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OPENING STATEMENTS IN
THE RICHARD HAMLIN TRIAL

by Virginia McCullough and Kathryn Joanne Dixon

Newsmakingnews.com first reported on the Richard William Hamlin trial on February 9, 2005. (Click. The best conspiracy litigation in California)  Investigative reporter Virginia McCullough has written five articles defining the various aspects of  this unusual and complicated case of domestic violence.  During the past year there have been many delays in bringing this case to trial.

Finally, on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 in the courtroom of Judge Eddie T. Keller in the historic courthouse in Placerville, California opening statements began.

The jury consists of eight women and four men chosen after they had filled out a 20-page jury questionnaire that asked very detailed questions.  Many of the inquiries bordered on an invasion of the juror's privacy.  For example, question number 37 asks "Have you, or any close friend or relative, ever undergone treatment or care provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist?  "If so, please explain."  Although most of the questions related directly to the individual juror's personal life experiences and beliefs there were some questions unique to the Hamlin trial.  Question number 97 inquires "Have you ever heard of, read about, been taught or known of someone who has been involved in a cult/satanic activity?" 

While the questionnaire was wide-ranging and sometimes took flights of fantasy, the 118 questions provided both the prosecution and the defense good insight into the minds of those individuals who would make up the jury that would sit in judgment of Richard Hamlin.  This jury appears to consist of hard working, practical people who take their civil responsibility seriously.  Each member of the jury was given a note book and pen to employ in writing down their thoughts as the trial progresses.  The jury members and the four alternative jurors seemed ready to pay close attention to the witnesses and the evidence as they are presented.        

Deputy District Attorney Vicki Ashworth sat at the prosecutor's table alongside Detective Rich Strasser.  Deputy District Attorney Ashworth is an attractive woman with long brown hair.  She delivered a 20-minute opening statement explaining the charges the state has brought against former Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Richard Hamlin.  Appearing self confident and well organized, Ashworth stressed the injuries inflicted on Susan Hamlin who is also an attorney.  Ashworth also cited the damage done to the Hamlin children who were witnesses to the alleged abuse of their mother.

Representing El Dorado County District Attorney Gary Lacy's office, Ashworth had been assisted until recently by deputy district attorney Joe Alexander.  Several weeks before the start of the Hamlin trial Alexander joined four other deputy district attorneys who have quit DA Lacy's office citing the lack of effective management and poor people skills of the District Attorney.

Seated at the defense table is Richard Hamlin, first chair in his own defense and the excellent public defender Robert Banning.  

Following Ashworth's presentation, Richard Hamlin delivered an opening statement to the jury.  He announced that he is innocent and that his wife had fabricated the story that he had hit her in order to cover up the fact that she was subjected to satanic ritual abuse by her father.  Hamlin asserted that just before his arrest her father and other satanic cult members plotted to kill him because he is a Christian.  Hamlin said that his wife admitted these matters to him and further admitted that she and her father had engaged in abuse of the Hamlin children.  At this point, Hamlin played a tape recording of Susan Hamlin made by detectives on February 26, 2004 in which she confessed to many of these matters in some detail.  At times Susan Hamlin sobbed as she confessed.  In between sobs her voice sounded normal and rather low pitched, but then broke into the high pitched voice of a young girl.  After the tape concluded, Richard Hamlin had the rapt attention of the jury.

Hamlin then explained that two days after that statement was recorded, on February 28, 2004, he was arrested for domestic abuse of his wife.  Why was he arrested?  Hamlin said Susan "panicked" after giving the tape recorded statement to the El Dorado County Sheriffs.  Susan then told the police she came to them because her husband had beaten her and forced her to make the original statement two days earlier.  She retracted everything she had previously confessed to doing.

Richard Hamlin told the jury the evidence would show that, in fact, Susan made this new statement to cover up for her father and to avoid personal prosecution for her own actions.  Richard denied that he put words in his wife's mouth or manipulated her.  "I was trying to keep my head above water regarding what was true and not true."  Richard said he wanted to assist Susan in obtaining corroborating evidence that she had been a victim of satanic ritual abuse because if he did not so, other people would think she was crazy.

The defendant acting as his own attorney said that the prosecutor will claim that Susan's diaries and notes were coerced and dictated by Richard Hamlin but Hamlin said he will produce an expert to demonstrate that Susan's handwriting was not coerced.

Hamlin read to the jury part of a letter Susan wrote to her father on April 22, 2003 in which she asked her father, Dr. Sid Siemer, "But in my pain as an adult, I have to ask the question - did you sexually molest me as a child???" (Click. Would you convict Richard Hamlin on Susan Hamlin's word?)  Hamlin said that Susan's father did not respond to this letter but he told other family members that Susan was crazy and had a big mouth. 

Defendant and defense attorney Richard Hamlin also read portions of a typewritten unsigned letter dated August 10, 2003 that he said Susan had written to her father concerning his abuse of her.  The letter states in part "YOU NEVER HAD ME.  That my body was forced to participate, from my very beginning, and continuing on until April of this year...."  Again, Hamlin stated that his father-in-law did not respond to the August letter. 

Attorney Hamlin continued telling the jury that he would present diaries and journals in Susan's handwriting which would establish a timeline regarding Susan's being subjected to brainwashing, hypnosis and mind control by Sid Siemer and the satanic cult.  Hamlin said that in December 2003, Susan revealed details about Sid's satanic ritual abuse and that other people were also involved.  Hamlin described satanic ritual abuse as an "effective tool" used by abusers to control their victims.  Then in January and February 2004, Susan had a "comfort level" and talked about molesting her own children.  During that time, she experienced "abrupt changes" -- "sometimes she was angry, sometimes happy."  Hamlin stressed that he tried to help his wife as she revealed more memories of her abuse.

Through the testimony of witnesses who knew him and his wife over the years Hamlin stated he would show evidence that he did not abuse his wife.  Hamlin said that the initial statements three of his children made to the authorities were that Hamlin did not beat his wife and that their mother had molested them.   Richard also said that Detective Strasser "made his children upset" with their father, and made the children change their earlier testimony that their mother molested them and  that their father did not abuse Susan or the children.  Later the children reversed their testimony and said they were not molested by their mother and their father did hit their mother.  Hamlin said that the evidence would show that Strasser caused this reversal and "told them that their father admitted that the molest stuff was not true."  The defendant/defense attorney expressed to the jury his anger that Detective Strasser coerced the testimony of his children going so far as to tell the children that Richard was dangerous and would kill a man.  Hamlin gave as an example Strasser's telling his oldest son, Ryan, "She (Susan Hamlin) never did that to you."  Hamlin also told the jury that the detective had never looked at Richard Hamlin's boxes of evidence but lied to the children and told them he had examined all of the boxes.  Strasser also "led the children unmercifully" as their "anger built."  Finally the children believed that their father lied to them.  Both boys now back their mother's version of the events.  Hamlin said his daughter Claire said her father "lied to us and hurt mom.  Only way I know he's at fault is mom told me so."

The father of the four Hamlin children told the jury that he has not been allowed see his kids for 20 months.

To conclude his opening statement, Hamlin told the jury, "I will testify."  He asserted that he did not do the matters he is charged with in this trial.  He said, "These were extraordinary events that happened to a simple family." 

He finished his remarks by admitting, "I made some mistakes. But no criminal mistakes."

Virginia McCullough © November 6, 2005

Research assistance by Kathryn J. Dixon
 


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