Less than a stranger

She said it was abuse. He said it was manipulation. By the time a Denton court got through with this messy custody battle, a good mother would lose her kids forever.

A fter getting over the initial shock of the decision, Shamoun had a hard time figuring out what went wrong. Even though there were no media present at the trial, jurors agreed to a self-imposed vow of secrecy, which worked against efforts by Andrews to seek a quick retrial.

According to one juror who spoke later, the secrecy vow and vote for termination were spearheaded in the jury room by the foreman, Kennard Royal.

Royal was warned several times during the trial about talking to participants, among them Jake Collier, the ad litem.

Collier and Royal, it turns out, were both on the board of directors of CASA of Denton County, a nonprofit agency that does fact-finding on behalf of judges in neglect and abuse cases.

Royal declined to comment for this report.
"I'll go to my grave believing something went wrong to taint the jury," Shamoun says. "I think some of them lied to me in their voir dire examination. I can't prove anything, but I believe there was jury misconduct in this case."

Shamoun didn't know until told by this reporter that Collier reported receiving a campaign check from Loveless on August 23, 1993, the day jury selection began in the case. (Collier's bid for a judgeship failed after five district judges called a press conference saying that, contrary to his campaign literature, they were not endorsing him.)

"I don't know the politics of it, but it was a kangaroo court--it was absolutely amazing," Shamoun says now. "My connection to that judge [Woodlock] was zero, and obviously he knew Katherine Kinser quite well. He knows her husband [Judge Frank Sullivan], who is a district judge in Fort Worth."

In the legal realm, the paperwork that Judge Woodlock submitted to the jurors--which was worded just the way Kinser wanted the judge to word it--did not inform the jury that they needed to find termination "in the best interests of the children," which is the state law standard for child custody cases.

The jury instructions simply asked whether Andrews "endangered the physical or emotional well-being" of the kids. A "yes" answer meant termination.

"What parent isn't guilty of that?" asks Shamoun. Under that standard, a mother who turns her head once while her kid is in a swimming pool could be a candidate for termination.

The Court of Appeals for the Second District in Fort Worth, after mulling over the case for nearly two years, voted last April to overturn the verdict, saying there was insufficient evidence to support the "drastic remedy" of termination.

Eleven months later, the Texas Supreme Court agreed. By that time, the case had begun capturing wider attention, due in no small part to a spirited Katherine Andrews letter-writing campaign.

Joan Pennington, a lawyer and director of the New Jersey-based National Center for Protective Parents, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 11 child organizations taking issue with the validity of using "parental alienation syndrome" to terminate Andrews' rights. "The great thrust of public sentiment is that all these mothers are coaching and brainwashing their kids," Pennington says, saying that those attitudes comfort abusers. "In 14 years of being involved in custody cases, I've never yet seen a kid who will say what you want them to say about these issues."

W ard Brockman, a 35-year-old software engineer and one of the two jurors who voted against termination, says he felt intuitively that the kids had not been abused. But, he says, "Termination is bad business. This wasn't a Darlie Routier-type of mother. I look at my children, and they'd be lost without my wife. This was like saying their mother is dead."

Katherine Andrews recalls wishing she would die in the bleak aftermath of the verdict. "She didn't get out of bed for two months," her husband recalls. "It would have been kinder if they killed her."

Adds Katherine, talking at the dining table of their neat North Dallas apartment, the family dog at her feet: "I was a vegetable. The only time I remember not having any pain was when I was asleep. I wanted to die. I really wished I'd die. You hear of people willing themselves to death--they just give up. I really didn't think I had anything to live for."

A few months after the verdict, Katherine's daughter wrote a short letter to her stepsister, Stephanie, in which the little girl said, "I miss you guys so much I cry."

With that, Andrews decided to visit her kids a last time at their school.
"It was a tearjerker, as you'd imagine," recalls Charles Saunders, who went with Andrews. "The thing I remember most is Adam seeing her and blurting out, 'He's not doing it anymore.' It was the first thing he said."

The school visit prompted David DuMontier to tell the court he feared Katherine could kidnap the children, and he requested and received a permanent restraining order against his ex-wife and a half-dozen of her friends. It bars them from going within 100 feet of the children's home, their school, their playground, or anywhere else they might be.

After recovering from the disabling first shock of the verdict, Mark and Katherine Andrews threw themselves into their work in the vet van.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help