Friday, August 17, 2018

Visual Literature

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

school ~ books ~ difficulty ~ letter ~ budget

They were submitted by:


This is my 5th year homeschooling. I think. Time has lost all meaning in the brain fogged existence I lead planning lessons and grading papers and begging, pleading for this child to pull more adjectives out of his ass than "good" or "interesting" when writing an essay and to actually learn to write in such a way that I no longer need a decoder ring to decipher almost every letter in the answers to the questions he's assigned.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the difficulty of teaching a child, at least MY child, at home. It is a drain of patience and my precious little energy considering what is already drained with me/cfs, and I have realized all too keenly that my child was perfectly constructed so as to be able to tune out almost every single thing I say. He thinks "skimming" counts as reading. He skips rules and takes shortcuts and refuses to ask for help even when he desperately needs it. He loses every. single. pencil. I buy him which I blame all on his father's half of his genes (only half-jokingly).

It's a lot of responsibility. I have to know what the average kid in his grade level should be learning, what the state standards are, and the laws involving homeschooling. I have to make it fun but informative, challenging but ability-appropriate, varied enough to hold his interest but not so varied we lose the sense of routine that helps him stay focused despite being unmedicated with ADHD. I have to prepare this kid who is terrible at written tests (but gets the answers 100% right every time if we do it orally 😑) for a standardized test every 3 years to make sure we're on track with our learning. It's work, hard work. We don't always get along during the school day. My expectations and his motivation are hardly ever at the same level. We end a lot of days stressed the fuck out and in need of a breather.


I don't think either of us would have it any other way. He has not yet answered affirmatively each year when I ask him how he wants to handle things regarding going back to public school, and even though he drives me crazy so much of the time...I like the control I have over what he learns, and I can make sure his education is tailored to him personally. We choose classes together. I choose the books which means I don't go with the ones tailored just for Georgia students used by the school system here that whitewashes much of history and skips a lot of evolution. It's my budget not a school budget dependent upon the overall test results of the students. If we need extra books, we get them. We handle our own supplies and skip a lot of germs. We work on our own schedule meaning we stay up late and sleep in most of the time. If we need a day off, we take one and make it up elsewhere. When he has a grip on a lesson, we move on, and when he doesn't, we repeat it. It's less stress for him than going to an actual school, and he still gets plenty of socialization. And we're obviously doing something right since he tested more than 2 grades above his level this past year in reading comprehension, language skills, and math.

So difficult...but also worth it.

Right now we're doing pre-algebra, biology, grammar, ancient world history, and computer fundamentals. But I also added film studies in place of literature this year, and so far it has been amazingly fun and has gotten us sharing movies and talking about them more in depth every school night. I happen to think visual stories can be as important as written ones, and the work that goes into them can be fascinating. Understanding lighting, color, continuity, transitions, camera angles, and the like can tell you more about the stories you're watching. We've watched Citizen Kane, Jaws (compared to Wet Hot American Summer), What We Do in the Shadows, Almost Famous and This Is Spinal Tap. We watched parts os Sin City and clips from Clerks. Pan's Labyrinth, SLC Punk, Taxi Driver, Snatch, and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World... and we're only 3 weeks into the year. 

I share with him insights as we watch pointing out the elements he has read about in his film studies class. I taught him why the color palette of Jaws is so calm and neutral or why Sin City is in mostly black and white. He learned what film noir is. He knows now why some characters are bathed in light and some in shadow in certain scenes. We talk about why a shot is wide or why it's a close up, what the intent is for the viewer and what the director is trying to say without saying it with dialogue. We looked at Guy Ritchie's signature montages and how he uses transitions and narration so successfully and so uniquely that you can watch a movie and just know when he's the director. And we have so much left to cover--genres, directorial style, plot, chopped narratives and straightforward ones, what defines a "cult classic," scores that change the entire movie, movies that are a product of the culture in which they were created and more.

Now that we've started, he can't stop. Even when he watches movies for fun, he notices the things we've gone over. Finally my child can actually listen to me talk about something and appreciate the knowledge I'm giving (knowledge I had to teach myself)! It only took how many years?! Either way, I'll take this win and put it in my motivation bank for the next time I look at his worse-than-doctor-scribble handwriting that might say plates ate the sordid phantom or might say hydrogen is good.

***Before I go, I do want to add that he listens to me about other things because I like to talk shit about historical characters. it's fun and more relateable for me to call Christopher Columbus an incapable, lying mf than what he can read in a book. it's like he has Samuel L. Jackson for a history teacher.

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 10, 2018

Where's the Justice?

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 9 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

“How could this happen..?”

It was submitted by:

I recently picked up a new person (in prison) to write. His case astonished me to be perfectly honest which has not happened too often in my 11 years of doing this, and when I got this prompt, it felt a lot like I was meant to write about it. A few informative links will follow


How could this happen? is something I asked myself over and over again when I read about Ivan Bechtol and why he's in prison for life. At 38, he's been in almost as long as he was ever free, and there's only a slight illumination at the end of his tunnel that might be a sunlit meadow of freedom or might be the tunnel on fucking fire trapping him inside for eternity. The way his life is going I imagine he feels more inclined to believe the latter.

When Ivan was 19, he was using cocaine on top of the usual substances a lot of people that age enjoy. He was actually with a local coke dealer in the wee hours of September 3rd, 2001. Those hours he spent with this dealer would be his unending in a wild tale that reads more like a poorly written whodunit than an actual, believable criminal investigation.

In those early hours on September 3rd, the dealer, William Cron (with a history of sex crimes and drug dealing), stopped the vehicle that he and Ivan were in at the house where Cron's ex-girlfriend was staying with another male companion. Apparently, Jamie Moran, the ex and victim in this case, had gotten some coke from Cron earlier. He fronted it on the promise she would pay him later with the money she got from selling some on her own. After a night of  doing drugs and drinking himself, he became paranoid she wouldn't pay because he owed *her* money and decided to track her down. Ivan had gotten a ride with him when Cron decided to stop by where he figured Moran would be staying.

Cron got lucky with his guess. It just wasn't very lucky for anyone else involved.

Cron cut the phone lines to the house and broke in leaving Ivan in his vehicle. The owner of the house, Ira Henke, heard a dog bark around 6:30 a.m. He went to check and found Cron inside the house, and the two got into a fight. Ivan heard the commotion, ran in, and broke up the fight. Ivan and Cron ran out.

The next morning, Ivan was arrested on a home invasion charge over this incident. He spent most of the rest of the day in a jail cell. Cron, however, managed to slip the police and spent most of his day terrorizing Jamie Moran. He found her new cell phone number and called repeatedly to threaten her at her job. The police were called but didn't find him nearby and left with matters unsolved. Jamie had a friend follow her part of the way home to make sure she wasn't being followed. The intersection where they parted ways was the last time Jamie was ever seen alive.

Not long after leaving her, the friend made a call to check on her and heard screaming. Her body was found in her car in a lake the next morning at 7 a.m.

It has never been disputed that Cron killed her. In his trial, it was indicated that he hid in her trunk wearing a disguise and forced her to pull over. He was physically 100% responsible for her death. No one else was there. He even forced her to write letters clearing him of crimes he committed against her and left them on her body...

That should be where the story ends for Ivan--with maybe a little time served for a home invasion he wasn't really responsible for and a wake up call about the friends he chose to hang around. Instead, he might very well spend the rest of his life in prison. Shortly after Jamie Moran's murder, he was picked up and charged with helping to plot it and hasn't been home since.

At Cron's trial, Ivan's involvement was never an aspect on either side of the case. In fact, Ivan was hardly mentioned at all and certainly was not discussed as playing any part the planning of or execution of the murder. At no time did conspiring with another person even get discussed at that murder trial. Cron was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with there being no doubt about his sole involvement in the murder. It was called a crime of passion.

Ivan's trial involved a completely different timeline, motive, and story. Instead of the straightforward timeline involved in Cron's trial, he was accused of somehow, even with spending most of the day until well into the afternoon in a jail cell, conspiring with Cron to kill Moran to keep her from going to the police about his use of drugs even though she had been using drugs herself. The only real evidence against him beyond his presence when Cron broke into Menke's house to find Moran was the testimony of a jailhouse informant who said Ivan told him he had been involved in a murder. This confession supposedly took place in jail after he was picked up on a DUI charge and because of that alleged confession, he never left. He's spent all of his adult life behind bars. 

That "witness" later recanted.

Let me pause here for a moment. Jailhouse informants are hardly what you might call a reliable witness. It has been proven time and again that many of these informants offer information in exchange for favors, reduced time, dropped charges or even payment or are pressured by attorneys or other authority figures to testify--even to lie. In multiple states, DAs have been proven to have rings of multiple informants. If the DA needs testimony to clinch a case, they simply place one of these informants in the same prison as the defendant, and suddenly there is a confession to help out, help win a conviction. At times, the informants themselves are completely fabricated in order to get warrants or help win a case in court. And while many of these cases are eventually thrown out because it is all lies and bullshit used to pad numbers and win elections, many more remain undetected.

That is very likely true of the informant in Ivan's case. When recanting later, this witness voluntarily offered an affidavit that stated he was coerced and pressured into making that statement by the prosecuting attorney. Ivan never told him anything at all about any murder which has been Ivan's consistent story for nearly two decades. Keep in mind that same prosecutor has already had one case overturned where it was determined he coerced a false confession.

At this point, pretty much all of Ivan's appeals have been exhausted. A recanted testimony alone does very little to sway the appellate court. At the appeals stage, a defendant is looking to prove the trial was unfair. Attacking the evidence used at the trial after the fact only works in the event forensic analysis obsolves the defendant of guilt or that new evidence (like the affidavit recanting the jailhouse confession) is enough to have changed the jury's mind. In this case, there's just not enough to attack, and the trial itself, even if utterly ridiculous, was conducted "fairly" under most interpretations of the law (in a fairly conservative state and certainly a diehard conservative area of the state).

At best, Ivan may be eligible for parole in 2029 when he is nearly 50--too old to start over and have children or live any semblance of a normal life. In letters, he apologizes frequently for being so withdrawn. He's forgotten how to connect to people well. Another 11 years inside isn't going to help him come home and be just fine not to mention he may not even be granted parole in the first place (though I hope to be as much of a help as possible in him getting it). He was effectively given a life sentence for a murder the court knows he had no physical involvement in, committed by, at best, a casual acquaintance at a time in his life when, as the entire field of psychology has proven, his brain was not yet fully developed. His decision making and impulse control at the very least were underdeveloped. Not to mention the way cocaine and alcohol use at such a young age added to that aspect of immaturity. The only thing he's guilty of is the same faulty decision making so many of us have at that age, and he surely doesn't deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison for it.

He did not kill anyone. That fact has never been disputed. He made some shitty choices about drugs and who he hung around, sure. But he wasn't even out of jail long enough to plan a murder that day. He wasn't involved, and there is absolutely no real proof he ever was. The prosecutor wanted another conviction and did whatever it took to get one.

In Ivan's trial, Ira Henke had the nerve to say Ivan is pretty much as guilty as Cron for having broken up the fight, that Henke could have held Cron until the police arrived, and Cron would have been in custody instead of free to murder Jamie Moran. The jury bought into that as much as anything else.

This is where our criminal justice system is at--sending people to prison for life often at a profit to multiple billion dollar industries based on no evidence, psychic predictions like Henke's, and the whims of overzealous prosecutors. Ivan isn't even the first for this particular prosecutor. How many more has he done this to? How often does this happen across the country? How have we gotten this far off the course of actual justice?

How could this happen and so many people not know?

How do we fix it?


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom