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DO AS SHE SAYS, NOT AS SHE DOES, IN JUDGE VERNA ADAMS' COURT. Jury selection continues in Carol Mardeusz case. 
By Phil Graf © 2000, 7/7/00, San Rafael, CA (Coast Writers Syndicate) 

Judge Verna Adams insists on no comments or body language, such as shaking heads or rolling eyes, in "her" courtroom, according to her admonitions to the gallery during hearing of pre-trial motions. But during oral arguments by attorney Nedra Ruiz, who represents Carol Mardeusz, Adams could be clearly observed shifting about in her chair, rolling her eyes, sticking her tongue in her cheek, and smirking, in what appeared to observers to be obvious disrespect and hostility toward Mardeusz and her counselor. 

Adams' reactions are not surprising, given the several motions made by Mardeusz to disqualify her - including one which potentially could force her off the bench entirely. That motion, based on strict implementation of the elections rules, was disputed by Adams, who claimed that she was properly seated. Adams failed to offer any evidence to support her opinion - an irony which did not go unnoticed, given Adams' repeated criticisms of unsupported statements by counsel. However, according to spokesmen with the Broom Marchers (recall campaign), the elections rules are clear, and judge Adams has not complied. Documents obtained from the Registrar's office appear to support the recall group's contention. 

A series of motions filed in the Mardeusz case were all ruled on by judge Adams within the past two days. Adams maintained her record of 100% denial of motions filed by or on behalf of Mardeusz. Adams' dislike of Mardeusz seems obvious to observers, yet she has refused to recuse herself, she rules on her own disqualification (disqualifications are supposed to go to an independent judge or the judicial council) and she has taken it upon herself to ignore the recommendations of medical professionals. Mardeusz has already used the one preemptory challenge which each litigant is allowed. 

Carol Mardeusz is a single mom who the DA has accused of an attempt to abduct her own child, and of several counts of perjury relating to paperwork she filed to enforce her custody order. She has presented volumes of information to the court in support of her contention that she was the only parent with a valid custody order. 

Defense attorney Nedra Ruiz, of the Tony Sera law firm (San Francisco) pointed out there is ".absolutely no evidence that Carol is a bad mom. But there is abundant evidence which demonstrates that Leo Magers, who now has the child under his control, is an alcoholic, a cocaine user and distributor, a child abuser, and a man who has threatened violence to Mardeusz, her children and others." These statements are a matter of record, including Magers' own sworn testimony admitting some of them. 

As Ruiz related the events to Judge Adams, Mardeusz had sole custody of her child for five years, before Magers and his attorney, Catherine Conners (Santa Rosa), manipulated the court system to obtain custody. Evidence which Mardeusz has submitted strongly suggests that Conners acted unethically, and that some of the paperwork they used may have been fraudulent. 

All this suggests, said Ruiz, that whatever Mardeusz did, or did not do, she acted in good faith, within the law, attempting nothing more than to save her child from a man who she had reasonable reason to believe presented a danger to her child. Mardeusz's ADA advisor, Ron Mazzaferro is more succinct: "This guy [Magers] shouldn't own a dog, let alone have a child." Ruiz's oral argument painted a tragic, compelling picture of a man who attempted to physically force an involuntary abortion, denied paternity, threatened mother and children with a butcher knife (documented by witnesses), and bragged that he would take the child from Mardeusz and ruin her life. With the help of attorney Conner, that's exactly what he did, according to Ruiz. 

In an unusual moment, Adams responded to Ruiz's request that the judge comply with the recommendations of medical professionals who have documented that Mardeusz, who suffers extreme stress in court, combined with one failed kidney, should have her appearances limited. They suggest only one appearance every several days, and only a few hours at a time. Adams refused these accommodations, something which ADA counselor Mazzaferro says is in violation of federal law. Adams stated that the only way she would accept medical recommendations was if a medical doctor wrote a new report, and added, ".and I will appoint the doctor." After about a five-second conference between Ruiz and Mardeusz, Ruiz told the judge, "Your honor, we would like you to make that appointment immediately." "Denied," said Judge Adams, looking a little shaken. Her reversal elicited some gasps from the gallery. 

Jury selection in the case began late Thursday and continued through Friday. Judge Adams excluded the possibility of the jury hearing evidence which would support Mardeusz. Instead, she ruled that only a very narrow examination of the actions Mardeusz took to re-claim her daughter, Haleigh, would be allowed. In examining prospective jurors, Adams required that they agree to apply the law as she instructed them, and that they could not consider the penalty in assessing guilt or innocence. 

"More judicial arrogance," said Mazzaferro. "But as much as she's biased against Carol, her attitude isn't unique to Adams. These judges routinely limit the jury, so that the jurors can't hear all the evidence, and can't judge the entire picture. No jury in the world, knowing its true powers to overrule the judge and the law, and in possession of all the evidence, could possibly convict Carol of a crime. And even if they did, no jury could possibly agree to any punishment greater than saying don't do it again. Instead, this judge and this DA is trying to limit what the jurors can know of the entire facts, and to trick them into a guilty verdict, leaving it to this very hostile judge to set sentencing. Based on what she's ruled so far, if there is a guilty verdict, I expect Adams to throw the book at Carol." 

"Meanwhile," interrupted Sandra Sgorbati, an RN who was present when Mardeusz collapsed in Adams' courtroom on June 9, "no one even cares about the little girl, who's been away from her mom for 5 years, in the total control of someone I wouldn't even hire as a baby sitter." Jury selection in the case will continue Monday July 10, at 9:00 AM, Judge Adams' presiding. Trial could begin as early as that morning or afternoon. Once begun, the trial is expected to last about six days. This is an open trial, so court observers are welcome. 

by Phil Graf © 2000, Coast Writers Syndicate 
707 823-9059 Permission to reprint granted. References available on request.