Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Berlin got an Airlift, Miles gets a Haylift

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In the days after World War II, Berlin was split into four zones between the U.S., Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Ideology on how to rebuild the capital city of Germany began to differ between the Western Forces (US, Great Britain, France)and the Soviet Union. The Communists decided they didn't want the West in Berlin anymore and set up a blockade preventing the flow of supplies into the city.
Thus began the Berlin Airlift. In an effort to supply the Western occupation forces and the more than 2 million Berliners, a plan was devised to fly in the needed goods using Douglas C-47 Skytrains to the two airports of Tempelhof, in the American sector, and Gatow, in the British sector. Hooray! Supplies were delivered, people were fed and there was much rejoicing.
Now, more than 60 years later, supplies are still needed, not in post-war Berlin, but in the arid expanse of West Texas. Here are the major players:

Western Allies = Iowa farmers, Texas ranchers, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Miles, Texas and St. John Lutheran Church in Luana, Iowa.
Communists = Mother Nature
Supplies = Bales of hay

Iowa farmers have more hay than they can use and decided to donate their surplus to ranchers in the drought-stricken regions of Texas to feed their livestock. Just like in Berlin, there is a need, supplies are in hand, now it's just figuring out the logistics of transporting the hay to where it needs to go.

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A call went out to anyone who had a semi-truck or large flatbed trailer willing to drive the hay to its appointed destination. The transport is going a bit slow for now, but the ball is rolling. I headed out to Miles (about 20 miles east of San Angelo) yesterday after I got a call from reporter Jane Jeschke telling me that the first shipment of hay was on its way and should be there around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was going to be a small load, 14 bales, each weighing about 1,000 pounds, but it was a start. The driver of the load was Randy Sherman, a farmer from Meeker, Oklahoma looking to do a little good for his farmer-community friends. He had already driven over 1900 miles, starting in Oklahoma, then up to Iowa to pick up the hay, then down to Texas to make the drop.
Before Sherman took the turn-off into town, local ranchers had already started to congregate at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Daniel Redman had roughly 50 head of cattle at the beginning of the year, but is now down to just six. Harvey Eggemeyer of Miles has had to trim his big cows and keep the smaller ones that are calving due to the drought. Bartley Murray's land was affected by the Wildcat Fire in April and still has 35 cows, seven horses, 150 goats and a small herd of sheep to care for.
In short, people are hurting and the farmers in Iowa stepped up big time. You can read Jane's story HERE.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Friday Night Football Week 0: Lake View vs. Andrews

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Friday marked the beginning of the Texas high school football season and my first game was at San Angelo Stadium covering our local Lake View High School taking on Andrews. I thought I was ready to be out on Friday nights covering the most popular sport in the state, but when I got to the stadium and went through my usual pregame routine, I just wasn't feeling it. I don't know if it was because it was a billion degrees outside and I couldn't drink enough water to offset the amount of sweat pouring out of me, but I imagine that was the reason for my headache and lack of zeal for covering the game. Usually, there is an excitement in the air with distant sounds of cheerleaders rehearsing last-minute routines and the tip-tapping of snare drums echoing off the metal stadium seats. But not on Friday. It seems the season caught us off guard.

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Lake View had a tough season last year with only one win and then later lost their head coach to another coaching job. They were going to have to start from scratch. The district put out the search for the new head of the team and hired Doug Kuhlmann, bringing with him the wishbone offense.
The Chiefs opened their 2010 season against Andrews and ended up on the losing end, so Friday's game was a bit of a rematch. Andrews basically had a brand new team, losing almost everyone on the roster to graduation. They were only returning two starters, five lettermen total. I'm not going to go through all the details of the game for you so I'll let sports writer Quinton Martinez, who knows the ins and outs of the team, fill you in HERE. Lake View did come out on the losing end, 14-3.
This coming week I'll be back at San Angelo Stadium covering the Central High School Bobcats in the first home game. Maybe now that I've got a game under my belt I'll be more in the groove to cover the greatest game on earth

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Everyone Is Having Babies

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Everywhere I look someone I know is having a baby. My sister Cassidy is due in April, my co-worker Cynthia is due in December, I've got four or five other friends who are pregnant and now this lady, Kasee Bodden, who just gave birth to triplets! That's right, three babies in one belly! Insanity!
Okay, I have to admit, I didn't really know who Kasee was at first, but she did look familiar to me when I walked into the hospital room at the Women's & Children's Hospital in San Angelo to take a few pictures to go along with Justin Zamudio's story that ran on today's front page. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing that just fell into our laps thanks to the efforts of the Shannon Medical Center marketing director Lyndy Stone, who called and told us of the trio just two-days after they born and the parents had agreed to let us do the story. This set of triplets is just the third set in just over 30 years to be born at Shannon. One of the nurses or maybe it was one of the doctors who said that San Angelo gets a set of triplets about once every 10 years.

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The really great thing was that Paxton (the only boy), Preslee and Paislee all came out perfectly healthy little 5-pound bundles. Paislee needed an extra day in an oxygen tent, but by day two she was out and doing well. I have to admit that Kasee (the mom) looked a little overwhelmed, but happy. I guess I would be too if I were a parent of three newborns at 20-years-old.
My story senses started to perk up as I was moving about the darkened room trying not to get in the way of family members passing the babies around. I think I smell a photo column coming on. I approached Kasee with the idea of maybe catching back up with her and the triplets in two months or so to do a few more photos and an interview for the column and she seemed open to it. Awesome. It's so nice when people will let you into their lives for a little while with a camera. The only disappointment I had while at the hospital was that I wasn't able to get a shot of all the babies in one frame. Paislee had just come out of the oxygen tent and had not made it up to the hospital room to join the rest of the family yet.
Oh, and I did know Kasee from somewhere. A group of friends and I go play pool at a local pool hall and sports bar and before she got pregnant, Kasee was our favorite server. Go figure. Congrats Kasee.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Warren Jeffs: Fall of a 'Prophet'

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On Sunday the Standard-Times published a special section on the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.It was an 8-page section with follow-up stories written by reporters, time-lines of the origins of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and a look back at the April 2008 raid of the 1,700-acre Yearning For Zion Ranch in Schleicher County. The section also included stories on Jeffs' defense team, a story on who will take over the church now that Jeffs is serving life in prison, a story on Rozita Swinton who has been linked to the calls that prompted the 2008 raid and file photos and current photos from the trial to fill the visual needs of the printed page. The publication looked great. Not since the "Taming The Wildcat" special section coverage of the local wildfires has the Standard-Times produced such a complete package. This is just my personal opinion, of course, but the work on this publication and that of the wildfires is the best we have produced as a newsroom this year.

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Here are the links to the stories that ran in the section:

Reporting by Matthew Waller:
Jeffs maintains control, but time may be limited
Records doom rather than bless
Lawyers relegated to background

Reporting by Michael Kelly:
Warren Jeffs and his controversial polygamist sect

Reporting by Trish Choate:
States hold out hope for joint task force with federal officials

Reporting by Jennifer Rios:
Women complicit in sex crimes, some say

Reporting by Kiah Collier:
Swinton: 'a person of interest'

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

SASS @ The Concrete Crash-Up

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To celebrate their one-year anniversary, the San Angelo Soul Sisters held their first-ever home bout at the Kirby Community Park on Saturday evening. The event was called the Concrete Crash-Up (they were skating on concrete) and divided the entire league into two teams to bout each other. They had originally planned to have teams from I believe Midland, maybe Abilene, then it was Alpine and then finally Brownwood to come and play with them, but all the teams had to back out for some reason or another, so the Soul Sisters ended up just bouting themselves. But that didn't mean there was any less action.
The bout had been in the works for some time and the ladies of the league set about making sure they had sponsors and giveaways, halftime entertainment plus media exposure on the local television stations and in the newspaper. They even made up fliers and programs, designed by my wife and derby player Brooke, a.k.a. The Scarlet Shredder, to hang up around town. Brooke was going to be making her way back on to the derby track after a two month absence from competition. Brooke was in the process of finishing up her masters classes at Angelo State, working full-time and had several weddings to attend which meant she was missing practices. Brooke had another wedding event in Fort Worth the weekend the Soul Sisters were bouting the Charmed Forces in San Antonio in July. But even if Brooke had been able to go, there would have been a good chance she would have been running the merchandise booth. I believe there is a team rule that states that if you miss too many practices, team meetings or fundraising events then you're not eligible to play in the upcoming bout. And, to tell you the truth, that sounds fair to me. However, the Shredder would be on the track this time!
Brooke kept telling me how nervous she was about Saturday, but I don't think she was as nervous as I was. I just wanted everything to go smoothly and to have a large crowd from the community come out and watch. I didn't want these ladies, who had worked so hard to try and get all of this together, to not have people come out and show some support for the sport of roller derby. Fortunately, that wouldn't be the case. I got to the outdoor rink at Kirby Park to find that all the parking spaces on both sides of the street had been taken, cars were beginning to line up in the field adjacent to the rink and spectators were filling up the church parking lot a block down the street. The turnout was great. I'm sure everyone let a collective sigh of relief when the cars kept coming in.

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Everything seemed to go as planned. If there were any mess-ups I didn't notice them. But more importantly the Soul Sisters and the spectators all seemed to have a blast despite the heat and the mammoth mosquitoes that showed up near the end of the bout. And Brooke seemed to be really enjoying herself out there a lot more than in her first bout in Abilene this last June. She managed to work her way through the pack several times as the jammer and I'm pretty sure I thought I saw a slight smile make its way across her face as she made her way around the track. But, she did get as good as she gave. She got completely plowed over by Bowtie Bettie, but popped right back up and continued on with play. After the bout the entire team went out to a local karaoke bar to celebrate the league's anniversary. Everyone had a blast! I have put together a slideshow of photos from the bout. Sorry if there are few more Scarlet Shredder photos in there, but what can I say, I'm her biggest fan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 All-West Texas Football Portraits

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A few weeks back I had a post about the upcoming Football Tab we publish and the 24 players we needed to take portraits of. I had mentioned that we were going to try our hand at some light painting or writing and if that didn't work we were going into serious panic mode.

Well... this is the result.

This was a lot harder to pull off than I originally thought it was going to be. First off, its pitch black and you have no idea how the lights are going to look in the frame until you release the shutter. I have to tell you we got a few strange looks from the some of the players and their families when we tried to explain that we were going to be shooting in the dark and that I was going to be slinging Christmas lights around. But when we showed them the back of the camera after each shot, they seemed to be on board with the whole thing. We even had a few of the parents ask to purchase the photos right then and there.

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So this is how it worked...
First, we had the player set up in a pose and try to explain to them that they could not move while we were taking the actual photograph. We would position and frame the camera, set the focus, switch the lens to manual focus and put the camera on the bulb setting. Putting the camera on the bulb setting basically lets the photographer keep the shutter open for however long they want to.
Next, Cynthia (our other full-time photographer) would man the camera and I would man the lights. She would give me the OK to turn off the lights in the studio, then open the shutter and say "Flash," tripping the strobes that would light the player in the specific pose we put him in. I would then turn on the flashlight or Christmas lights, usually wrapped in a colored cellophane to try and match the player's school colors, and then move the lights around the player in different patterns for a desired effect. Sometimes I would need an extra hand so I would grab Eva (videographer), Jennifer (cops/courts reporter), Mike (sports) or Justin (business reporter) to help out.
Once I was done with the light patterns I would give Cynthia the OK to close the shutter on the camera. The idea of having to do this for every single photo was daunting. But to tell you the truth, the hardest thing was trying to come up with a different pose for each player and trying to get them to hold still during the exposure so their face wouldn't come out blurry. We were basically flying by the seat of our pants, learning as we went. Some of the materials we used (shown in the photo below) were things we wouldn't normally use. My everyday job calls for cameras and lenses, but for this shoot we ended up using things like Christmas lights, cellophane, flashlights and rubber bands, scotch tape and scissors, D-sized batteries and we even used our editor-in-chief's son's toy light saber. That was a cool item to use.
In all, we had a good time, not that I want to repeat it any time soon, but we had a good time. We even managed to get done on deadline. Honestly, I didn't think that was going to happen because right in the middle of shooting these portraits the Warren Jeffs trial started and I was required to watch the courthouse. So that's it. Hopefully I won't have to shoot another portrait again until this time next.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

The End-Times or Nature's Course?

As if San Angelo wasn't in the news enough already with the trial of Warren Jeffs, why not throw in a little apocalyptic panic in the mix? Early last week news spread like wildfire across the internet of a lake in Texas that turned blood-red. That lake was none other than the O.C. Fisher Reservoir right here in San Angelo. I don't know if news agencies or web reporters decided to tout this naturally occurring phenomenon as a sign of the end of days to increase web traffic or not, but it sure got a few people talking.

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Basically what happened was because of the severe drought we're suffering through right now (that's the real story) and because we have had almost no measurable rain for the year (its raining heavily as I type this), the reservoir was not able to replenish itself with oxygen to sustain plant and animal life. Once the oxygen in the water is gone the bloody look is the result of Chromatiaceae bacteria, which thrive in oxygen-deprived water. Its a nasty looking pool of dead and decaying fish parts and bugs. And the smell is awful.

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I went out to the reservoir with Associated Press photographer Tony Gutierrez during a long break in the Warren Jeffs trial. I think the state had just rested its case and the judge gave the defense a few more hours to prepare. The extra time didn't really help all that much. Anyway, Tony's boss called to see if he could swing out to O.C. Fisher right quick to make a few photos for the wire and Tony asked if I wanted to to tag along. "Of course," I said, "but I need to call into the office to see if it was okay to leave my post in front of the courthouse." The red "lake" being a national story already combined with the fact that it was a local story, the answer from the higher-ups was, "Yes."
I had not been out to the reservoir in quite some time. Not since I used to go run the dam with a former photographer friend. A friend that decided to leave the paper for greener pastures in Colorado, leaving us high and dry and short-staffed, over-burdened with assignments that we are now having to pay freelancers to do. Punk. (Just kidding BC.) The reservoir is a sad sight. The open 5400-acre expanse should be filled with water, but is instead a cracked, barren, dusty field with rows of alligator gar, carp and catfish carcases reminding us where the waterline used to be. It's a dismal sight to see. Pray for rain.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Warren Jeffs Trial Newspaper Front Pages

I know, I know the trial of Warren Jeffs is over. He was found guilty, sentenced to life in prison. Move on, right? Well, because this was such a big story for our area, across the country actually, I wanted to share the recent front pages of the Standard-Times. Before the trial started I was told that the trial would be the centerpiece item everyday until it finished. I had a few concerns about that, specifically with the redundancy of having a photo of someone walking in or out of the courthouse everyday. I mean, how many times can you photograph someone walking to and from a building with about a 10 to 12 second window of opportunity, and hope to get something fresh and new each time? Really the only thing you can do is change your physical location within the boundaries the law enforcement has set up. One day you shoot from the left, the next day from the right, the next day from head on. That was the routine for almost two and half weeks. Here are all the newspaper fronts we published with the Jeffs trial as the centerpiece in daily order:

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I think the photos all start to run together, but overall the front pages look pretty good for what we had to work with. On most days we could only run one photo due to the small number of pages in the A section and the lack of space. Almost all of the photos I edited out each day ran in photo galleries on the website.
Jeffs has a bigamy charge still pending and should go to court sometime in October, though I don't know if it will be held here in San Angelo or somewhere else. I've had a number of community members say the State should just drop the bigamy charge and save the taxpayers from another drawn out court process.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Warren Jeffs On Trial: Day 13

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Tuesday was going to be the day that the jury of 10 women and two men would hand down the sentence of convicted polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs. On Monday, both the the prosecution and defense rested their cases in the penalty phase of the sexual assault trial, essentially ushering in the end of what everyone thought was going to be a month-long or longer court proceeding.
The morning started as it usually did, the Texas Rangers arrived first, though they were not hauling truckloads of evidence, then the prosecution, led by Special Prosecutor Eric Nichols, rolled up, then the man of the hour, Warren Jeffs, came up in his usual light blue caged chariot, and finally 51st District Judge Barbara Walther. The only difference was the jury came in a little later than normal, around 9:30 a.m. or so. After the attorneys discussed a few organizational details, the final arguments began. Each side was to get 30 minutes. The prosecution used theirs, but the defense did not. I guess they felt there was nothing left to say.
After shooting the morning arrivals, I headed over to the library to edit and transmit back to the paper and to the Associated Press photo desk in New York. I then received a phone call from my co-worker telling me that I was going to need to collect a few more photos for the special section we're planning on publishing in a week or so.
So I was bumming around the barricades blocking the street at the corner of Irving and Harris and got into a discussion with the one of the DPS officers providing security for the trial. We both agreed that it would take the jury longer to come back with a sentence than it did for them to come back with a guilty verdict. Boy were we wrong. Just 40 minutes after the jury was sent out to deliberate, they sent out a note saying they were ready to give their sentence. All the police officers and media just looked around at one another in amazement. Forty minutes? Are you kidding me? As we are all standing there, mouths open, the handful of reporters that were sitting the courtroom came bursting out the front door of the courthouse, sprinting to their respective cameras and live trucks, fumbling with their cellphones sending out calls, texts and tweets. (By the way, kudos to Matthew Waller for sending out tweets every half hour or so during the trial. It helped those of us not in the courtroom know what was going on.)

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Jury to Jeffs: Life plus 20 years and a $10,000 fine. He got the maximum for each count he was convicted of. Jeffs was walked out of the east side of the building amid jeers from a waiting crowd. He was promptly placed in the back of a waiting car and driven off with a police escort. A few hours after, Jeffs was being processed through the Byrd Unit in Huntsville.
It was an emotional setting for some in the crowd, especially for Jeffs' nephew Brent Jeffs, who testified on behalf of the prosecution that Jeffs assaulted him when he was just 5-years-old, and Rebecca Musser, the 19th "spiritual" wife of FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs. Musser left the polygamy-sanctioning sect in 2002 after the death of Rulon Jeffs and when his son, Warren Jeffs, started marrying his father's younger wives. Tuesday was the first time she had granted an audience with the media.

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You could tell it was an emotional time for her. As the press conference came to an end, she was trying to hold back tears.
For me, the trial of Warren Jeffs, although important to cover, was not all that exciting. If you followed this blog at all you know that much of my time covering this trial was spent sitting outside the courthouse in the heat or sitting in the library filing photos and talking with fellow journalist from around the country. I would like to give a big thank you to Chris, Joe, Tony, Joel, Razor, Cleeve (sp?), Eva and DPS Corporal Scotty Frasier. This assignment would have absolutely been the pits had all of you not been there to suffer through it with me. And considering the company I was in, could I really consider it suffering?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Warren Jeffs On Trial: Day 11 and 12

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DAY 11: What a waste of a perfectly good Saturday. I was planning on heading to Fort Worth with a few buddies for a bachelor party, but no, instead had to sit out front of the Tom Green County Courthouse for yet another day of making the exact same photograph as the previous two weeks. The only thing that got me through the day other than the gallons of coffee and water I consumed was the thought of how much overtime pay I was getting. So I guess I don't really have that much to complain about. Instead of spending a few hundred dollars in a day in DFW, I actually made money. I still would rather have gone out of town though.
The prosecution had two key witnesses take the stand on Saturday who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Warren Jeffs when they were children. Combined with some pretty graphic audio recordings of Jeffs and his "celestial" wives, some said to be allegedly underage, the jurors and observers in the court had a rough afternoon. I know the prosecution wanted to rest their case on Saturday for the penalty phase, but they had so much evidence to bring in that it just didn't happen. Thankfully, Judge Walther was going to give everyone a day off from the case and reconvene on Monday morning. HERE is the link to Matthew Waller's story that ran on Sunday of Saturday's exploits in the courtroom.

DAY 12: When everybody got up to the courthouse on Monday morning it was literally a guessing game as to what the defense team for Warren Jeffs was going to do. We all knew the prosecution was going to rest, though we didn't know at what time that was going to happen. But, the defense was still a mystery. Were they going to call witnesses?
The prosecution continued to produce evidence from when Jeffs was arrested and from the documents seized in the 2008 raid on the FLDS-owned Yearning For Zion ranch in Schleicher County. Some of the evidence included scrapbook style photographs of Jeffs with underage girls, kissing some of them deeply. The state also produced a written document by Jeffs talking about taking a girl 13-years-old as a "spiritual wife". "If the world knew this is what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree," read one line of the document.
Matthew Waller reported in his story that, "the state told the Tom Green County jurors Jeffs was involved in 550 bigamous marriages, including 67 that involved underage girls. Jeffs, they said, has 78 unlawful wives, of whom 24 were under age at the time of the marriage. Of his wives, 29 had previously been his stepmothers, 56 were sisters to each other, and 35 had been students at Alta Academy in Salt Lake City, where Jeffs had been a teacher and principal for 22 years." Yikes! After all the evidence was presented the state rested it's case. Jeffs' defense team again asked for a continuance, but was once again denied by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther. They said they would not call any witnesses and immediately rested the defense.

And thus ended the twelfth day.

On Tuesday the jury would hear closing arguments and begin their deliberations.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Warren Jeffs On Trial: Day 8, 9 and 10

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I've decided to smash the last three days of the Warren Jeffs trial into one post. Mostly because all the days are beginning to run together and I can't remember what happened on which day. I think I'm suffering from heat stroke.

DAY 8: I don't really have much to say about this day. It was just like the day before. Hot, sweaty, thirsty, tired, long hours and finished up in the dark.

DAY 9: Jury to Jeffs: GUILTY! The jury of ten women and two men found Warren Steed Jeffs guilty on one count of sexual assault of a child and one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child. And they came back with a verdict fairly quickly, though most of us had made it up in our minds that they would come back within the hour. But the jury took about two or three hours, requesting to see some evidence before they came to their final decision. In Texas a jury has to come to a unanimous decision. Each side, the prosecution and the defense, are given 30 minutes for their closing arguments. Jeffs stood up from behind his table and just looked around the courtroom in silence. He said nothing. As his time ticked away he finally looked at the jury and said four words, "I am at peace," and then took his seat behind the table.
As the sentence was read, reporters and spectators in the courtroom said Jeffs sat there emotionless, not even looking up at the jury. State District Judge Barbara Walther put the court on recess for an hour to prepare for the punishment phase of the trial. The state said it was going to produce a treasure trove of evidence to the court and that it would take several days. A chilling thought started to circulate through the media pool, "We might have to work on Saturday." Judge Walther has a history of holding court on the weekend. I would really like to have the weekend off.
To everyone's surprise, the judge decided to end court early. Sweet! I decided that I would take up a position on the other side of the street to get a more direct shot on Jeffs as he came up the steps out of the Tom Green County Courthouse. I was also in a prime spot to get a photo of Jeffs sitting in the back of a patrol car as he his driven back to the jail. I think the photos came out okay, plus it was a different angle I had been shooting from for the last week. You take a risk when you change things up like that, moving from a known vantage point where you can get your photo, but sometimes it pays off. I have also been working with Associated Press photographer Tony Gutierrez for the last few days, so with me being on the other side of the street we were able to cover two angles of departure from the courthouse. As Jeffs was leaving people who were in the courtroom observing began to yell out, "You lose Warren. You lose," and, "No more children, no more children." It was a surreal moment.

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DAY 10: Friday started out just the same as every other day. Cool, well relatively cool, with a slight breeze. The Texas Rangers showed up carrying the evidence in with trolley and right on time, Jeffs' car arrived, pulling up in the usual spot. However there was a slight change. As soon as the guard opened the door to let Jeffs out you could immediately hear the jingle of chains. Jeffs was wearing shackles. This was going to be the shot of the day. This was the first time since the trial started that Jeffs has arrived in chains.
The rest of the day was pretty much the same as the rest. Although Jeffs did request not to be present in the courtroom during the penalty phase, so his former defense attorney Deric Walpole was reappointed as his attorney. And we got out early, which was nice. But there was still that looming question... Would we have to cancel all our weekend plans because Judge Walther wanted to come in on Saturday? Did I mention I was heading out of town to Fort Worth with a group of buddies for a bachelor party? As the reporters walked down the steps none of them looked as excited as I was hoping they would. Then the dreaded news, "10:00 a.m. Saturday morning," Matthew Waller, the Standard-Times reporter, said.

Crap.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Warren Jeffs On Trial: Day 7

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I am so behind on my posts for this trial. And this is the reason why. When Warren Jeffs is led into the Tom Green County Courthouse its early, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and all is right with the world. However, when they finally wrap things up for the day its dark, no one is around and the moon is beginning to rise over the courthouse. These long days are brutal. Its hot, we don't know when something is going to happen unless one of the DPS troopers tells us and we are constantly having to pick up camp and slide to the left to flow the shade under my tree. It may not seem like we do very much out there, but if we're not standing at the ready for the arrival or departure of a key player in this whole thing we are seeking shelter at the new Stephens Central Library across the street filing our photos and stocking up on water.
The prosecution, led by Special Prosecutor Eric Nichols, told the court that they would try and wrap up their side of the case, but as luck would have it, that would not be the case, leaving us media types with trying to shoot in the dark. I had to use my flash. I hate using my flash. But, there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to suck it up and deal with it. To be perfectly honest, it didn't turn out that bad. I just like to complain.
Its still up in the air if Jeffs is going to put up a defense. Are we going to done with this trial soon, will Jeffs simply fold and give it over to the jury or is he going to fight? I have a feeling this going to be a long drawn out process. Lets hope that Judge Walther doesn't decide to keep us through the weekend. I've got a bachelor party to go to in Fort Worth.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Warren Jeffs On Trial: Day 6

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Yes, yes I know I missed a day, but Friday was just so uneventful outside the courthouse, and by the time I realized I didn't really have anything to post for the blog it was to late to try and find something else to fill the void. I'm hoping I will be able to give you guys, those that actually read this blog, a little slice of life from outside the courthouse since you can most certainly go to an actual news site to read about the Warren Jeffs trial. As a matter of fact, HERE is Matthew Waller's recap of the first week of the trial. It's getting pretty exciting in the courtroom from what I've heard.
The media had another face to photograph and interview this morning at the start of the second week of court proceedings in the sexual assault of a child case of polygamist-sect leader Warren Jeffs. Flora Jessop, formerly an FLDS member before her escape in the late 1980s, was on hand to observe the trial. Jessop was being forced to marry her first cousin which prompted her to leave the religious sect. Jessop fell on hard times after running away. She hitchhiked across the states, became addicted to cocaine, worked as a topless dancer and eventually became pregnant. Now, her mission is to get get individuals out of polygamist situations, especially those who are child brides like she was.

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The prosecution brought in an interesting witness this afternoon. Her name is Rebecca Musser (see above photo) and she was one of the many wives Jeffs' father and acting prophet of the FLDS, Rulon Jeffs, had at the time of his death at the age of 92 in September 2002. Musser decided to leave to sect in November of the same year when Warren Jeffs started marrying several of his father's younger wives. If that is the case, Jeffs was becoming a step-father to his own brothers and sisters. Musser touched on the importance of record-keeping within the sect. She was also able to identify the girl Warren Jeffs allegedly raped a few years ago. I'll be sure to post Matthew Waller's story tomorrow. More to come....