Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Confrontation Clause & Hearsay Rule

In his play King Richard II, written in 1575, William Shakespeare had his fictional king set this procedure for trial: "Then call them into our presence - face to face, and frowning from brow to brow, ourselves will hear the accuser and the accused freely speak..." (Richard II, Act I, Scene I).

At the time Shakespeare was writing his plays over 400 years ago, outrageous abuses were the daily routine in criminal trials throughout England. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out in the 1992 case of White v. Illinois, U.S., 112 S, Ct. 736, 50 Cr.L. 2031, that people in early England were being convicted in trials by "anonymous accusers and absentee witnesses." (112 S. Ct. at 746, 50 Cr.L. at 2037).

When Casey Anthony stands trial in May of 2011, her guilt or innocence will be determined to some extent by LIVE witnesses. When any of those witnesses want to testify about something someone else said, outside of the courtroom, the testimony is called hearsay. While it is true that all in-court testimony possesses risks regarding honesty and accuracy, hearsay is much riskier. As a matter of fact, the Sixth Amendment hearsay rule operates to exclude such evidence at trial. To comprehend the hearsay rule and its exceptions, we should better understand the reasons for the rule and its history.

Sir Walter Raleigh

"This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries."

Explorer and soldier Sir Walter Raleigh was a member of the English Court of Queen Elizabeth. Until her death in 1603, he enjoyed her patronage and protection and pretty much had his way. When she died, the new king, James I, didn't take much of a fancy in him and he was thrown into the Tower of London. Later that year, he was tried for treason against the king. His conviction was based on the confession of one conspirator, who did not appear as a witness in court. Most historians agree that the man was most likely tortured into confessing, because he denied it prior to Raleigh's trial. He was later released and rearrested, and in 1618, he was beheaded.

"Let us dispatch," he said to his executioner, who showed him the axe. "At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear."

His final words were said to have been, "Strike, man, strike!"

Following the death of Sir Walter Raleigh, English courts began developing hearsay rules and by 1690, evidence shows that they were in place to prevent abuses like the one that caused Raleigh's untimely death, which was nothing more than trumped up charges.

William Penn's Jury

Poor old William Penn. You probably know him more by the state named after him, New Jersey. Oh wait. It was Pennsylvania. Silly me, but speaking of New Jersey, are you aware that in the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall at Princeton University, making Princeton the nation's capital for four months? Sorry, I had to get a plug in for my home state. Back to Penn...

One of the most important cases in the development of the authority and power of a jury occurred at a trial against him in London in 1670. It was their duty to determine the weight and credibility of testimony from witnesses. Penn was a peaceful man who had been charged with preaching to an unlawful assembly. The basis of the charge was that he addressed his group of followers in a church meeting. To the king, who was of a different faith, that was a no no, because citizen's were supposed to adhere to his religion. Or else.

The trial was a farce, filled with hearsay and innuendo. After the trial, the jury refused to convict him. The king ordered them to reconsider. They refused. He refused to accept their decision and ordered them held for two days without food, water, and other basic necessities. Of course, there were no flushing toilets in the day. When nothing broke them, they were finally released, but they were fined for holding to their not guilty verdict. Later, an appellate court sustained Penn and the jury in a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that juries were not to be punished for failing to deliver the verdict the court wanted.

After the trial of William Penn, the concept of an impartial jury continued developing, along with the hearsay rule. John Henry Wigmore (1863-1943) called the hearsay rule "the greatest contribution of the [English] legal system... next to the jury trial."

American Colonies and States

The idea of independent, impartial juries and hearsay rules were brought to the New World by English settlers as part of the common law system from Great Britain. After the Revolutionary War, the new country adopted the rules as part of the American legal system. Citizens had the right to an impartial jury and the Bill of Rights Confrontation Clause was set forth in the Sixth Amendment in 1791.

The Sixth Amendment
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
The U.S. Supreme Court noted that the rule against hearsay is closely related to the constitutional right of confrontation as they both"stem from the same roots" and that "... hearsay rules and the Confrontation Clause are generally designed to protect similar values..." Dutton v. Evans, 400 U.S. 74, 86, 91 S. Ct. 210, 218 (1970).

In the 1980 case of Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100 S. Ct. 2531, the Supreme Court recognized that "historic evidence leaves little doubt... that the Clause was intended to exclude some hearsay..." But it doesn't forbid it.

Order in the Court!

Fans of Perry Mason reruns and Law & Order should be familiar with hearsay, but who can clearly define it?

Take the case of Mark D. Jensen, a Wisconsin man found guilty of murdering his wife, Julie, in 1998. About 3 weeks before her death, she told local police via voice mails, her son's teacher and a neighbor that she suspected her husband was planning on killing her. She took the extreme measure of giving her neighbor a sealed letter that detailed her suspicions, and told her neighbor to hand it over to the police if something happened to her.

After falling ill and taken to bed, on December 3, 1998, she died. The State alleged that her husband gave her ethylene glycol - antifreeze - and then possibly smothered her as the poison wore off. The defense ploy was rather simple; they argued Mark Jensen's wife was depressed because he was having an affair, so she committed suicide.

The case dragged on until 2002 and beyond, when Jensen was finally charged with his wife's murder. This was due to legal wrangling over evidence. In March 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1980 case that laid out complex rules for when statements could be used without the opportunity for cross-examination. After all, Julie was dead and she was not going to be cross-examined. Prosecutors wanted to use Julie's letters as a "voice from the grave" in an effort to prove her husband murdered her. First, the court had to rule if it was legal to allow such evidence.

In that 2004 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said the case complicated a part of the Constitution that guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront his accusers. In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), the standards for determining when hearsay statements were admissible in criminal cases were changed. The court ruled that defendants have added protections if the hearsay evidence is testimonial or accusatory. For those types of accusations, the decision toed the Sixth Amendment line, that the defendant had a right to confront his accuser. Thus, a Catch-22 problem arose. If Jensen killed his wife and she wasn't around to testify against him, what should be done?

Jensen's trial began in 2008, after many delays. The trial judge ruled that the letter and voice mails to police were inadmissible, but the neighbor's testimony would be allowed.

Prosecutors appealed the judge's decision, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court determined that Julie's letter could be used as evidence in the trial if prosecutors could demonstrate there was sufficient evidence that her husband had murdered her, therefore making it impossible for him to face her in court. The court also ruled that her statements to her neighbor and son's teacher were "non-testimonial" in nature, allowing them to also be admitted into evidence. Bingo! After the Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing, the trial judge decided it was reasonable to believe that Mark Jensen's actions prevented his wife from testifying. He was found guilty a month-and-a-half later and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

So What Is Hearsay?

Those who read my blog know that I attend Casey Anthony's court hearings when I can. I come back, sit down at my computer and tell you of my experiences. This is called first-hand knowledge. If you read my story and tell it to another person, that person is receiving what is commonly referred to as reliable hearsay. So, what else is hearsay?
Let's say you want to call me to ask me a question about the case, but you can't find my phone number. You Google it, and that's how you find me. It's hearsay.
Reporting the news every night, the anchor is relating reliable hearsay, while the journalist in the field is reporting first-hand. If the event is over and done with and it's reported after the fact, this would be reliable hearsay. In my state, the Florida Highway Patrol investigates all vehicle accidents. All police provide reliable hearsay unless they witnessed it. This includes criminal investigations. Law enforcement will be very busy come next May, when Casey's trial is slated to begin and they give reliable testimony in court.

A witness who is testifying as to first-hand knowledge is not testifying as to hearsay. However, as the questioning proceeds, it will undoubtedly get into areas where the opposition makes objections. This is because, as testimony evolves, the gray areas turn to black and white hearsay. The first-hand account crosses paths with hearsay. Remember this, because you will hear plenty of objections from both sides. This is where Judge Strickland will have to make the call.

According to Rule 801 of the Federal Rules of Evidence"Hearsay is a statement, other than one made by the declarant (the witness) while testifying at a trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted."

And What Isn't in Criminal Trials?
You call Snoopy and ask her for my number. She has called me in the past. She's spoken to me at that number. This is first-hand knowledge and is not hearsay.
According to those Federal Rules of Evidence, the following ARE NOT hearsay and do not fall under the rule of hearsay:
Statements by the defendant - The Miranda warning tells suspects that anything they say may be used against them in a courtroom. In the courtroom, they can also deny or correct inaccurate statements made if they choose to do so. 
Statements by a coconspirator made 'during' the crime or 'in furtherance' of the crime -  Filed under Rule 801(d)(2)(E), under Statements which are not Hearsay. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that statements made by coconspirators "provide evidence of a conspiracy's context that cannot be replicated, even if the [coconspirator] testifies to the same matters in court." 475 U.S. 387, 395, 106 S. Ct. 1121, 1126. 
Prior statements by witnesses - Under federal law, if the witness has previously testified as to the matter at a previous trial, preliminary hearing, or any other type of hearing and was subject to cross-examination, those statements ARE NOT hearsay. This could explain, in my opinion, why John Morgan wants to get his claws into Casey before her criminal trial. Dig up as much evidence against her as he can at the civil trial. Prove her guilty there and get the glory. It's almost a sure thing that if the civil case is not postponed, Casey will have to settle and poor John will be shot down.
What we have learned is that hearsay is allowed in court, depending on how reliable it is. That's how I'll leave it, with a couple of final thoughts thrown in. I could write more about things like Dying Declarations¹, which most likely isn't the case for Roy Kronk's ex-wife, Jill Kerley, and the Outcry Rule, but I think this is already plenty to handle for now. What I will say in closing is that there is such a thing as the defense claiming that someone else committed the crime. Usually, when the state has a strong case against the defendant, like it seems to have against Casey, any evidence of an accused is admissible if it can be shown that "corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the [defense]." Federal Rule 804(3). Something to ponder? You be the judge, but Casey's attorney, Jose Baez, said in a January 25 interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell that, “She wasn’t treated like anyone else since the moment she was arrested. And that’s all we were asking for.”

If you recall, Judge Strickland, in July 2008, set Casey's bond at $500,000, he ordered home confinement with electronic monitoring, a complete psychological evaluation within 30 days, and ruled that she must turn over her passport if bond was posted.

"Not a bit of useful information has been provided by Ms. Anthony as to the whereabouts of her daughter," the judge said back then."And I would add that the truth and Ms. Anthony are strangers." And that's not hearsay.

See also: Hearsay Exemptions if Witness is Able to Testify
¹Dying Declarations - Federal Rule 804(2) - Statements made under impending death by a declarant while believing that their death was imminent, concerning the cause or circumstances of what the declarant believed to be impending death. The Florida Supreme Court held in the 1991 case of Henry v. State, 576 So.2d 1033, that: It is not required that the declarant make "express utterances... that he knew he was going to die, or could not live, or would never recover." Lester v. State, 37 Fla. 382, 385, 20 So. 232, 233 (1896). Rather, the court should satisfy itself, on the totality of the circumstances, "that the deceased knew and appreciated his condition as being that of an approach to certain and immediate death." Id., 20 So. at 233. See also: Lyons v. United States, 606 A.2d 1354 (D.C.App. 1992), and State v, Griffin, 540 So.2d. 1144 (La.App. 1989).
Reference: Criminal Evidence|Principals and Cases, Gardner, Thomas J. and Anderson, Terry. West.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Wray of hope for the defense?

I get a really big kick out of people commenting on blogs and forums that outright accuse others (certainly not them) of inserting themselves (GASP!) into this Casey Anthony case. Generally, it's people like me and any other blogger they disagree with, hate, despise, or generally - CAN'T STAND! The really odd thing is that everyone who offers up an opinion in this case has inserted him/herself whether he/she knows it or not. Every time a comment trashes Casey and the defense team, it adds more fuel to the fire that Baez & Co. will bring to the judge as it continues a campaign to change the venue or have the case thrown out of court because of public opinion.

It's not every day that I go off on a tirade about anyone, but this is just plain disgusting. Here is a real degenerate who has so inserted herself into this case it's pathetic:
"Don’t insult us by saying you aren’t inserting yourself in this case. What’s the date of your letest [sic] blog here? March 25, that’s ummm…today nitwit. You are doing it now, sticking your self flat in the middle with no concern on ho0w [sic] it affects the outcome of a 2 year old little girl brutally murdered by her mother. What rock did yo0u [sic] slither out of, the same one Joy wray, the Milsteads, Dominic Casey, Baez & all the other leeches using Caylee’s blood for either $$$ or fame." 
"What’s your excuse, daddy didn’t pay enough attention to you ? One thin [sic] I’m finding out is none of you god damn meny [sic] grubbing media whores give 2 shits about justice for Caylee. 
"If you did you would never have INSERTED OYRSELF [sic] IN THIS CASE. Infectious pieces of human crap, every one of you."
"I don’t like you, I don’t like your blog or what you stand for. another slirthering [sic] slimy leech who inserted themselves in the Caylee murder trial. It isn’t everyday I GET TO SAY IT TO THE FACE of the many morally defunct players ijn [sic] this freak show. 
":II [sic] had the opporutnity [sic] when I kept reading your crap everywhere & took it. Now it’s all I got to say so fuck you & out me, out Zanny, out Cindy out whoever the fuck you want. [sick] 
"Unlesws [sic] as I suspect you are a liar & are either Joy Wray or Cindy, if not you act just like them, A PSYCHO SOCIOPATH goodbye moron." 
Heroesfan, on The Whole Truth Always blog, comments 14 and 24 on the "Since I Am Being Honest Here... Let's address the National Enquirer Issue" post.
Trust me, this is mild compared to how she's addressed me elsewhere. Need proof? Just wait until she reads this.

One inane and insane notion making the rounds right now is that Leonard Padilla is a stoolie for the defense for one simple-minded reason; he never heard Tim Miller and George Anthony discuss marking an X on the map with Casey about where to start looking for her daughter. On Nancy Grace, he said it never happened. Casey was in his protection at the time. Here's the problem with that when it comes to a public segment so obsessed with this murder that they no longer think straight. If there are 12 witnesses to a crime, there will ultimately be 12 different accounts of what transpired. No sane person would purposely protect a suspect in this type of case, but everyone has different perceptions of what actually transpired. It is no secret that Tim and Leonard parted ways some time back, and that may have clouded recollections, but the strange thing is, it doesn't make one the mortal enemy because of adoration for the other. The same thing holds true with commenters on blogs and forums. Just because one disagrees with a thought, it does not mean they are purposely enabling the defense by inserting themselves.

For months, I stood idly by as people wrongly accused me of being best friends with someone involved in the case, someone perceived as nuttier than a fruitcake. I have tried to be fair to everyone who treats me and others with respect, and I'll tell you, Joy Wray has always been a lot nicer to me than several blog nuts out there who erroneously consider themselves of sound mind and highly professional, not to mention more informed than the entire state of Florida. My intent has been to give her a chance to speak, and in the end, it came back to bite her as far as her credibility is concerned. Originally, I gave her very good advice. I told her to be careful who she talked to and what she said. She told me she always told the truth and had nothing to hide. OK, fine, but remember that everything you say may be scrutinized later on. I never wanted to get her in any trouble and I never thought her involvement would one day come back to involve me. Sadly, it did.

On December 2, 2009 my phone rang. When I answered it, the gentleman on the other end identified himself as Sgt. John Allen of the Orange County Sheriff's Office. I was completely surprised. It was an honor and a privilege to hear from him, but what could this possibly be about? I'm just a measly blogger. He asked me if I knew who Joy Wray was. Of course, I responded.

He said he had found a particular comment she made on my blog, but was having trouble finding another one. In both cases, the comments were still rather fresh in my mind, so I had no difficulty in pulling them up from my end. I see comments in a whole different light. From that vantage point, I can see the date, time, and on what article it was posted.

These are the two comments he referenced. I would only post them now because they are a matter of record and still on my blog:

From Open Forum:
hey dave how are you doing? Happy Thanksgiving and to all others too… Call me The meeting is monday @ 10 :30 with Sgt Allen and my Lawyer Mark O’ Mara its going to be at his office in Orlando. They took a warrant out for my computer…..:( Anyways please call Bob For me at wesh 2 news.>>: Noone eles [sic]… ps call me
From Say hello to Laura and Joe:
Laura and Joe where never there, they are from are fourm [sic] called Scared Monkeys.They where [sic] not part of Texas Eqqusearch [sic]. They went no where in the area where Caylee was found! If they where anywhere in there it would be closer to school. They where in my Chat room trying to get info from before caylee body was found. I would not give them any details I just told was searching in the woods by the Anthony Home.LE does or will have there Ip numbers bec I gave them all that info. Laura and Joe are a joke,JMO. All of sudden the [sic] come up with this tale. They never did metion [sic] anything about the area, if it was wet or dry. Only way Laura got the INfo about the Coke can in Sept. WAs that it was leak through someone through Chatango,in which they are plenty of moles! Bec I spoke about a coke can in Oct. Wonder how much Baez paid these loons to lie…. Justice4caylee. Sgt allen if u read this ,please drop off my laptop and u can have my other computer……. Ps Dave On tuesday will be fine if we meet up…. Joy
Sgt. Allen continued his line of questions. I asked him how he learned of these comments and he said someone phoned the tip in. He asked me if I had ever met Joy. Yes, I had. I told him I didn't wish to get her into any trouble, but I was going to answer every question to the best of my ability. After all, Joy had said this was the truth, and I did warn her that some of what she was saying could come back to haunt her.
After talking for about 25 minutes, Sgt. Allen asked me if I would come in and write a statement. Of course, I answered. I told him I was free the next day. We set an appointment for 1:30 in the afternoon of December 3.

When I arrived at the OCSO Central Operations Center on west Colonial Drive the next day, I waited about 10 minutes before the door opened and out walked Sgt. Allen. After shaking hands, he took me inside and up an elevator to the second floor. As we walked down the hall to an interview room, I noticed one picture hanging on the wall. It was retired Sheriff Walt Gallagher. Years ago, before he was elected sheriff, we both used to hang out at a bar/restaurant in Winter Park called Harrigan's. Gee, that was such a long time ago. By the way, Kevin Beary replaced him in 1993, and before Gallagher, Lawson Lamar, the State Attorney in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, was sheriff. One of the nice things about the Orlando area is that, even though it's a decent sized city, it still has a small town feel and it's not at all unusual to know more people than one might think we know.

I was led into an interview room. It was quite small. The door remained open, but we sat down at a small table, across from each other. We had a little small talk to get accustomed to the room and each other. I must say I felt very relaxed around him. I recall asking him about former Sheriff Kevin Beary. I told him the last time I saw him was at John Schofield's funeral, the one that closed half of Winter Park. He told me Beary was in Afghanistan to the best of his knowledge. Eventually, we got down to some serious questions. When I answered everything, he handed me a form to fill out.

Thanks to Snoopysleuth for finding this

This was pretty much it, but we must have continued talking about the case for another half hour or so. I was left with the impression that John Allen is, undoubtedly, a very good family man, dedicated to his job, but not out to purposely get anyone. He epitomizes what a good cop is supposed to be all about. When we finished, he walked me out the front door. Just as we stepped outside, lo and behold, there was Kevin Beary, who had recently gotten back from Afghanistan. We all stood and chatted for another 10 minutes.
The last time I spoke to Sgt. Allen, in January, I asked him about Joy. He said, "We're through with her. We've had four interviews and that's it."

I asked him if the defense would ever use her. Could she be a Wray of hope? He said no, they're not interested in her, either. I think he's right about that. I also think she will never be arrested again due to this case unless she continues to involve herself. We discussed a few other aspects of the case, some of what was just released, and he said that whatever we talked about was OK to write, but I told him I had no desire to spread stuff no one would want to believe anyway, like my friendly encounter with Judge Strickland that some people insist was a reprimand. (Insert chuckles.) One day, I'll sit down with him after this is over, because he and I got along just fine, and yes, we talked about doing just that.

Back to inserting one's self. Technically, I have inserted myself by authoring this blog, although I was brought into it by OCSO. We have all inserted ourselves to some degree and it's just plain hypocritical and naive to point fingers. If there are rumblings that blogs and forums could influence the case, which there are, I'd be careful about what is written. I'm sure the defense would love to pounce on more hateful words and expound on the change of venue. Or have the case thrown out of court. Therein lies Casey's slim ray of hope.

Meanwhile, as some of you continue to argue over inserting one's self, I did my civic duty. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was all about Justice for Caylee, not how anyone feels about me. I don't care about that person named above or anyone like her. She can insert this where the sun doesn't shine.
Supplemental witness list:
It looks like I'm in with some very good company. And bad.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I Am The Walrus

Since there’s nothing new in the Anthony case, I tinkered around a little last night. I took the Styx cover version of I Am The Walrus, deleted the audio track, and dubbed in the original Beatles song. This is just a practice shot at manipulating sight and sound in my video editing software.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

A lesson in American history

Mr. Robert Higerd was my 7th and 8th grade history and geography teacher back in the 60s at East Amwell Township School in Ringoes, NJ. He was good. He must have been in the Army before he started to teach because his favorite saying was, ”At ease, disease – there’s a fungus among us.” I think it was an old military phrase.
At least once a week, we’d sit in his classroom watching old post-WWII black & white films on the noisy projector. Most of them were from the forties and fifties and the sound was always warped and gurgled. It was a lucky day when we got to see one of those newfangled color ones. A lot of them were old government films – you know, the duck and cover variety. The newer ones were usually about some South American country, but we were in the midst of a Cold War with Russia then. Civic duties and patriotism were etched into our minds. It was a time when we were proudly taught how great it was to be an American. Communism was evil and Red China did not exist. Nope, it was grayed out on all school maps. We knew it existed, but it just wasn’t there and I always questioned which countries had better propaganda, theirs or ours.
Gee, I miss those days.
Today, we live in a throwaway world and history changes as rapidly as we replace cell phones. In those days, history books were meant to last a decade. There was no such thing as politically correct and they weren’t rewritten with each change of administrations. When we got new ones, we knew they were going to be handed down for quite a few years to come and to keep them in good shape was part of our daily marching orders. One day, Mr. Higerd caught me doing something to one of his prized books in my personal possession and protection.
“DAVE!!! Did I just see you writing in that book?” Defacing books or anything that’s school property was punishable by death. It was a mandatory trip to the principal’s office and it meant big time trouble. Parents usually got involved. No, this was never a good thing.
“No, Sir. I was not writing in the book.”
“I saw you writing in the book.”
“No, Sir. I was not writing in this book! I was drawing.” Each day, I added a new addition to the following page and I’d been doing it for weeks. No one ever saw me commit this horrendous crime. Why did it have to be him, an Army vet, of all people? He was like a drill sergeant in those days, but much nicer.
He ordered me up to the front of the class with alleged evidence in hand and abruptly snatched the now closed book away. “Knechel! Sit back down now!”
Walking back to my seat, he rifled through the pages and saw what I had done. Somewhere in that thick book, I drew my character, a hardy stick figure standing motionless. I repeated the same thing for a few more pages, and as time and pages went on, I gradually lifted his legs up and down, moving him slowly and casually forward. At one point he stopped, turned to look at the noise coming from behind him, and with arms flailing, he darted as quickly as he could toward the other end of the page.
Down came a rumbling boulder, heavily bouncing and rolling toward him. He tried desperately to race away, but the giant rock was coming after him at a much higher rate of speed. Finally, it scrunched my poor little guy like a pancake and he was dead. Squoosh. Of course, the boulder kept rolling until it ran off the edge of the paper. The End.
As he flipped through those pages, watching my cartoon in action, Mr. Higerd started to chuckle. “You know, Dave, this is great.”
He opened the book for the class to see. “If you can’t see it from back there, come on up and gather around. This is how cartoons were originally drawn. They still are. Action figures that change with each drawing…” and on he went for a while, fanning the pages as he outwardly panned the class, in full education mode.
On the inside front cover of all school books, there was either a stamp or pasted label that all students had to sign, date and state their grade at the beginning of the school year. At the end of the year, everyone turned their books in for next year’s use. Like I said, they were new that year. Good old Mr. Higerd told me he was going to follow that book for as long as it remained in circulation and show it to every one of his classes – to explain the history of cartoons. I was honored. Of course, this was long before computers and software, Windows and Macs.
In the end, he didn’t reprimand me for vandalizing school property, although he readily could have. There was no trip to the principal’s office. Instead, he complimented my handiwork. These weren’t just ordinary stick figures, mind you. They were detailed ones that I brought to life in one of his classrooms, and one of the things I remember most about him was how he brought a lot of life to what he taught. After he saw my talent and appreciated what I had done, I became one of his favorite students. I was, that is, until I ruined one of those newfangled color films about Argentina, but that’s a history lesson for another day.