By Chester Campbell
I've been watching a real live first degree murder trial the past few days. It's taking place in Gallatin, TN, in the next county to the northeast of Nashville. One of the local TV channels (called Channel 5+, channel 250 on Comcast) is broadcasting it live gavel-to-gavel. I haven't watched it all, since I do need to accomplish a few things during the day, but what I've seen is often fascinating.
The case involves a young woman in her mid-twenties who is charged with killing her twin babies at birth. She lives in her parents' home, and nobody knew she was pregnant. She was somewhat overweight and wore loose dresses that did not make it obvious. On the day the babies were born, she told her parents she did not feel well and stayed in her room that evening. The twins arrived as she sat on the toilet. After the first birth, she laid on the floor several minutes before returning to the toilet and giving birth to the second.
After lying on the floor again for some time, she put the infants in a laundry basket and cleaned blood off the bathroom floor. She called in sick the following day but went to work the day after that. When her mother went to clean up the room after she left for work, the dead babies were found in the laundry basket. Her husband called 911 and reported what they had found.
After patrol officers came to the home and saw the babies, a detective went to the young woman's office and took her to police headquarters for questioning. The detective testified at length regarding his interview, then a video of the interview was showed to the jury. On cross-examination, the defense attorney hammered away at the detective's conduct during the interview. The lawyer said the officer's questions were misleading and that he had coerced the defendant's answers. According to the video, she admitted that when the babies cried, she placed her hand over the infants' mouths until they stopped breathing.
The medical examiner said the deaths were caused by suffocation, although the defense attorney got him to admit it was possible this could have resulted by the babies' position in the toilet.
The defense's main witness has been a forensic psychiatrist who testified that the defendant suffered from "dimïnished capacity" from mental problems including dissociative disorder. The primary defense appears to be that she could not be guilty of premeditation because of her mental condition.
It has been instructional for a mystery writer and some of its features could appear in future books. One thing I found interesting about the TV coverage was that the judge required they never show the jury.
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