Anonymous Tip: Donna Makes Her Case

Anonymous Tip: Donna Makes Her Case February 13, 2015

Anonymous Tip: A Review Series

Gail tells Donna to talk to her as though she were the judge, and to make the case, and so Donna does. Remember that this is the case Donna is presenting in order to have Casey removed, and it is intentionally false on several points. So when Donna claims to be concerned about Casey’s wellbeing, we have to doubt that. Donna was not pleased to learn that Gwen spanks Casey, but spanking is legal, and spanking is not the reason Donna is trying to take Casey away. She’s trying to take Casey away because she’s angry with Gwen for resisting her authority.

As Donna tells it, the anonymous call came in, and she went to visit Gwen the next morning. (She calls Gwen “Mrs. Landis” even though she is divorced—does that seem weird to anyone else?) After explaining that Gwen would not let her in and would not let her see Casey, Donna says this:

This course of action heightened my concern for the child because experience has shown that real abusers are often uncooperative. I was required to return the following day with another CPS investigator and a police officer. After an initial refusal, Mrs. Landis allowed us in.

To enter a home without permission, Donna must have either a warrant or exigent circumstances. If there were exigent circumstances, she would have come back with a police officer immediately rather than waiting a day. So she does not appear to be arguing that there were. She is claiming that she had good reason to be concerned, but to force her way in based on concerns rather than exigent circumstances she would have had to take to a judge, in order to get a warrant, and she did not. Her claim here appears to be that Gwen let her him voluntarily. As we readers know, Gwen only let her in when she (Donna) claimed she was within her legal rights to force her way in, and the officer confirmed it. This is not a voluntary entry. It will be interesting to see how Donna’s explanation of her actions that day evolves as the chapters go on.

Donna then says they found evidence of “seven- to ten-day-old bruises” and that Gwen admitted “hitting the girl with a wooden object on a regular basis, but denied any bruising,” which denial was of course false.

Donna also says this, which I found a bit odd:

The other CPS worker, who is also female for obvious reasons, assisted me in interviewing the child and conducting a routine search for bruises.

I don’t know what the rules are for the gender of social workers conducting strip searches (though I certainly hope there are rules!), but the way she states this seems odd. Does the prosecutor really need to know the other social worker’s gender? And of course, note also that Donna left out the fact that their strip search left Casey absolutely hysterical and had to be conducted by force. This is perhaps unsurprising, though in the real world I would think it would be relevant.

Next Donna adds that “Mrs. Landis appeared irrational throughout the process” and argued that “the child needs to be taken into protective custody for a seven-day period to allow a full physical and psychological evaluation” of both the child and Gwen.

Donna concludes as follows:

We don’t have enough information to make final conclusions, but we do have clear facts to raise questions about the safety of this child and the stability of Mrs. Landis.

Remember that while Donna’s creating a case that Gwen is unstable, her actual concern was not Gwen’s instability but rather that Gwen called her names. This is what’s so odd about this entire situation—everything that happens from here on out will happen for the simple reason that Donna has a grudge against Gwen.

In some way, I suppose this is the story Farris wants to tell—that of an innocent family caught up in a system that is more about ego and prestige than it is about actually helping children.

So how did Gail take Donna’s case? Did she throw it out, or ask hard questions? Nope. We are told that Gail didn’t appreciate Donna’s suggestion that Gwen’s recent divorce was making her come “a bit apart at the seams,” but she “let it pass” and told Donna she had a good case, no questions asked.

You obviously don’t have enough to get permanent custody, but I think I can get the judge to sign a temporary Shelter Care Order. I think it’ll sound reasonable and appropriate.

Note that Gail says it’ll “sound” reasonable and appropriate. I feel like Farris is trying to tell us that for people like Gail, the actual truth is less important than how they can spin things.

Gail asks Donna whether she has “an examination team” in mind, and Donna mentions having lined up “the best psychologist in town” and a pediatrician that she’s “worked with in several prior cases of abuse.”

He’s good and he testifies quite convincingly.

See, there it is again! What matters is not the the facts, but rather whether someone can testify “convincingly.” And I should note that I suspect we’re supposed to be concerned that Donna has lined up professionals she has worked with and knows well—the implication seems to be that they’re in her pocked. I wonder how many more people will be in on the conspiracy before this book is over?

Back to Gail:

Okay. And foster parents? Do you have some real seasoned people who can observe her on a regular basis and testify appropriately? Some of these foster parents love kids, but they just can’t talk to a judge.

Yep, this is definitely a theme. Whether they get foster parents who love kids is less important than whether those foster parents will testify “appropriately.” It feels like she’s asking whether Donna has lined up foster parents who are already in her pocket.

Donna says she’s selected a couple already, and that the wife was a social worker before she had twins and decided to stay home with them. I suspect we’re once again supposed to be concerned by this, though I should note that I think this is the first woman in this book doing what she’s supposed to do—she married and stayed married and is staying home caring for her children.

It’s Wednesday, remember. Gail says she can set up the hearing for “next Monday or Tuesday” and Donna says she has a conflict on Monday, so it will have to be Tuesday. Here she is, once again putting things off further. They are concerned enough about Casey’s wellbeing to move to remove her from her home, but they’re going to put doing so off for another six days?

We’ll stop here for now, but things are about to get very interesting.

Note: As I noted in the comments, my understanding has been that when a child is in danger, they take the child first and do the paperwork second. There is usually a hearing scheduled fairly quickly during which CPS presents its evidence and cause for taking the child and the parents present their side and say that the child should not have been removed. Then the judge makes her decision, either that the child should be returned to the parents or that there is compelling reason to keep the child in foster care until another hearing.

However, looking at Washington Law, it appears that taking a child into custody can either happen on the spot, or later at the behest of a judge. It appears that medium-level concerns can result in petitioning a judge to remove a child temporarily. I don’t know enough about how social services works in Washington to say what all this entails, but thought I would at least share the citations. You can read them here and here

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