Friday Freedom Garden

You can't read the temperature, but it says 85°F.


It's time to deadhead the dahlias. They started blooming right after Bloom Day while I was on jury duty. Meet 'Prince Noir'. Generally, I like the single types, but these decorative ones are okay too.


This poppy, on the other hand, is awful. I would pull it but I grew it from seed and I feel kind of sentimental. But mostly I'm keeping it because I like the seedheads.

2009-06-26; awful poppy!

The nursery is a mess and I'm going to clean up down here after I publish this blog post.

2009-06-26; the nursery needs a clean-up.

So much clutter! Plants dead and alive...half-forgotten projects. I need to sort it all out.


I never found a spot in the ground to plant the lovage, but it seems happy in that pot.


We've had a cool summer, but things are warming up. I've picked only a few squash so far this year, and no beans (on the left) or tomatoes. The cucumbers are really lagging.


The buckeye is still green... Once the leaves go dormant for the summer drought, I'm going to snip off every single leaf.


I guess I should at least try to make home-made chamomile tea, huh?


The Native Americans ate tarweed seeds, but I wonder if you can do anything with the flowers.


The same thing in the other direction...


The water in the bird bath turns green quickly this time of year with all the sun. Seems like a bad thing for the birds..? Birds must get used to drinking some really crappy water, when you think about it. Lately, I'm feeling like there's too much Salvia spathacea. Maybe when it flowers, I'll feel differently.


I continue to keep my lettuces under netting to keep the birds out.


And this is still my favorite place to sit.


The raspberries and Tithonia diversifolia have begun to fill in this corner...it's getting a little jungly.


And still, just occasional passionflowers. Now, I know you think it's normal to have just a few at a time, but other passionflowers around San Francisco usually have hundreds of flowers blooming at any given time. Maybe it depends on the variety or something.


I think this little Clematis is named 'Pistachio'. I bought it on sale somewhere. It's runty, but cute.


Okay, that's enough for now. Ta-ta.



Thursday afternoon botanical garden

Bernal Heights was sunny and warm today, but Golden Gate Park was freezing cold! I took a few



Oenothera stricta







Tomorrow, a garden post!


In which my freedom is restored

I've been a juror on a criminal trial in federal court since May 18 when I was summoned for voir dire. Today we finally gave the court our verdicts, and the judge set us free.

I have my life back, and I have so much to catch up on! The garden is full of neglect right now and I must attend to it.

But first I want to briefly recap the trial as a record of my own experience, and for anyone else who cares to read about what happened... this blog post is not what this blog is usually about...but then again, that's up to me.

In a nutshell, the case dealt with the managers of an illicit wholesale corporation in the East Bay named Rosemont, operated by a Mr. Hassan and a Mr. Soufian. Rosemont knowingly obtained stolen merchandise (especially high-demand items like over-the-counter medicines, baby formula, batteries, etc.) from low-level fences, re-packaged the stolen merchandise, and sold it to retailers nationwide.

The low-level fences selling to Rosemont bought the stolen goods from boosters--assorted professional low-lifes who clear off whole shelves of merchandise in stores like Wal-Mart and Target and walk out the door with it. The fences operated out of corner convenience stores in a sketchy Oakland and San Francisco neighborhoods. In our trial, two fences turned state's evidence against the two defendants. More on all that below... Investigators describe the whole enterprise, from boosters up to the illegitimate wholesalers as organized retail theft.

During the trial portion, we heard testimony for ~5.5 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, between ~9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The trial went from Wednesday, May 20 to mid-day on Monday, June 15. Closing arguments lasted most of the next day, and then we got some jury instructions. The judge finished instructing us on the morning of Wednesday, June 17, and gave us the case to deliberate. Deliberations went on ~6 full days, including Friday, until 3ish on Thursday, June 24, when I (as jury foreman) wrote and signed the following note and handed it to the court clerk:
We have reached a unanimous verdict on a number of counts.

As to the counts for which we have not reached a unanimous verdict, we firmly disagree.

All juror communications to the court must be done as a signed writing, period.

There were 68 counts total--42 against one defendant (Mr. Hassan) and 24 against the other (Mr. Soufian). They included conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise across state lines, the actual transport of the stolen merchandise across state lines, and structuring currency transactions to avoid reporting requirements. The San Francisco Chronicle's accounts of the case before it went to trial are here.

Five other jurors and I thought the government's case was overwhelming and voted guilty on all counts against both defendants. The other jurors felt otherwise and voted along various lines...

Two jurors in particular seemed suspicious of the government's case and wondered aloud about evidence that was not presented. In a criminal trial, a juror may find a defendant not guilty due to a lack of evidence, but a curious, suspicious, or philosophical interest in evidence that "could have been" presented but was not is inappropriate. Furthermore, when speculation like that always points in favor of one side, it suggests a bias. A juror has no basis to form an opinion about evidence that wasn't presented (really, a contradiction in terms)--such evidence could have gone for the defendants, or against them.

Anyhow, I addressed this matter directly when it came up--once very early in the deliberations, and again two days later. The two jurors scrubbed their rhetoric, and maintained that they did not find sufficient evidence to convict the defendants on particular counts. I scrutinized their reasoning for other signs of bias. I may always have a residue of doubt in my mind about their sincerity, but in the end, by the time we got through all the counts, their verdicts seemed at least consistent with fair reasoning.

Some jurors were uneasy making any inferences in the case. I make inferences all the time in my line of work, so that came as second nature to me. In fact, I found it hard to avoid making inferences during the trial phase. I can probably suspend my critical faculties for a few days, but four weeks? I don't think I can ever serve on a long trial again--not without my head exploding. I was impressed (surprised!) by how many jurors began the deliberations with a completely open mind. I, on the other hand, had to confess that I was already "tilting" in one direction on the second day of deliberations.

The court allowed the jury to make inferences "not based entirely on speculation" and using common sense. I thought the case did require a few simple, common sense inferences, but the nay-sayers would have none of it. Distinguishing between what is possible and what is reasonable was a sticking point for some jurors. This matters because the threshold is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not guilty beyond all possible doubt. Some people seemed to think that if something was possible, it was therefore reasonable. Or, they were unwilling to make a distinction. Such an error! I was left wondering if there is any such thing as common sense.

It was hard for some jurors to look past the repugnance of the fence who turned state's witness as part of a plea agreement, Mr. Mossleh. His role in the conspiracy gave the defendants plausible deniability. By the defense's account, we were to believe the defendants had no reason to believe the goods Mr. Mossleh sold them were stolen, and that he pulled the wool over their eyes. As Judge Judy would scream, "That's ridiculous!"

By the time the defense was done rifling through Mr. Mossleh's seedy past, he seemed like someone who would say absolutely anything, if it served his interests. My only comment to that was, saying that Mr. Mossleh will lie to serve his interests is not the same thing as saying that all of Mr. Mossleh's interests require him to lie. Ultimately, for me, Mr. Mossleh served as a contextualizing element and not much more. His testimony was unreliable on direct and evasive on cross. It was not all that useful (to me) in reaching guilty verdicts.

Of course the defense wanted us to focus squarely on Mr. Mossleh and not their clients. In closing arguments, one of the defense attorneys kept saying "Mr. Mossleh is just so terrible, I really don't want to talk about him anymore", but he did keep talking about Mr. Mossleh, over and over again. I found that technique facile, but clearly some jurors bought it. The defendants had plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Mr. Mossleh. Their lack of suspicion was very suspicious! At any rate, attorney arguments are not evidence.

A few comments about witnesses generally:

As a witness on the stand, it may seem to you that you are having a conversation with an attorney. But remember that you are really communicating with the jury. The attorney already knows your story. The jury is there to hear what you have to say for the first time. If, as a witness, you have an interest in the outcome of the case one way or another, you especially should keep this in mind.

Also, if you want me to like you, always answer a yes-or-no question with a simple yes or no. If more information is required the attorneys will ask you for it. You can rely on them to do that. Answering every question with the fewest words possible is very helpful to a jury. Bravo to the witnesses from Abbott Nutrition and FedEx who both seemed to understand this.

Finally, and this is very important, if you are someone who tends to finish every sentence with a smirk or a chuckle, do away with that. It plays horribly on the stand. Also, avoid wearing showy patriotic ties if you work in law enforcement. Why not a discreet flag lapel pin instead? You will appear a bit more even-handed.

My favorite prosecution witness was a fence's wife, Ms. Mona. Her presence electrified the jury and she was a live wire on the stand. We got the sense she was coerced into joining the conspiracy by her Palestinian in-laws--the marriage itself arranged to make peace between two families after an accidental shooting left someone dead!

Ms. Mona's volatile demeanor on the stand ranged over periods of milliseconds from agitated and angry to defensive and wounded. She seemed confused about who was on her side. In her mind, the only person on Mona's side was Mona. She was an exposed nerve, full of anger and hurt. I felt sorry for her but also wondered about her culpability. In testimony preceding hers, her brother-in-law portrayed her as a scheming drug addict. She portrayed him as a controlling liar. It made a big difference that he went first. If he'd gone after her, it would have been hard to evaluate him impartially.

For their part, the defense wanted us to believe that Rosemont was part of a vast secondary marketplace in discontinued, damaged, and close-out goods, known in B-school as a "reverse logistics" operation. Merchandise that doesn't sell well at big retail stores gets dumped onto this secondary marketplace where enterprising "jobbers" find ways to extract what value they can from it by selling at flea markets, auctions or yard sales. The defense called three witnesses to help us understand this business model, the most successful practitioner of which would appear to be Los Angeles' Via Trading--founded, owned, and operated by a Harvard MBA.

As interesting as all that was (or not), the defense was shrewd to call a quirky little old Philipino lady named Ms. Thelma who also worked in this secondary marketplace. Working mostly at flea markets, Ms. Themla's a small-timer compared to the model seen at Via Trading. Apparently legitimate, she was the pattern Rosemont used to organize their dealings with the shady Mr. Mossleh. She took the stand in a green velour pantsuit and white emo belt. She spoke in a high, giggly voice and seemed impervious to the courtroom's solemnity. She reminded me of a cat toy. The jurors really liked her. She was fun at first, but I grew annoyed with her rambling, redundant testimony. By the end of it, I was seething with rage.

The defense was curt when they wanted a simple yes-or-no answer from a prosecution witness. But when the prosecution asked Miss Thelma a yes or no question, she proceeded to answer in her inimitable, rambling style. The defense objected vigorously to the prosecution's very mild attempts at reining her in. We ended up staying late that day. Seething with rage, ladies and gentlemen!

But getting back to the idea of the secondary market, not all of Rosemont's customers were illegitimate. They didn't only buy goods from boosters. By getting some stuff from legitimate sources, and blending it in with the stolen merch, they created a complicated picture that some jurors found hard to untangle.

The defense called two witnesses from Rosemont, Mr. Hassan's sister Ms. Tanal who performed sales and accounting functions, and the defendant Mr. Soufian who gave up his 5th Amendment right not to testify. I reacted badly to both of these witnesses.

In one short exchange with the defense attorney, Ms. Tanal testified that Rosemont had two bank accounts (Wells Fargo and Bank of America) because the company wanted to build relationships in anticipation of applying for loans, etc. My bullshit detector screamed at this. You may do business with a bank, but you do not have a relationship with them. The bank is not your friend. If you apply for a loan, the bank will pull your credit report just like they would with anyone else and make a decision on that basis. It won't matter to the bank if you have an account with them or not.

It would have been nice if she could have said that Rosemont maintained one account for payroll, rent, and taxes and another account for daily business expenditures, but of course she couldn't say that. Rosemont used two accounts to fund the same illicit activities and avoid currency transaction reporting requirements--which btw I cannot believe for one minute they didn't know about esp. given the fact that she and the two defendants all took a number of business classes at Chabot College.

She also lied about her residency on her community college application which I think the jurors were much too willing to overlook. (California has many excellent and affordable two-year community colleges, but you must meet residency requirements to attend at an affordable rate. Otherwise it's very expensive. Non-residents have an incentive to lie. That was my sense about what she did.)

We were all surprised when one of the two defendants took the stand. I was much more inclined toward reasonable doubt with him before he testified. Like Ms. Tanal, his testimony betrayed a variety of little lies and evasions--too many to even bother elaborating. The prosecution did an excellent job taking him apart. I only wish she'd kept going. He seemed like he was about to crack.

The unanimous jury found Mr. Hassan guilty on four counts (conspiracy, transport, 2x structuring). The votes on all his other counts ran 11-1 in favor of guilty. The jury deadlocked 6-6 pretty much down the line against Mr. Soufian. I think people found it easier to impute more culpability to Mr. Hassan since he was portrayed as the ringleader. "The other guy could have been following orders without knowing what he was doing." Possible, but very unreasonable in my opinion. Still, Mr. Soufian standing subordinate next to Mr. Hassan created some some contrast between the two in the jury's mind. Also, the judge directed us to consider the two defendants separately.

Convicting someone on one count, let alone 24, is a big responsibility. Did some jurors retreat from that? I don't know. I wish I'd been able to convince more people of my view, but our system only requires one person to disagree and it's a high hurdle to clear. I did the best I could. We pored through the evidence, calling back exhibit after exhibit. At one point we even had testimony read back to us.* The judge seemed very emphatic and genuine about his appreciation for our work and that will help me put the whole experience behind me. Which is where it belongs.

*A sham designed to amuse and entertain the juror who demanded it, I wondered.

People may have an idée fixe that the jury foreman facilitates the jury's deliberations. Formally, the foreman presides over the deliberations. We agreed, at my urging, to pass the duties of facilitator among the jurors. I facilitated for the first 2 days, someone else facilitated for the 3rd day, another person facilitated on days 4 and 5, and a fourth juror facilitated on the 6th and final day. The foreman's one real concrete responsibility is to speak for the jury in the courtroom when the deliberations are done. The verdicts are given to the court on verdict forms, and read to the courtroom by the clerk. So af far as speaking for the jury gods, my responsibility as foreman pretty much came down to a "yes", "yes", and "that's correct". The judge polled the jury and they all had to say some yeses and I agrees as well.

I think alternating facilitators is a good thing to do, because no one person will be the perfect facilitator, and anyone who wants the job will likely be sufficiently good at it. In a case of this size, the regular freshening of perspective was an added benefit.

On the subject of fresh perspectives, we had to re-read the jury instructions several times a day to keep our minds clear on the assignment. All the crimes had multiple elements with dependent clauses and vital and's and or's to keep straight. And I wonder if that's an unintended, beneficial side effect. If you make a lasagna from an easy recipe, you'll become familiar with how it's made, and you'll eventually stop using the recipe. Eventually, the lasagnas you make will vary considerably. But if the lasagna recipe is so complex that you can't keep it straight in your mind, you'll have to go back to the recipe every time, and you'll always make the same lasagna.

A court trial is a lot more like a baseball game than a lasagna--long periods of relatively little activity, punctuated by brief moments of intense interest. Accordingly, the trial varied from boring-as-hell to being quite fascinating. This trial was much bigger than my last one and I hope I never get called to serve this long again!

UPDATE: The press release for Mr. Hassan Swaid's sentencing, here.


June Bloom Day in the small garden

The garden is a crazy, jumbled mess right now. Just the way I like it. But you can see how I could never do this professionally.


It was hot and sunny all day. Not the best light conditions for taking pictures, but...does that really matter? I don't think so. I yanked out the mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii). It's missing in the picture above.


The larkspur has been fun. The plants are fairly erect (unlike Delphinium, which tend to lean) and the flowers last a long time without any water. The bottom of the plant gets a little moldy tho'. That's my only complaint. Here, one spike got snared in the bird netting I use to protect the raspberries.


So Cal native Delphinium cardinale is the only Delphinium in my garden this year. I learned about this plant from Betsy Clebsch. Maybe it looks better in her garden. In mine it's a little ragged. On the other hand, it requires no care whatsoever.

Delphinium cardinale

Having the mock orange gone makes it easier to see the abutilon and rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)


which is not so rusty. At least not yet. The flowers just opened. These are pretty much actual size.

Digitalis ferruginea Digitalis ferruginea

Piet Oudolf likes to use this plant in cold winter landscapes. I'm not sure what to expect from it in mild-weathered San Francisco. I imagine I'll have to cut it down when the flowers die. He also advocates umbillifers, and I have a lot of those.

Like dill...

This is my first time growing dill. I was not expecting it to grow 4' tall. It's planted in the wrong place for a plant that tall, but I'm going to leave it where it is for as long as I can stand it. At least long enough for the flowers to open.


And carrots. I was told carrots left in the ground through winter would go to seed with the first warm weather. Well, it's mid-June and this is about time! I once weeded a garden where carrots had naturalized. I would like them to do that in my yard too. (I would like that better than maintaining a carrot patch.) But I don't know if I have the patience.


Wildflowers naturalizing would be good too. Of course I'd need to add a few new plants every year anyway to keep them from getting inbred.

Phacelia tanacetifolia

Clarkia bottae


This one is new to me; Collomia grandiflora (Polemoniaceae). I got the seeds from Seed Hunt over there in the links. Apparently, it is widespread in the west although I've never seen it before. The peach color is unusual.

Collomia grandiflora

Although here I am with some peachy runner beans.

Phaseolus coccineus

Speaking of color, a hideous pairing of red and yellow emerged and I. Am. Tolerating. It.

Keckiella cordifolia

This Keckiella cordifolia (another So Cal native, I think) is one of my favorite plants. And so easy to grow from seed. Highly recommended for summer-dry gardens. I have three of them!

Keckiella cordifolia

More red things... I got this Begonia boliviana last year at Dry Garden. It died to the ground over winter, and came back good as new without much care. (I've watered it once or twice this year.)

Begonia boliviana

Some creature is feasting on these nasturtium leaves (Tropaeolum majus). Such is life in the pesticide-free garden. Tho' even with pesticides it's possible, even likely, for the same thing to occur. So why bother.


A yellow nasutrium on the other side of the garden is less molested.


Time for a cool blue... these sweet peas just started to flower.

Lathyrus odoratus

Phacelia campanularia

Phacelia campanularia

Tweedia caerulea

Tweedia caerulea

Now for some orange and yellow. The unnamed Senecio

Senecio sp.

Madia elegans


I'm letting the Cotula lineariloba's yellow buttons spread where they will.


These unnamed yellow lilies just opened today. The flowers point down so I can't see them.


The back of it is really pretty.


If this dahlia had opened today, that would have been swell.



Fuchsia boliviana 'alba' IMG_9452

IMG_9390 IMG_9551

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