They say 'Justice is blind'.....it's also heartless. The
trial of Brian and Ruth Christine is over, and it's hard to get back to life as normal, after witnessing the proceedings of this past week. I can't begin to give an account of every single witness. I can only hit on some of the highlites. And I'm not going to go into the part when six
year old Bethany Christine was forced to testify against her own parents........and when asked by the Defense "who told you to say what you did"....she pointed to the prosecutor, saying, "He did".
I'm just going to tell about a few of the witnesses and my own impressions of the proceedings. But I do want to say, here and now,
that I have the greatest admiration for Edgar Steele, the attorney from Idaho, that came here to defend Brian and Ruth Christine after reading about their case. He defended them at no charge. He personally felt that this case violated the Christine's constitutional rights to the enth degree......and Steele did a superb job in the role of defense attorney.
Through out the trial I tried to pretend like I was a juror, hearing about the circumstances for the first time, so that my conclusions would match those of the jury at the end. I failed miserably.
The atmosphere in the courtroom was very relaxed, considering the ramifications of the outcome. Ruth Christine was able to come and go during recesses and lunch breaks beings bail had been posted for her
about a month before. Each day Brian, still incarcerated, was led into the courtroom by a sheriff's deputy through a side door. He wore a shirt and pants (no belt) and was not handcuffed at any time. Brian and Ruth sat at the witness table with their pro-bono attorney, Edgar Steele.
To the left of them was the prosecution table with Douglas County prosecutor, Rick Wesenberg, sitting alone. Grandfatherly looking William Laswell presided as judge.
Oregon law enforcement and Children & Family Services testified about the circumstances when the couples' three daughters were first taken from them by the Children & Family Services in Grants Pass, Oregon in August of 2000. As the story unfolded, the following were incidents that were testified to:
1. The three girls were taken from the parents by the CFS because of an anonymous call stating one of the girls looked undernourished.
2. The girls were taken to a hospital for examination.Pictures were taken of their bodies, including their genital areas. Lydia had a bandage on her forehead. Ex-rays were taken of Lydia's skull. Doctors couldn't agree if she had a skull fracture or not. One said yes, one said no. The three little girls were taken from the parents and put into state custody and placed in a foster home.
3. Ruth allowed officer's to search the bus that the family was traveling and living in. Ruth was pregnant at the time and shortly there after, gave birth to their fourth daughter. That baby, Olivia, was eventually given to Brian's mother, Terri Christine, who lives in Indiana. Terri had made several attempts to get custody of the three older girls, but her letters and phone calls and requests went unanswered by the CFS.
4. The CFS told Brian and Ruth they would have to take mental evaluations, parenting classes, and anger management classes, before they could get their kids back. (The girls at this time were in fostercare at a secret location.) Brian and Ruth refused to follow the CFS demands,thinking they had constitutional rights to refuse. They were offered
a court appointed attorney. They refused the offer because they didn't trust the court in such an appointment. A few months later they tried to
start complying with the CFS requirements. CSF claimed they were not making a good enough effort to comply.
5. Before the year had passed, Brian and Ruth were told their three daughters were going to be adopted out. Keep in mind, they had NEVER been proven unfit, or abusive.
A last meeting was set up between the parents and the girls, for August 1, 2001, and then the girls would be adopted out. This was when they rescued their kids from the CFS, at a rest area south of Roseburg, Oregon, following that last visit. The van that brought the girls to the parental visit in Grants Pass, Oregon, had stopped at the rest area on the way back to the foster home, so the girls could go potty. As the van driver, Terence Nelson, was about to enter the van and resume the trip back to Bandon, Oregon, where the girls had been kept in foster care, Brian appeared and ordered the driver to step aside, pointing a loaded gun at the driver. Brian then asked the CFS case worker that was in charge of the girls (in the van), to step out of the van. Brian
then drove the van with the girls in it, about two miles north to a predetermined spot where Ruth and their friend, Mathew Gerawan, were waiting with another vehicle. They left the van, with the gun in it, and also a cell phone belonging to the driver, and a purse that belonged to the woman case worker. The purse contained up to ,000. worth of negotiable money and checks, but nothing was missing or disturbed in the purse when it was recovered later.
There was never a question in my mind IF the parents took their kids. The one big overlooked question was WHY! Steele had tried to use this 'Why' as a defense before the trial started but the judge ruled against it.
Brian, Ruth, the girls and their friend, Gerawan, fled to Montana to hide. About a month after arriving in Montana, Brian was arrested for speeding, (he was alone at the time) and upon being identified as a wanted person, freely admitted to the police who he was. Later, while being questioned he was asked where Ruth and the girls were. At first he wouldn't reveal the location but later when asked again he requested permission to pray. He was given permission. Brian got down on his knees and prayed.......when through, he revealed where Ruth and the girls were.
Almost a dozen police, one in SWAT gear, went to the rural location where Ruth and the children were. The officials had been told by Brian that there were only two women and several children at the house.....and there were no fire arms there. The officers arrested Ruth and took the three girls.
Ruth was pregnant at the time and gave birth to their fifth daughter while in jail, and while handcuffed during the labor and delivery. Oregon CFS was present during the birth and demanded custody of the newborn. Montana refused Oregon custody, and with co-operation between Montana and Indiana, the baby was subsequently given to Brian's
mother, Terri Christine in Indiana.
Terri Christine in her testimony told of the troubles she had with the Oregon CFS. She tried numerous times to be in contact with the three older girls. She wrote letters and made phone calls to Ryna Diamond,the CFS official in charge of the three older girls. Ms/ Diamond would no return Terri's phone calls or letters. Terri eventually put a tracer on her last letter to Diamond. Because of that tracer Terri knew that Ms.Diamond was receiving the messages, but still refused to answer Terri. On one occasion, about Christmas time, Terri sent a camera,with film, and money for developing the film and a self addressed envelope for returned pictures, to the CFS, asking them to send her some pictures of the girls. She never got a reply or pictures. In the many months of requests, the CFS finally allowed the three girls to talk to Terri,their grandmother, on the phone. They used a speaker phone for the call. Terri testified that the girls had never used a speaker phone and couldn't recognize that their Grama's voice was coming from that box on the table. And whenever Terri would ask the girls a question, Ms/
Diamond took it upon herself to give the answer.
During this time, the CFS was in constant contact with Ruth's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Philip Medland that live in England. I should say Ruth's foster parents. Ruth was born in England and was a foster child herself. It was obvious Ruth's foster parents have been in total sympathy with the Oregon CFS and her father was a witness FOR the prosecution. Mr. Medland came across to me as a pompous bore, that left no doubt he comes from an affluent background. His superior attitude revealed to me what kind of a childhood Ruth must have had. Medland admitted that he resented Ruth marrying Brian. Medland testified that Ruth had worked with children in Napal, under the guidance of Mother Teresa. Ruth worked and lived with Mother Teresa. I think that is where she met Brian.
According to Medland, "Brian hadn't had a happy childhood", Medland didn't approve of the way Brian disciplined the children, (although he didn't give any examples). He resented Brian and Ruth living and traveling in a converted bus. He resented the fact that Brian & Ruth "weren't cooperating with the State". He said that he and his wife came over to the US and Brian and Ruth avoided them, "Ruth wouldn't communicate with us". He claimed that Ruth "has suffered from post-partem-depression for three and a half years". When asked by Steele how he came to that conclusion, Medland stated that two of his friends that are in medical positions gave that opinion. One news source quoted Medland as saying that Ruth is "mentally ill and depressed."
It was disclosed that either the District Attorney's office or the CFS paid for the Medlands trip and stay while they were over here. Eventually Brian and Ruth signed papers and relinquished their parental rights to the three older girls so that the Medland's could adopt them. From what I understood, it was either do that or the girls would be adopted out to total strangers.
Pictures of the girls were shown to several different witnesses....but we in the audience were never shown the pictures, so it's hard to accurately describe them. From comparisons made by witnesses, the youngest of the three older girls, Miriam, was underweight. She is a small child. In fact all three of the girls were thin and small. Much was made of this. Steele and family friends pointed out that Ruth and Brian were vegetarians and are small stature people themselves. They were raising the girls as vegetarians also. In addition, Miriam had just recovered from the flu and had lost weight during that time. Regardless, evidently Miriam was unusually thin at the time the CFS took the girls, according to witnesses comparing before
and after pictures.
We in the audience did get a glimpse of one of the pictures. It was a picture of the wound on Lydia's forehead. Dr. Jim Geason, the trauma doctor that examined the girls when they were brought to the hospital by the CFS, was the last of the witnesses to testify. He described the wound as "having a dirty bandage over it. When they removed the bandage, he said the smell from the wound was very
strong...According to the good doctor, two of the attendants had to
leave the room because the smell was so bad! Steele showed a picture of the wound that had been taken after the wound was cleaned. It was that picture we in the audience got a glimpse of as Steele held it up.
The wound was about the size of a quarter as far as I could tell. It was red in color. Of course it had been cleaned, so there was no pus or matter on it........just a red blob on the forehead. At this point, I said a silent, thankful prayer to God that this CFS, and the standards they have, weren't in effect while I was raising my four kids. Otherwise,my kids could have been adopted out, and I could be the one sitting at that defense table with Edgar Steele, because now days common sense does not prevail. Evidently, every cut, scrape, bruise, or bump that kids get are preventable. Every mark on a child just MUST be caused by an abusive parent. There isn't a family in Oregon that couldn't be at risk of losing their kids if confronted by a CFS official and an aggressive prosecutor today. I firmly believe that.
And of course there was Ms/ Ryna Diamond, the CFS social worker that was in charge of the Christine case at the start. Ms/ Diamond is now retired from the CFS, much to her advantage because she used that as an excuse for not knowing some of the answers to some of the questions that Steele asked. She answered several times,"I dont know, that was after I was off of the case". She did plenty of damge before she retired from the case though. Ms/ Diamond was the one that wouldn't return any of Terri Christine's calls or answer her letters. When Judge Coon, a judge in a previous hearing on the case, ordered the CFS to work with
the Christine's for mental tests and ordered once a week visits with the girls.......Ryna Diamond did not comply. The Christine's were only allowed once a month visits. Judge Coon also ordered that the girls could call their grandma Terri Chistine in Indiana....but she didn't comply with that either. Diamond claimed that Terri Christine was a
During this time, Ms/ Diamond was allowing weekly phone calls between the girls and Ruth's parents, the Medland's in England. Infact, when the Medland's came for a visit to Oregon at this time, the CFS allowed the Medland's to take all three of the girls on a week long, unsupervised vacation.
In addition, Ms/ Diamond, while on the stand, made the remark that Miriam, the undernourished girl, was "two day's away from death" when the CFS stepped in and seized the girls. Steele asked her where she got her information. She replied, "Oh, someone said that". Later,when Dr. Geason was asked if he thought the child was two day's away from death, the doctor replied, 'No".
When the CFS told Brian and Ruth that they would have to get a bigger bus before they could get the girls back, it was Terri Christine that borrowed ,000 for a bigger bus. It was Terri Christine that put the money up for Ruth's bail shortly before this trial began. The whole time that Terri Christine had the two younger girls, the state of Oregon had been trying to get them back in order to put them in a foster home in Oregon. During her testimony she told of a time (before baby Abby was born and while she was keeping Olivia) when she got a phone call from her son, Brian, telling her to hide Olivia. To put Olivia somewhere safe. Terri gave Olivia to a life long friend for safe keeping.
Shortly after, on August 2001, police came to Terri's home in Indiana and asked if Olivia was there. The prosecutor asked the question if she "had ever lied to the police?" She stopped for a moment, and turned to the judge, and told him that she was afraid to answer any further for fear she could incriminate herself and could be arrested.
At this point, the judge excused the jury. He then asked Terri to tell him why she was afraid to answer any further. It seems that she had lied to the police because she told them she didn't know where Olivia was. The judge offered his private phone for Terri to call her attorney in Indiana for advice or suggested that she confer with Edgar Steele for advice. She was allowed to leave the court room and go out in the hall and take time to decide what she wanted to do. She returned and said
she would take Edgar Steele's advice. They talked briefly.....the jury returned....and Terri told the prosecutor that yes, she had lied to the police because she feared that Oregon would adopt Olivia out and she would never see the child again. Under cross examination she told Edgar Steele that she lived in constant fear that Oregon would come and
take both the babies.
Just a personal note: During this time while the jury was out of the room, a recess was called and Terri went out in the hall to think, Ruth got up and went out in the hallway to be with her. Steele left the defense table too. I noticed that Brian was sitting all alone at the defense table. There was no deputy near. There was a deputy at the rear of the courtroom. But there sat Brian. No hand cuffs, no leg irons.....no nothing. It just struck me as strange. Such a relaxed atmosphere for such a high profile case. For such an emotional case.
As the days progressed, you got the impression that this Christine family; Terri, her son Brian, Brian's wife Ruth, are all a very Christia family. Not a bible thumping, holier than thou type of Christian. They didn't wear their religion on their sleeve......they lived their religion in a very quiet,daily, dedicated way. Each day, just before court convened, if you were paying attention, you would see Terri and Ruth together, holding hands, with heads bowed, asking for help and strength to get through the day's proceedings. Terri couldn't pray with her son Brian in such an obvious way, because she could not touch Brian, but they made eye contact with each other........and I could only imagine the prayers that were going up during those times. In fact there was an awful lot of praying going on in the audience too each day.
Ruth was allowed to sit beside Brian, but they could not touch. They couldn't even kiss each other good-bye when the guilty verdict came down and they were led away. This separation is for a lifetime because when Ruth is released she will be deported to England and never allowed to return. And Brian will never be allowed a visa to go to England when he is finally released. It's because they are now felons. Or rather, they have been convicted of a felony. They have been convicted.......but they aren't guilty of what they have been convicted of.
They were first charged with 'kidnapping' their children from the CFS. But Steele pointed out that in Oregon you can't 'kidnap' your own kids. So the prosecutor changed the charge to 'kidnapping' the case worker and the van driver on that infamous day at the rest area. According to the prosecutor when Brian told the driver and the case worker to step out of the van, and left them stranded at the rest
area, that constitutes kidnapping, a Measure 11 charge that carries a mandatory seven year prison term.
They were also charged with robbery. Remember the van drivers' cell phone, and the case workers' purse that were in the van? Well,in spite of the fact that both items were still in the van, intact, when the van was recovered two miles down the road.......that constitutes'robbery 1' that is also a Measure 11 charge that carries a seven year prison
term, and is a felony. And both Brian and Ruth were charged with two charges.....one for the van driver and one for the case worker.
They were also charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle....(taking the van), a misdemeanor. And also charged with Custodial Interference. (taking the girls), also a misdemeanor. And Brian is also charged with having a gun during a crime....Another Measure 11 charge that carries a seven year prison term...and is a felony. They were acquitted of the kidnapping charges, but convicted
of the rest. The sentencing hearing is set for Tuesday, May 28th at 9:30 in the Roseburg Courthouse.
The jury took only a little over three hours to reach a verdict. When the word was spread that the jury had a verdict, everybody rushed back to the courtroom. On that last day, additional Sheriff's
deputies were present. And also, the spectators section had filled up with some new faces. When we all returned to the courtroom and before calling in the jurors, the Judge had a word with all of us. He
admonished us not to show any reaction or make any sound when we heard the verdict. Deputies were posted around the room. Two deputies came up to the defense table where Brian and Ruth were seated.
The jury came in. Papers were handed to the judge. He read over them for a few minutes. There were a whole lot of prayers going up during that time. And then he read. Acquitted of kidnapping....(our hearts did a leap)......then, "Guilty of Robbery, Guilty of Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Guilty of Custodial Interference, and Brian Guilty of using a gun.
There was dead silence. Nobody gasped.....nobody
moved....nobody did anything.....it was just totally silent. The audience was stunned. The judge asked the attorney's if they wanted the jury
polled. Steele said, yes he did. The judge requested the jury to raise their hand if they didn't agree with the verdict, as each was read. No hands were raised. Not one. The verdicts had been unanimous. Shortly we could hear sobbing. It was Ruth. Her head was laying on the table and she was sobbing. The two deputies stepped forward, hand cuffed Ruth and handcuffed Brian, and led them out that side door. Never to see each other again.
What went wrong? What happened between the first day of trial and the last day of trial, that I missed? I was there every day. I heard every single word the jury heard. And yet those eight women and two men saw everything different from what I did. They were all good people. Just ordinary people like us in the audience. Weren't any of them parents? Didn't they feel the threat that the Christine's felt when they learned their kids were going to be adopted out? Couldn't they see that this young couple were ignorant of the rules that the State play's by? Couldn't they feel the desperation of these two young parents? This couple made some mistakes due to their own naivety as to the power and heartlessness of the State. But couldn't the jury see that this young couple, this young family, were worth saving. This couple didn't do drugs.....they didn't beat their kids......they didn't have any previous record of any law breaking. They were God fearing Christians, trying to raise their kids in a manner they felt was the healthiest, the most loving way they knew how.
Let me tell you about a case I know about. Down the road from our house lives a man and his live in lady friend that have a 14 yr. old daughter. His name is Bill Rogers. He lives in Culp Creek, Oregon. He is a previously convicted felon. He has a yard full of old car bodies. He has a camp trailer in his back yard that he has been making
methamphedamine in, and selling the stuff out of his home, to any local kid that wants to buy it. A few months ago, the SWAT team finally busted
him. They carried 14 guns out of that house, that belonged to Bill...(remember, he was already a felon and it's illegal to own a gun when your a felon). The 14 year old daughter was taken from the
home, I presume by the CFS. Bill was hauled off to jail......for a few days. He was released from jail......the daughter was returned to the home, and Bill had his trial and sentencing the other day. Guess what sentence Bill got? Three years probation! That's it! Three years probation.
The guns were handed over to a third party..(we feel Bill will get his guns back soon), and the trailer that Bill made the dope in is still sitting in his back yard. We all feel Bill will be back in business soon.
Now tell me where the justice is between these two cases? There are a lot of things in this world that aren't fair. And the Christine case is a prime example. We are all sick and tired of
criminals in Oregon getting their hands slapped and being turned loose on society to do their mischief all over again. So we passed Measure 11 with stiff mandatory sentences....even for a first offender. In California it's called, 'three strikes and your out'.....In Oregon it should be called 'one strike and your out'. But then there are the Bill Roger's of the world.
Something is very wrong with our justice system......and it needs fixing. Maybe we are partly to blame for this because under Measure 11 a
judge has no choice but to hand out the required sentences. I feel the guilty party in this mess is the Children's and Family Services. Ms. Diamond and her cohorts were out to get the Christine's. They had to win this case in order to save their own.......skins. The different ways they dealt with the two sets of grandparents shows gross prejudice. The power entrusted to this agency was totally abused. Just imagine how much tax money was spent on this case. The cost of the English
grandparents to come over and stay till the trials end; The numerous law enforcement officers that were brought here and lodged, from Montana; The doctors fee to come from Grants Pass. And keep in mind.....Brian and Ruth Christine have never been proven to be unfit parents! That trial is set for
July 30th. Talk about getting the cart before the horse!
Let's not let this happen to another family. In fact, let's insist that the injustice done to the Christine family be undone! Let's insist the Children's and Family Services be completely investigated, and this case in particular. And let's make sure that those responsible, pay for what this family has suffered.
Ginny Paseman, Culp Creek, Oregon