Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What say ye, Bryan/College Station Eagle?

Death is on the table and Gabriel Hall's defense team is putting on a spirited punishment defense. Hall has  been convicted of Capital Murder and his defense team is now in the midst of putting on it's case to try and convince the jury to spare him from the Death Penalty. 

Two local media outlets, our local paper, The Bryan College Station Eagle (The Eagle) and KBTX, our local television station, are covering the trial. 

Their coverage has been different - primarily in The Eagle's later print editions. 

The Eagle has virtually omitted non-blog coverage of a central defense mitigation theme against imposition of death: Gabriel Hall was abused not only by his biological father in the Philippines, but was also abused and neglected by his adoptive parents, Karen Kruse Hall and local lawyer Wes Hall. 

Initially, take a look at the entries from The Eagle and KBTX blogs from the morning proceedings of 09/28/2015.

First is KBTX blog. The first two entries from the KBTX morning session are edited out - they simply introduced the witness and noted the seating of the jury.

I have italicized the entries from KBTX related the expert testimony to Gabriel Hall's treatment at the hands of Karen and Wes Hall. These contentions contribute to what the defense contends is mitigation evidence supporting a punishment of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).

Entries are formatted last entry to first:
11:38  Day 16 - Update 11
Lunch break.  We'll return at 1:45 p.m.
11:30  Day 16 - Update 10
Dr. Brams  [a defense psychologist] is describing Karen and Wes Hall's home.  She says (based on photos) it is not a home that's predictable or organized.  She says there's no privacy or schedules.   She talks about hoarding in the Hall's home.  Dr. Brams says it appears Karen Hall hoards children like someone else would hoard stuff from TJ Maxx.
11:22  Day 16 - Update 9
Dr. Brams is breaking down the "inappropriate and destructive" adoptions by Karen and Wes Hall.  She says the kids walk daily "on egg shells" in the Hall's home.   There's a graphic to breakdown all that's wrong with the Hall's home and the damage their adoptions do to children. 
11:13  Day 16 - Update 8
Dr. Brams says any child who has gone through what Gabriel has gone through requires immediate therapy and attention to address his trauma.  
10:43  Day 16 - Update 7
Testimony from Dr. Brams is expected to continue for another 40 minutes. We're going to take a 10 minute break. 
10:35  Day 16 - Update 6
Dr. Brams says to escape his trauma, Gabriel would often go let his imagination take control.  He would talk to imaginary friends, make friends with insects and would go into a world of fantasy and daydream.  This continued through his childhood and teenage years, because that's how he was able to escape the trauma as a child.
10:12  Day 16 - Update 5
Dr. Brams says following his adoption, Gabriel Hall entered a home that was "destructive and inappropriate."   He had to "survive emotionally" inside Wes and Karen Hall's home. 
09:55  Day 16 - Update 4
Dr. Brams -  "No studies out there can replicate the trauma Gabe has experienced."  
09:37  Day 16 - Update 3 
Dr. Brams says there's several traumatic fators from Gabriel's childhood [see photo below].    She says he comes from "generational trauma" - which is "traumatized parents raising traumatized children."  Dr. Brams says the kind of poverty Gabriel grew up in is nothing like any kind of poverty we see in the United States.  She says Gabriel witnessed not only abuse - but torture during his childhood.  Dr. Brams goes on to say Gabriel was abandoned at several critical stages in his life. 
"He has so many traumatic factors, it's off the scales of what we typically see in the United States," said Dr. Brams.  
Compare this to The Eagle's blog entries (last entry first), from same courtroom. Blog entries related to Karen and Wes Hall are italicized:
Lunch break. Back at 1:45.
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Brams said the Children's Shelter of Cebu provided great things to Gabriel Hall and his siblings. It was a paradise in a world of poverty. But, she said the shelter couldn't provide the proper treatment for the trauma Hall had lived through. He was also a victim and witness of physical violence at the hands of his biological mother and father. 
She said what Hall needed most was intensive trauma treatment. She said he needed it at CSC and he needed it after he was adopted. Brams said he never got that treatment. Brams called the Hall home inappropriate and destructive. She said the Hall home lacked treatment opportunities, it was unpredictable, the kids experienced verbal and physical abuse, and there were constant demands for obedience — not love.
She said these factors contributed to the way Hall's brain was functioning the night he attacked Edwin and Linda Shaar.
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Brams showed a video of an experiment demonstrating the immediate effects of neglect on a baby. In the experiment, a mother ineracts with her 1-year-old baby. There is lots of give and take between the mother and the baby, then the mother was instructed to stop responding. The mother just stared at the baby, no facial expressions, no response of any kind. 
The baby did everything she could to get the mother to respond again and eventually broke down and started crying. After a minute or two, the mother comforted her child. Brams told the jury to think about what happens to a baby's mind if the parent is not there to comfort the child — to bring the child back in.
Brams showed a video of another experiment that suggested even very young children (the ones in the experiment were only a few months old) can tell the difference between good and bad behavior.
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The first witness of the day is psychologist Jolie Brams. She is showing jurors a presentation outlining the various psychological needs of a growing child and how poverty affects that.
She called Hall a broken child. She said he never got the nurturing from his parents that a developing child needs. He was abandoned and his mind suffered for that. His exposure to violence in the slums and constant hunger put his mind under a lot of stress at an early age. Brams said Hall's emotions and behavior did not develop the way they should have, because of the extreme and constant stress.
 She said she could show jurors all kinds of different stats and studies, but nothing can replicate the extreme poverty that Gabriel Hall went through in the slums in the Philippines.
She said these factors contributed to the way Hall's brain was functioning the night he attacked Edwin and Linda Shaar.
The Eagle's newstory in their 09/29/2015 edition virtually omits the testimony from Brams about Gabriel Hall's experiences in Karen and Wes Hall home. Specifically omitted is how, at least according to Brams, these experiences serve to mitigate in favor of a non-death penalty outcome. Instead, The Eagle's treatment of Bram's testimony about Karen and Wes Hall was relegated to 19 words in the last sentence of their 560 plus word news story:
Brams also said living with the Halls was a contributing factor in why Gabriel Hall wanted to hurt strangers.
That's it. No facts. No details.

I realize the State has contended much of the Karen and Wes Hall evidence is not relevant, but Bram's testimony was heard by the jury. That makes it newsworthy. If legal relevance were the yard stick, I would go further. I would argue the jury ought to hear about Karen Hall's familial relationship with Blue Bell Creameries. This evidence would explain how she was financially able to adopt 18 children from different parts of the world and how she was able to feed and house them once brought to Texas.

Whether the jury give any weight to the testimony is another matter. That is not the issue here. The testimony form Brams and others about the conditions in the adoptive household Karen and Wes Hall brought Gabriel into IS newsworthy, is it not? Is it not necessary to give a fair reporting of how the defense is arguing mitigation exists?

Mitigation evidence in  a case where the government seeks death is a supposed to broad. And well it should be.

I do not wish to pick a fight with a business that buys it's ink by the barrel. I also realize the press can choose pretty much what it wants to print as long as it is minimally responsible about how it gathers and reports that information. No one is arguing The Eagle is not living up to those responsibilities. However, as a citizen of this community, I feel compelled to point out these omissions.

What say ye, The Eagle?

1 comment:

  1. Lane,
    I appreciate your interest in our coverage of the Gabriel Hall trial, and thank you for inviting us to respond.
    As you point out, today's print version of the story made only a passing mention of the defense implication that the adopted parents contributed to the trauma suffered by Gabriel Hall.
    However, we have included this in numerous stories over the course of the trial, particularly last week during the testimony of the siblings, who were there in the Hall household. So to say we have "virtually omitted" that aspect of the defense is simply not accurate.
    In addition, Jolie Brams was not called to testify about possible abuse in the Hall household, but rather how trauma affects a developing brain, and the majority of her testimony was related to a toddler or small child and not an 18-year-old.
    We posted a web update Monday afternoon focused solely on her testimony, which included her opinion that Hall did not get the treatment for trauma that he needed from his adoptive parents.
    We do have to make choices about what details to include in the story from more than four weeks of a trial, and in the case of Tuesday's print story, we elected to focus on the testimony from the other witness, the one who spent three days interviewing Gabriel Hall.
    I think it's hard to argue that our coverage is less comprehensive than what you get from a television news segment, and I would argue that Jake Walker's reporting is detailed, fair, accurate and professional.
    Again, thank you for allowing me a chance to respond to your post. Please know that you are always welcome to contact me directly with questions about our coverage.

    Darren Benson
    Managing Editor
    The Eagle | theeagle.com
    darren.benson@theeagle.com
    979-731-4653

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