Sunday, May 29, 2011

Motherhood in Question?

I was thinking, over this holiday weekend how good it is to have family together, I just feel so happy to be surrounded by the people I love.  Even as we do our own independent activities within our home, I can sense we are close to one another and can feel that warmth and love just radiating from our very beings.  I had a difficult time while incarcerated, in fact the hardest part of being locked up was missing my children,  the pain was just deep down in the depth of my soul.  I had no idea I would have to survive three years away, I don't think I could have even wrapped my thoughts around such a void when I was first ushered into the pits of Dallas County Jail following my trial.  I thought surely I would be out on an appeals bond in no time. I couldn't even imagine the Judge setting a bond so high my family couldn't touch it. After all, in the four years prior to my trial I had been on a personal recognizance bond for most of that time and had never violated the terms, showing up in court every two weeks.

One of the biggest issues of this countries' excessive incarceration practices is the destructive force it has on the families in America.  Such a destructive force, indeed.  Pulling parents away from their children.  I used to think the children were better off without those "criminal" parents.  Once in there, meeting many good, family oriented, kind and nurturing women I had to really rethink the stereotype I had implanted in my brain.  Besides, there I was too and not because of any loathsome lifestyle.

About a year into my incarceration, and still at Dallas County, I finally sat down and wrote a book except, more as a therapy for me than anything else.  I needed to sort out my feelings about being ripped away from motherhood, it seemed like the emptiness I felt was going to eat me up, not to mention the lingering anger.  Following is that excerpt:

     In our society and perhaps all societies a woman's role inside the family includes one of nurturing - to care for and develop the children.  Girl children are expected, from an early age, to help their mom with younger children and around the house, while their play most often includes caring for their baby dolls.  As little girls we are taught we are valuable if we help others, quite often that is how we receive our acceptance among the adults in our life.  There are inherent messages of - it is okay to exist so long as we are needed and useful.  The more needed we are, the more purpose we have, the more our existence on this earth is affirmed.  Thus, perpetuating the need to be needed.  It wraps around and possibly smothers our very being.  It even creates a neediness about us.  We become extreme givers while some of us attach to extreme takers, resenting it all the while, yet somehow needing it.  It is a vicious cycle.  We have a hard time receiving anything for ourselves.  Our need to give is primary, with taking care of ourselves secondary, at best. 

     As a child the intrinsic and unstated belief is that it is what we do to survive, to keep from being abandoned.  Therefore, one learns to give without boundaries, at what can become a high cost to self, perhaps abandoning self.  The very issue of abandonment becomes so internalized, growing our neediness.  We look for constant affirmations in our relationships, thereby placing the burden on our loved ones to constantly affirm our existence.  This creates a needy mom, one who may figuratively suffocate their children with "love", one who flounders once they become empty-nesters.

     It is with this said that I explore my growing resentment toward Ron [my husband] in hopes I can prevent the festering of this in our relationship.  If all emotions are based either in fear or love, then resentment is clearly that of fear.  What do I fear?  I fear that Ron will replace me in the eyes of my boys.  I fear I will no longer be needed or valued.  I fear if I am no longer needed then I have no reason for being.  My career has been destroyed and now it feels like motherhood has been stolen from me.  I feel so much grief, bone deep.  These are the two ways I have defined myself, as  a mom and as a business woman.  All was torn away from me once I was convicted and sentenced.  So, where does that leave me?  In Dallas County jail, with only myself to take care of.

     An opportunity to re-parent myself.  I know that sounds crazy but here it is, an opening in my life to find value in me, just being, not performing.  To not be needed by others, yet still be alive, very much alive.  It's beginning to look as though I have an opportunity staring me in the face.  And, when I look at it that way, I feel only gratitude toward Ron.  This reminds me of a quote from my friend, Bears Kaufman:  "when we stand in gratitude, there is no room for unhappiness." 

     So, I have a choice, I can steep myself in fear or I can steep myself in love.  What a grand choice and here I was thinking all choices were taken away from me when I was incarcerated.  As I wallowed in resentment I became unaware of choice.  But allowing myself to explore this I find they cannot take away my attitude and beliefs.

     As I tread through this case against me I have gone through a series of letting go.  First it was my career, then material possessions, as I scrambled to pay legal fees and find any job as a means to support us.   Then it was my physical freedom.  Now, I have the opportunity to let go of my resentment, my fear.  Not just any fear, but a made-up fear. 

     In letting go of that fear I have created a space to redefine myself, to redefine my purpose, to clear out more of the clutter and come to trust myself and my belief in God.  Yet another lesson in surrender.  Another lesson in choosing love.  A chance to learn to nurture myself, thereby growing an interdependent love rather than codependent love for others.  How freeing this is and here I thought all my freedoms had been usurped.  My captors cannot steal or control my thoughts.  I'm in charge of choosing beliefs and corresponding thoughts that enliven a  healthy existence; therein lies my continuing commitment to myself and God.

Working through this was a giant step in my survival and really required me to let go even more of the victim role, as that thinking was just making me sick and wearing me down.  Once I began to clean up my thinking on this subject, my rational thought returned and I knew that I would always be the mother of Nate and Brandon and nothing could diminish the love we have for one another.  We survived our separation from one another.  I missed a big chunk of their lives, their high school years, I can't get those years back, but I do have today for which I am infinitely grateful.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Culpable Negligence ?

We are getting reports whereby the government is finally owning some culpability in the massive, unsafe immunizations that occurred throughout the eighties, nineties and into the new millennium.  They have been paying families millions of dollars in settlement money for the vaccine damage to their children which includes autism.  We are just finding out about this!?!  Autism went from 1 in 10,000 (prior to 1990) to the 1990's ratio of 1 in 150 children and has continued to increase throughout the first decade of 2000 to current day numbers indicating 1 in 100 children effected with autistic traits following immunizations.

In the 1990's thimerisol (a preservative, containing mercury, found in immunizations) was identified as unsafe for many children as their bodies were unable to metabolize metals, in this case mercury.  Instead the mercury accumulated to significant amounts and crossed the blood-brain barrier thus causing brain damage, quite often effecting the speech center and sensory systems of these children.  If you look up the symptoms of mercury poisoning you find them to be the same as we are seeing in many of our children with autism.

There was a recent article published that indicates continued problems as seen in the statistics above even after taking thimerisol out of the early childhood immunizations.  This study identified the introduction of fetal DNA in vaccines as the trigger.  The study tells us that "the vaccines contain significant residual human DNA fragments that can insert themselves into vaccine recipient cells........this insertion can cause genomic disruption resulting in autism."  To read more about this, see article in ChristianNewsWire describing the "ticking time bomb that has already exploded." 

What we learned from the 90's is that autism was no longer considered epidemic proportions but by the end of the 90's had moved into a classification known as pandemic.  What we also learned from the 90's was that when these children with autism went through a cheolation process large amounts of mercury and aluminum would show up in their blood and urine samples (far beyond what is considered "normal").  Another bit of information we garnered from the 90's was that when the vaccines were introduced to third world countries, these countries then started to have cases of autism pop up everywhere among their young, freshly immunized children, whereby those countries had never seen a case of autism before.  We've known its the immunizations, we've known it does not negatively effect all or even most children...yet we could not get the government (FDA) or the drug companies to own their culpability in the destruction of the productive lives of these children, instead leaving an enormous burden on the families and eventually the Social Security Disability and Medicaid rolls.
I believe most parents with this knowledge are NOT anti-vaccine people but instead share the belief that vaccines should be safe and should be well researched and tested before requiring mass inoculation and in the event there is a question, then we have the right to be informed immediately and decide about the risk for our own children.  I know not one of those families are thanking the government for allowing their child to become a guinea pig for their experimentation.  And I know not one of those families are thrilled with the thought that the major drug companies producing these vaccines combed in unbelievable amounts of profits as a result of the government requiring mass inoculation.  There have been class action suits and individual suits brought against the drug companies, who continue to deny there is any correlation.  The drug companies are wealthy beyond measure and for every study brought up in the lawsuits showing cause and effect, they pay for five more studies negating that connection.  Remember what I said in my last post, one can always find the evidence to support one's belief (or in this case - agenda).  And there can be creation of evidence if needed, as seen in my legal case, by the opposing side.

The recent information of the government "secretly" settling with some families is not a surprise, see this article and short FOXnewscast describing such settlements.  The need to keep it secret must have been enormous as there are hundreds of thousands of kids (and their families) negatively impacted.  It will be interesting to see what happens now, if anything.  A requirement of filing claims with this government program is that the claim must be filed within 3 years of onset.  I know for one, when my Nate started changing and showing the signs of withdrawal we did not have this information and in 1992 the doctors were baffled.  Diagnosing Nate was like a three ring circus.  By the time he was 5 years old he must have had at least 8 different diagnosis, with autism being the last educated guess.  You see there is no blood test or genetic test to confirm the is more a process of elimination and observation of behavior patterns.  It wasn't until 2001 that I first learned of the connection between the immunizations and autism and by then Nate was 10 years old and it was far too late to make a claim.  Further, the government and the drug companies have bombarded us with the denial of this link between autism and vaccines, even going so far as to repeatedly discredit the doctors doing the research and the results of the scientific research with findings to the contrary.

In developing The NOAH Project (2001-2002) I had decided we would focus on the best overall treatment for these kids.  How we could respect their differences and work with them in the most loving way, how we could support their nutritional needs and how we could educate and help their parents and other parents (attending our speaking series) gather resources, that is doctors, therapists and nutritionists who were tuned into this information and could help clear the children of the neurotoxins and at the same time boost their immune systems.  An informed parent can best help their children if they know what is going inside their child's body and find ways to offset the negative impact; in contrast the denial campaigns of the government and drug companies does not help progress or focus on the effective treatment for these kids.  I did not attack the drug companies or FDA.  It was always my hope they would step up and become accountable.  Apparently it now becomes evident they handled the few extreme cases where the parents had the knowledge and wherewithal to make the claims on a timely basis and the impact of the vaccines were immediate and drastic rather than slow developing over time, as it was for most of our kids.

We are still faced with determining the best ways to help the kids (and now many are young adults) who have been effected.  I have remained a believer in the The Son-Rise Program in terms of treatment (although limited to home-based), teaching the children to be interactive in the most spontaneous way.  The public schools are now doing a far better job working with our kids.  The explosive population of children with autism started in the 90's and took everybody by surprise, especially the public school system, they had to scramble to find certified special ed teachers, qualified teacher aids and ways to reach these kids. 

Nutritional needs and vitamin intervention are still vital in boosting their compromised immune systems and helping clear the fog away, which quite often is created by gluten and casein foods (found in most processed food items).  At The NOAH Project we issued a quarterly Nutrition newsletter to all families, teachers and therapists who were on our mailing lists from the speaking series (approximately 3,000 people).  Here are a few pages from our newsletters prepared by our staff nutritionist (you will see we were careful and still soft pedaled the role of immunizations in creating this malady):

If you know families challenged with a child showing symptoms of delayed development, limited or no speech and/or overload of sensory systems, encourage them to get early intervention.  The sooner they address the problems, the more likely the child will respond and possibly reverse the effects.  Most of all, find the doctors/pediatricians that are focused on safe immunizations.  There are alternatives, such as splitting up the viruses,  and administering the vaccines over a longer period of time.  Research!  Encourage them to become empowered parents taking initiative, instead of blindly trusting the "experts".  Most of all encourage them to love their children and support them in the most positive ways.  If nothing else these children teach us to love unconditionally....a gift in itself!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Who Were The True Conspirators?

I have to do another post on Mary Surratt to share with you what I have found, so we have a Part III to Mary Surratt.  This information is fascinating to me.  I have never been interested in history, even the thought of it bores me.  Give me a math problem any 'ole day.  But this Mary Surratt case and the bigger picture is an enormous frame up and cover up.  I did not get the significance of many things I saw in the movie "The Conspirator", until I came home and read further.

Historians fall on both sides of this debate...."Was Mary Surratt guilty or innocent?"  The historians saying she was guilty generally argue that she had to know, they buy what the government fed them almost 150 years ago, contrary to what has been found since.  One historian even goes so far as to say she must have been guilty because she had such a calm demeanor and was "clever" during her recorded interrogations. I don't know about you but calm is what I do, in fact the worse the circumstances, the calmer I get.  Because fear, insanity, rage all cloud my ability to think and reason.  When under extreme pressure or conflicting situations I get real quiet and listen with all my might so I can take the next best step.  BUT, now can you see where that can get interpreted as "obfuscating, lying, denying and parsing her words"?  That is how some historians have interpreted her demeanor and her claim of innocence. 

YET, during the trial, five priests and several other people testified on her behalf as to her stellar character and religious devotion.  Who knew more about Mary Surratt, these people who spent time with her over the years or the historians who paint her as Booth's co-conspirator?  It seems to me if someone had a shady, questionable character it would have surfaced at some time throughout the years prior to this event.  But you know the saying, people will find (or create) the evidence to fit their beliefs.  Perhaps I am guilty of the same in this instance...let's take a look at what came up after the conspiracy trial of Mary Surratt.

In the comment section of my prior blog I present the theory that there were others, such as Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, and President Andrew Johnson himself that seemed to go out of their way to see these 8 people convicted and immediately dealt their punishments.  Yet they could have had their own political agendas to rid Lincoln of the Presidency, in fact it would seem they had far more MOTIVE than the characters convicted of conspiracy.  I set out to understand this better by researching John Wilkes Booth's diary, John Surratt Jr.'s trial two years later in a civilian court and anything I could find out about Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial.  I must make a correction a previous comment (last blog - comment section) I said that Andrew Johnson was impeached, but that is an error.  He missed being impeached by one vote, he did finish out his term, but was a very unpopular President. 

I learned several things that I want to share with you, this will give you more insight into how (at a grand level) innocent people can come to be falsely accused and wrongly convicted.  It gives you a better understanding of the deception that is possible when perpetrating fraud on the courts.  Because, rarely, if ever, is a wrongful conviction a result of error, it is much more the result of a deliberate withholding and/or altering/creating evidence, false (coerced) testimonies by state witnesses....and a prosecutor who is hell-bent on winning at any cost while exercising their persuasive powers over the jury.

In the movie, "The Conspirator" the alledged conspirators, while imprisoned awaiting their trials and after had hoods over their heads.  The hoods were lined with one inch of cotton and there was only one small hole at the mouth for them to eat their food.  Therefore, they could not be heard.  In addition, they were shackled making writing impossible and were not allowed any discussions or visits from the outside world (with one exception, at the end of the trial Mary was allowed a brief visit from her daughter).  They had been silenced, were tried quickly and punishment was dealt immediately.  Even back then, this treatment was unheard of.  Mary Surratt pleaded that she be allowed to make a last statement but was denied.  What was the government covering up, what were they so afraid she would say?

Mary Surratt was convicted on the false testimony of two men.  There was no exculpatory evidence, only circumstantial.  Both men later, changed their stories.  John Lloyd, testified in John Surratt Jr.'s trial two years later.  "Lloyd not only contradicted some of the statements he had made at the conspiracy trail but admitted that he had been subjected to both promises and threats."  According to John T. Ford (owner of Ford Theater) Lloyd had told him he "was taken to Bryantown and when he refused to say anything against Mrs. Surratt, he was hanged by his thumbs until he could no longer stand the pain.  Only then, to spare himself from further torture, did he agree to give perjured testimony against his landlady."

The other false testimony came from Louis Weichmann who told his friends John Brophy and Louis Carland, following the conspiracy trial that "his conscience was troubling him, that he had lied on the witness stand to save his own life and keep his government position.  He said that his statements had been written out for him and he had to testify based on that."  On the day of Mary's execution John Brophy swore out an affidavit disclosing Weichmann's statements and copied the Washington Constitutional Union, plus took a copy to the White House. Carland later testified in John Surratt Jr.'s trial regarding what Weichmann had told them that day.

The evidence that was introduced in the John Surratt Jr. civilian trial two years later included Booth's diary, the clemency plea for Mary Surratt (coming from the tribunal members who had voted against the death sentence and were coerced by Stanton and Holt to change their vote),  petitions given to Andrew Johnson, prior to the executions, and the statements of Lewis Powell and John T. Ford presenting "evidence of confessed perjuries and witness intimidation by the government."  "The civil trial of John Surratt Jr. exposed many injustices that a free people must never again tolerate."

John Wilkes Booth's diary indicated there were many over him in this plot, he did not act alone.  It coincided with General Baker's diary, his accounts of the Lincoln assassination.  "Both implicated, even boasted  of a secret government council which had bound the country over a century.  It revealed that the true killers were led by Lincoln's most trusted military advisor in the Civil War, Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War."  General Lafayette Baker, chief of the National Detective Police Force and fellow conspirator (conspirator with Stanton), wrote "Stanton's plot was a vast, well financed attempt to seize control of the federal government, signed Lafayette C. Baker."  Numerous attempts were made on Baker's life (to silence him), he died of arsenic poisoning three years following the conspiracy trial.

Seven hours before Lincoln's assassination John Wilkes Booth left a note at Vice President Andrew Johnson's home. It said "Don't wish to disturb you.  Are you at home?  J. Wilkes Booth."   This note, along with Booth's diary were presented at President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, in addition to several other items that had surfaced during John Surratt Jr.'s trial.

Over zealous prosecutors, power hungry men (and women), frightened witnesses can create anything.  I have said this before in my blogs related to my own case...there is NO need to make up any lies if a person is truly guilty.  Their guilt will stand on its own.  The fact that there was so much coercion going on is all the evidence I need to know in my heart that Mary Surratt was innocent.  She was a scapegoat and a distraction used to cover the true conspirators.

Mary Surratt was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Washington DC.  There is a bronze plaque by her grave that reads:

"The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them.  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are at peace."

If you are interested in reading further or want to follow the quotes above, there are many books and Internet articles on this subject.  I encourage you to take a look and draw your own conclusions.  Injustices in our system didn't end with Mary Surratt, nor are they unique to the military, they continue today in our civilian courts.  Following are a few of the references I used:

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Was Mary Surratt Like?

Did Mary Surratt have the personality of a criminal?  Could she be a party to murder?  What can we decide from the little we know about her growing up years and the person she came to be as an adult?  What do we learn about her from the trial proceedings?

Mary was born and grew up in Waterloo, Maryland.  Her family had a plantation, although not wealthy, they were financially secure.  At the age of 12 she was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia.  The school closed when she was sixteen, so she returned home.  Soon after her return she met John H. Surratt who was 11 years older than her.  They married when she was seventeen and lived in D.C. in a home Surratt had inherited from his foster parents.  They had three children, Isaac, Anna and John Jr., in that order. 

In 1851 their home was destroyed by fire.  John Sr. decided not to rebuild and went to work in Virginia.  He saved enough money and in 1852 bought a farm (247 acres) near Mary's childhood home in Waterloo.  There they grew tobacco and raised pigs.  Their home also became a tavern & inn and eventually a U.S. post office which was run out of the tavern.  In those days the town or village was named after the appointed postmaster thus their land and the surrounding land became known as Surrattsville.  December 6, 1853, John Sr. also purchased the 4-story townhouse in Washington D.C. which eventually became the boarding house where the conspiracy to murder Lincoln was allegedly hatched.

John Surratt Sr. had a drinking and gambling problem and was known to physically abuse Mary.  He died of a heart attack or stroke during the summer of 1862.  He left Mary with an overwhelming amount of debt as a result of his gambling problem.  In order to make ends meet, Mary moved to their Washington home with Anna and turned it into a respectable boarding house.  For a while John Jr. remained in Surrattsville and ran the post office, but was found to be running a courier service for the Confederate army and therefore lost his position.  The tavern was leased to John Lloyd an ex-police officer and alcoholic.

John Jr. joined Mary and Anna at their residence in Washington.  Through his work with the Confederate army, John Jr. came to know John Wilkes Booth who became a frequent visitor at the boarding house once John Jr. moved there, along with the other men later identified as co-conspirators.  Did Mary know of their activity?  She always claimed she was innocent and did not know what they were doing. 

On April 14, 1865 Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford theatre, where Booth was an actor.  Lincoln died the following morning.  The detectives decided  "One bullet killed the president, but not one man."  So, they arrested those who associated with Booth.  Since Mary owned the boarding house that he often visited, she was arrested on the night on April 17, 1865.  The arresting officers were men of the Union, those being arrested were sympathizers of the South.  The defense attorney for Mary was also a Union war hero.  At first Frederick Aiken did not want to defend her, so set out to prove she was guilty.

He was unable to prove her guilt and eventually came to actually defend her and believe in her.  Mary was a gracious woman and a well educated woman for the time.  She spoke clearly to Aiken and quite often challenged him in matters of truth.  At one point Aiken was to find out where John Surratt Jr. had gone.  Mary would not give him that information (if she even had it).  It appeared that Aiken could arrange a trade, he offered Mary her freedom for the whereabouts of her son.  It is a question we are left with...did she give up her own life for her son's?  Or did she really not know?

One thing for sure, she always had her rosary beads with her and she met often with the priest.  She appeared to be a devout Catholic, who very much loved her children, doing everything she could to support them.  She did not take on a martyr role but argued hard regarding her innocence.

I remember so clearly the point in the movie when one of the witnesses was telling an untruth on the witness stand.  Mary stood up at the defense table and screamed "that is a lie!"  Of course, she had to get herself under control or would have been removed from the proceedings for contempt of court.  I had the same thing happen in my own trial...the same gut reaction when the Detective started lieing on the stand.  All eyes came to me and the Judge, waiting to see if I would be thrown out and charged with contempt.  I was right with Mary when I saw her reaction during her was as if I was reliving my own trial.

While I know I am seeing this from my own perspective, it is just too powerful and similar for me too walk away from it.  Her reactions and demeanor in court.  Her discussions with Aiken about truth while imprisoned in a filthy cell.  The way she was always pleasant to her visitors.  Her draw to God.  The way she held on to her rosary as if the truth would save her.   Her happiness when she was able to finally visit with her daughter.  Her happiness when they thought she would not be hung because of the habeas her attorney had submitted to a Judge and was approved by the Judge at the last minute.  Then, President Andrew Johnson had the habeas suspended and moments later she was marched out to execution.  The disappointment and sadness was tangible, but even then she did not cower, she was so brave.

We cannot know why God allows things to happen.  But look at this, 150 years later we are still examining what happened to Mary Surratt.  She did not act as a guilty person.  She did not have the profile of a criminal.  There are lessons to be learned in this history.  Malicious prosecution.  Constitutional Rights.  Truth.  There is a lot for us to soul search.  How does all of this relate to our current times?  Such a timely movie and so well done.  "The Conspirator"  Was she really?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stories from Surrattsville

Yesterday my husband and I went to the movies and saw "The Conspirator".  I had so many memories flood back to me.  In my last blog I mentioned that for most of my growing up years we lived in Maryland.  Our home was in Clinton, Maryland which is just south of Washington DC (about 10 miles) so we were considered a suburb to DC.  Across Branch Avenue, less than a mile from our home, was Andrews Air Force Base.  And, 1.8 miles in another direction from our home was old "downtown" Clinton and the home of Mary Surratt, the subject of the movie.  Clinton used to have the name of Surrattsville and was changed following the "trial" of Mary Surratt.  I highly recommend seeing this movie, its an extraordinary accounting of history (the murder of president Abraham Lincoln and the following trial of Mary Surratt as a conspirator) and in my opinion a study of yet another case of falsely accused and wrongly convicted.  But then, go see the movie and you decide!!

Growing up in Clinton I attended Surrattsville Elementary, Junior High and High School.  I did not graduate from SHS as we spent my 10th grade year in Florida, then back to Maryland for most of 11th and on to Albuquerque for my Senior year.  I kept in contact with my friends I grew up with and they made sure I had a yearbook for each of the three high school years plus I  was invited to graduation which I wouldn't have missed for the world (although, as an observer).  It was always interesting and a mystery to me why they would rename the city but keep the schools named after the Surratt family.  As a child I understood the Mary Surratt story as follows: 

  • Mary Surratt was the first women hung in the United States.  She helped John Wilkes Booth following the assassination of Lincoln.  He had hurt his leg and came to Mary Surratt for help, she took him to Dr. Samuel Mudd and assisted Dr. Mudd in patching up his leg.  The story goes, she did not know she was helping a criminal but that didn't matter they hung her anyway.

Above is the Surratt house.  For all my years living in Clinton it was boarded up, with an historic marker out front (and considered haunted).  Now it is a museum.  Back in the day, it served as the Surratt's home, an inn with a tavern and the local post office.

Below is the boarding house that Mary Surratt owned and ran.  It was in Washington DC and the location where the conspiracy was allegedly hatched.

Over my many years since growing up when somebody asked me where I grew up I'd tell them the Clinton/Surrattsville story (the child's version above).  And of course they had never  heard of it.  Until NOW and  NOW that I've seen the movie (which is historically accurate) I know the story to be different and definitely more complicated.  As you can imagine, the story has peaked my interest for many reasons.  Mary Surratt always claimed she was innocent.  And after watching her hoax of a trial and reading further of the withholding of evidence I recognize a poignant juxtaposition between Mary Surratt's case and my own, as I am sure there is with any case supporting a wrongful conviction.

Based on the movie and an account of the court proceedings I have made a comparison below.  Amazing how 150 years just dissolves when looking at the impact of corruption and deception within the justice system.
  • Both Mary Surratt and I claimed innocence from the start and throughout the proceedings.
  • Mary Surratt was perceived as having too much information and not coming forth.  In my case I did have too much information related to my ex-client's divorce and he needed to destroy my credibility.
  • Our constitutional rights were violated - both cases are lacking in due process.  In my case those violations were outlined in my previous blog whereas Mary Surratt's were discussed in the movie and primarily relate to civilians being tried by military tribunals.  That very issue was pending in the Supreme Court during the conspiracy trials.
  • Manufactured testimony by several witnesses.  Ironically, one of the men who falsely testified against Mary Surratt was Louis Weichmann.  In my own case the computer forensic expert, John Weichmann, was right with us throughout the pretrial hearings, but in my trial he changed his story and was used to neutralize my claim of the computer and its exculpatory evidence.
  • Withheld exculpatory evidence.  In Mary Surratt's case it was the diary of John Wilkes Booth.  In my own case it was the computer files, accounts payable records and bank account Internet access log.
  • The appearance of underhanded deals for those falsely testifying.  In the case of Mary Surratt those deals have been identified.  In my case, the Motion in Limine is blatant and other deals appear to exist.

It's time for us to insist that prosecution no longer enjoy absolute immunity but become accountable, otherwise they will continue to walk all over our Constitutional Rights and nobody is safe in this country.  In the case of Mary Surratt it was the military tribunal benefiting from immunity.  Current day prosecutorial absolute immunity has come about in recent years as discussed in this "Grits for Breakfast" blog posting.  As a voter it is so important you are aware of malicious prosecution and let your representatives hear from you, otherwise you and everybody else in this country are unprotected and the abuse of power goes unchecked.  The founding principles of this country and our U.S. Constitution must be upheld.  The Constitution is not a political tool as some have called it, it is a safeguard put in place by our founding fathers to prevent the tyranny they experienced in England and the very reason for colonizing in America.

For those of you who have seen the movie, you may enjoy these follow ups on the lives of some of the main characters and other small tidbits:
  • John Surratt (son of Mary Surratt) - who was in Elmira, New York at time of assassination, fled to Canada, then on to Europe.  He was captured in Alexandria.  He stood trial in a civilian court, the jury could not agree on the verdict - it was 8 to 4 in favor of an acquittal.  The Judge declared a mistrial.  The prosecutors did not ask for another trial.  By August 1968, Surratt was free.  He married and had seven children.  He taught school and occasionally lectured on his relationship with John Wilkes Booth.
  • Anna Surratt (daughter of Mary Surratt) - had several children.  Four years following Mary Surratt's execution Anna was able to have her mother's body moved to a proper grave.
  • Joseph Holt (chief prosecutor) - became a recluse. "He came to believe that the legal process used to try the conspirators - the military commission - wasn't legal after all."  Not only was Holt chief prosecutor in the conspiracy trials, he was also legal advisor to the tribunal, "impartially" advising them as to same trials (a conflict of interest).  When the trials were over Holt was accused of keeping evidence from the defense and the plea for clemency (prepared by five members of the tribunal) from the President.  One piece of evidence (held by the FBI today) that was notably missing from the trial was John Wilkes Booth's diary.  It was proven that Holt had it prior to the trials.  The diary would have been a key piece of evidence for the defendants.
  • President Andrew Johnson went through an impeachment trial in his second term.  The diary of John Wilkes Booth was used in the trial against Johnson.  There are several missing pages from the diary which have never been found.
  • Andrews Air Force Base is built on what used to be part of Surratt's land.  I think they got it for a steal!
  • In the year following the trials and executions, the Supreme Court decision (Ex part Milligan) held that American civilians could not be tried by a military tribunal.