, but I thought I had nailed it down to the dairy I had eaten the day previous. 4 of 5 of my babies have had milk intolerance – so when I even have butter on my toast, it gets in my breast milk and they let me know about it. After making lunch I went to lay Bryer down for a nap after she had fallen asleep in my arms. When I went to check on her 5-10 minutes later, I found her not breathing. I scooped her up to take her downstairs, called 911, and I did CPR, as I was certified to do, until help arrived. I was calm and not worried. I had helped another of our kids through seizures, so I had experience in staying calm to help him through it and expected this to be a similar situation.
"All rise!" was called and we stood again for the judge's entrance. We took our seats again and listened to him restate things for the court record. He rattled off a whole bunch of legal jargon and law codes. He talked about the maximum and minimums of each criteria. I was trying to stay so intent, but as he went on and on and on, it was hard to follow him. Just tell me my sentence already!
Finally he stated my sentence. He agreed first with the agreement of not filing a No Contact Order. 5 years probation. (Less than the 7 the prosecution was fighting for; and I learned later that we can go back to have the case closed sooner than 5 years.) Court fees in the amount of $228.50. (Not the way I would like to spend $228.50, but it's do-able.) Then his voice got a little mumbley and he took lots of pauses and tilted his head at his paper back and forth from the stand. He went on to sentence me to 200 days in jail, 158 of those being discretionary. I had no idea what this meant, but my attorneys explained later that I would serve 42 days in jail. Whew. Jail time?! For something I didn't do. Big breath! 42 days away from my family. He went on to explain that because of the long process to check in and out of jail, he was requiring me to serve a minimum of 7 days straight each month. (Not weekends in jail that I had prepared myself for!) He did tell me that because of overcrowding at the closest county jail, that I could choose from 6 different jails in the district. (Who gets a choice at where they serve?!) Shortly after we all rose while we dismissed the judge for the last time.
As we filed into the big hallway, I hugged those that came to support me, and there were a few tears shed. As nervous and scared as I am to really go into jail, I had an overwhelming feeling that this is my mission. To somehow take the gospel - the light of Christ - inside the jail walls. This was only the beginning! Whew!
Sawyr had been especially concerned that they would arrest me, so I called the school to give them a note. When he got home that day, he handed me the pink slip of paper from the school secretary. It read, "Sawyr, your Mom will be home when you get off the bus." I had a little chuckle at how crazy this is all turning out to be! I have no idea why the Lord thinks I am the one to be in jail right now, but I'm willing to be a tool in His hands, however crazy that seems.
November 19, 2013
I heard a song today that hit me different than it ever has before. Hilary Weeks sings to my heart again, as I prepare to take this giant step into jail to do whatever I'm supposed to do there...