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OPENING STATEMENTS IN THE SUSAN POLK MURDER TRIAL
DECEASED FELIX POLK SPEAKS TO THE JURY

by Virginia McCullough
 

The modern courthouse located in historic downtown Martinez, California played host to numerous satellite vans belonging to a wide variety of television stations.  With their well dressed reporters and laid back technicians they gathered on October 11, 2005 to monitor the first degree murder trial of frail 47-year-old Susan Mae Polk.  The Contra Costa County District Attorney has charged Susan Polk with murder in the death of her 70-year-old psychologist husband Felix Polk on October 14, 2002 on the Polk estate in Orinda, California.  Susan Polk, through her attorneys Daniel Horowitz and Ivan Golde, claims self defense stating that her husband attacked her in a rage when he realized she was determined to leave him after 20 years of marriage and three sons (Click.).

The packed courtroom of Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Laurel Brady listened quietly to the opening statements by deputy district attorney Tom O'Conner and defense attorney Daniel Horowitz.  The attorneys' comments reflected diametrically opposed views of the same event.  If convicted Susan Polk faces a sentence of 25 years to life for first degree murder.

O'Conner, well spoken and polite, implied that Susan Polk had planned the 2002 stabbing death of her husband.  Although initially O'Conner spoke of 27 knife wounds riddling Felix Polk's skin, a forensic pathologist later testified that only five wounds went into the body any distance. O'Conner said he would contend that there are more than five wounds.

The prosecution also contends that Susan Polk had a financial reason to plot and execute the murder of Felix Polk.  O'Conner placed emphasis on the actions of the accused both before and after the altercation that left the famed psychologist dead.  He also stated that this was a cold, calculated, callous murder triggered by Susan Polk's anger over the divorce and the distribution of assets.  Susan Polk simply took care of business and left evidence that led the police investigation to name her as a suspect resulting in the district attorney filing the current charges.

When it was defense attorney Daniel Horowitz's turn, he detailed the lack of financial incentive that existed for Susan to kill Felix.  He pointed out that the death of Felix would curtail the income necessary to support the family home and more importantly the life style of the Polk's three sons.

Daniel Horowitz, in defense of his client, said that this was a "cult of Felix." Susan's great love for her children was used to keep Susan committed to the "Felix cult".   As an example Horowitz showed the jury a happy 40th birthday card from the eldest son Adam to his mother expressing his love for her.

Finally Horowitz stated that expert testimony would be presented concerning Felix Polk's mental history. He stated that the evidence would show that Felix Polk had a narcissistic personality disorder with grandiose features. Horowitz said that the defense would show that deep down Felix Polk had great insecurity, gaping holes in his personality that led to delusions interspersed with violence and rage. To emphasize his point, Horowitz played the following audio excerpts of Felix Polk addressing a 1988 conference on ritualistic child abuse:

Multiple personality.  My son is a multiple personality. He has at least three clear identities.  He's a girl.  Why is he a girl?  Because he was dressed as a girl, professionally made up, then raped on stage in front of an audience.  So he's a girl.  He's a killer.  He has the eyes of a killer...less so now, much less so now.  He has a wonderful therapist and I like to think that he has Susan and I as well. He's a killer because he was looked at by people who were killers.  And he's...he has their glance.  He's also seen killings.  And he has himself.  And he's a wonderful little boy.  I'll forget about some of the other dreams.  About the murder of his mother.  About being taken away.  (Clears his throat) 

My rage in omnipresent present.  I wake up with it every morning...every morning.  And my son, Adam, doesn't have to be choking for me to do that.  I am enraged.  My fantasy, of course, is to kill them.  And I'm a rather moral person.  I want to kill them.  You don't hear that too often on television either.  But I won't.  Not now. 

It was at this point that deputy district attorney Tom O'Conner called a side bar before Judge Laurel Brady.  Defense attorney Horowitz was also at the side bar and shortly after that the opening statements concluded and the court recessed for the morning session.

The afternoon session consisted of the jury and the court going to Polk's Orinda estate and viewing the pool side cottage where the fatal confrontation took place.

The entire transcript of the audio tape from which portions were played today follows.

POLK TRANSCRIPT
AUDIO TAPE
CALIFORNIA CONSORTIUM ON CHILD ABUSE COUNCILS -
FEBRUARY 1988
SUBJECT: RITUALISTIC CHILD ABUSE: PARENTS & SURVIVORS

NARRATOR:  Our second presenter today is uh, is uh Dr. Felix Polk. Uh...I was...I was asking Felix how he would like to be introduced because he does have letters after his name, uh, and he said he would like to be introduced as the father of a ritualistically abused child. Uh, and he has a story to tell as well. Felix Polk.

(Applause)

FELIX POLK:  How do you feel out there?  Grim? (Clears his throat)  I don't do this easily.  Uh, my wife Susan was to have been here with me this morning.  She will be talking tomorrow on...on the section called "Hot Topics."  I hope at least some of you are there.  Or is everyone there for "Hot Topics?"  Uh, the reason she's not here...one of the reasons she's not here because my son, Adam, who is a rituals...a ritualistically abused child (clears his throat) uh, is not doing so well right now.  That's one of the reasons she's not here. (Pause)

I was going to start in one of two ways.  With a poem, but I'm not feeling very poetic right now.  So I'll start with a letter that my son Adam, who just turned five, wrote to the governor in uh, uh, just before Christmas.  There was a vigil...did any of you watch that on television? And, uh, it was his letter.  And he wrote it...he dictated it.  (Clears his throat)  Most of it.

Dear Mr. Governor: (He didn't write that.)

I love you with all my heart. (Clears his throat)  I want you to get the bad people in jail.  (We call the bad people the bad people.)  And how do you do?  I want you to get the bad people in jail because I hate them, Mr. Governor. I want to punch them. (Clears his throat)  Daddy wants to punch them too.  Everyone in my whole family wants to punch them.  And my big brother can punch them really badly.  And my daddy can too.  But he's not going to do it because he'll get in jail for that. And mommy can bite them. That's all she can do. And I call them bad names and scare them. (Clears his throat)  And I send this kiss to you.  And my little brother Eli can also throw a truck at them.  You should put them in jail because they're bad.  All the bad people will get in jail, dear governor.  They should get in jail because they hurt me.  I hope I don't have any more bad dreams.  Make me not have any more bad dreams, governor please.

That's Adam.

I grew up very Victorian and crying was not allowed in my family for men.  I've come a long way.  I want...I want to identify myself very briefly.  I'm a psychologist...a clinical psychologist.  I used to be chief psychologist for this county.  I've taught at UC Berkeley among other places.  Uh, (pause) uh, I want to tell you about the last two mornings of my life. (clears his throat)  I woke this morning at 3:17 a.m.  Uh, Adam was having another bad dream.  This morning's dream, uh, in that dream he was dreaming that his legs had been cut off.  Yesterday I woke up at 4:22 a.m.  That's pretty good for me...and he was choking.  Now the reason he was choking was that...Oh, he didn't have any cold or allergies.  He has allergies too but that's not the reason he was choking.  He was choking...I believe...he has two ways of choking in dreams.  One, uh is choking, uh, sexual meaning...a sexual meaning.  He took part in oral copulation so there's that kind of choking.  I can tell the difference in choking....the way Eskimos can tell...have seven different kinds of snow and the words for that.  He has different kinds of choking.  The other kind of choking is the kind he has when he dreams his head is being cut off because that's what he witnessed and he's choking on his own blood.  Or so we think.

Multiple personality.  My son is a multiple personality.  He has at least three clear identities.  He's a girl.  Why is he a girl?  Because he was dressed as a girl, professionally made up, then raped on stage in front of an audience.  So he's a girl.  He's a killer.  He has the eyes of a killer...less so now, much less so now.  He has a wonderful therapist and I like to think that he has Susan and I as well. He's a killer because he was looked at by people who were killers.  And he's...he has their glance.  He's also seen killings.  And he has himself. And he's a wonderful little boy.  I'll forget about some of the other dreams.  About the murder of his mother.  About being taken away. (Clears his throat)

I'd like to tell you briefly, if I can, about what happened to our son.  It began very innocently.  And this is a continuation of a lot of what you had to say.  If you had any illusions that this is a singular...that your experience is singular, it's not.  And you know that full well.  We placed Adam in child care.  In a private placement.  In a private home with another child.  It was advertised in a child care periodical.  A woman advertised for her son who wanted a mate.  We checked the people out.  They were upper, upper middle-class people. And, uh, they had an au pair - so-called au pair.  A woman in her fifties.  And we left him there for four months.  And we checked them out, checked out references.  We did all we could that people typically do.  While he was there...oh, and he, he spent four months there probably about twenty times. No every day, about six hours each time.

We pulled him out when there untoward signs...like he bit our dog so hard that we had to get rid of the dog that we'd had for years. Loved that dog.  We all did.  He also developed fears.  We didn't understand why, and I'm a psychologist.  He was in the hands of professional people.  And here's what happened to him.

He was taken from this house after my wife had dropped him off in Berkeley.  For those of you who are from around here, you know where that is.  It's about six miles from here.  He was taken in what he called a school bus to other places.  Other children were picked up along the way.  He was taken to a number of locations.  One of them was...sounds like a warehouse...had cement floors. It had cages.  It had a platform for performances and it had an audience, fairly large from his description.  The people were dressed in red.  They wore masks, triangular masks...and there were ceremonies.  There were professional cameras...big cameras...like on TV sets.  Uh...there were performances.  He was, and other children, were raped on stage...raped in every form imaginable.  But there were other performances too.  Children were killed.  He describes the one that has been hardest for me (Clears his throat)... was his description of a baby put in a plastic bag and hammered to death.  He remembers the blood.  There were other ceremonies, if that's what they're called...were blood drinking ceremonies...urine, feces eating...eating of throw-up, he says.  And there were the eating of bloody substance which could...which is probably flesh from bowls at a table.  At the table there were other children as well as adults. Some of the children may have been, uh, retarded.  We think they probably were.  There were some signs of that.  There were black children, white children.  They were all young children.  And apparently some of them, perhaps a lot of them didn't survive.  He has their names. (Pause.)

Uh, I have a semantic issue.  What you have just heard described is called...I have to read it...multi-perpetrator, multi-victim ritualistic child abuse.  Now we have...we have a tendency in our profession, uh, to find names that neutralize what happens.  I don't like that.  I know that's meaningful.  I know it's a way we can talk to one another.  But I think it's helpful to think about...about ritualistic, satanic child abuse in terms other then that.  I prefer to think of it in terms of the brutalization of children.  You haven't heard the half of what happened to Adam and to the other children with whom he was abused in Berkeley and other locations.  So I want to encourage the use of other terms then that one so that you will retain the meaning.  So that Joan doesn't have to get up and...and be so con...be as graphic as she is.  Or I.  And I'm being only as grass... graphic as I let myself be right now.

He saw other things...have you had enough.  He saw the burning of children...the live burial of children...the drowning of children.  Had enough! He did! Okay. That's what happened.

I like to use more direct language.  I rarely hear, if ever...rarely...that when young boy children are sodomized or raped by men...I rarely hear the term homosexual applied to that.  And I want to lay that out for you right now.  That that's...that, uh, many of these people - the men as well as the women - are homosexual.  I just want to say that. It doesn't mean I have a bias against homosexuality.  I only want to spell out for you that that's the way it is.  Did you hear that?  That's just the way it is.  I don't know why we can't be explicit about that.  I am! In my own mind I am.

I want to tell you briefly about what happened as a result of this.  We went to...initially to the Berkeley police.  Uh, they are first were not believing and then they did believe us.  We went to the FBI.  The FBI took it on as a case...investigated it for about a year.  Uh, we went to DA's office, state, the county.  The thing that Adam had done because he is an exceptionally bright child - I like to say that...I'm proud of him for that - he identified close to a dozen of the people.  So we know who they are and they know who we are. And what happened with the investigations by the police, by the state somewhat, mostly by the FBI is NOTHING HAPPENED!  ZERO HAPPENED!  The people are still living where they live...some of them are fairly eminent in the community. NOTHING HAPPENED!  If you read this morning's paper about the McMartin...the Presidio case the last child dropped out.  The chances of nothing happening is very high.  I doubt very much that the McMartin case will ever...that anyone will ever be convicted in the McMartin case and spend any time in jail.

By the way, the McMartin case and the Presidio case , you may or may not know, are cases of ritualistic child abuse.  Are you aware of that?  It's not possible to say more of that.  So nothing happened.

There's one way in which I did not identify myself.  I'm also...I'm an older father.  This is my second marriage.  I have three children with this marriage. Two by my former marriage.  I'm an older father. I am a survivor of the Holocaust.  I was in hiding in Europe for over a year...most of that time unable to talk 'cause German soldiers were billeted in the building...in the farmhouse in which we were hiding.  So I have a built in sense of survival.  I have a commitment to not letting...ever letting anything happen to my children...especially my children what happened to me. It was a horror for us...the three of us...we three children in Europe...in France.  So I have no understanding at all for the acceptance of what happened to my child.  I had no...I have no...I can't...I don't understand how the parents of a child to whom this kind of thing is done can do nothing...can accept that ...become passive. McMartin parents...many of them are depressed.  They're not going to act.  See that's not my...that's not my temperament.  I've alienated some people...police, FBI, politicians on that basis.  I don't give a shit about that.  I don't care.  I intend to see that something happens. Not just in the case of my son, but also for the children.  My rage in omnipresent present.  I wake up with it every morning...every morning.  And my son, Adam, doesn't have to be choking for me to do that.  I am enraged.  My fantasy, of course, is to kill them.  And I'm a rather moral person.  I want to kill them.  You don't hear that too often on television either.  But I won't. Not now.

My wife and I have formed an organization called "Enough".  Some of you I know are here...who are here know that organization.  I'm not enamored with organizations around child abuse.  I think they're mostly masturbating.  They're not acting.  I'm not enamored with masturbation in this context. (laughter) I'm interested in action.  So is my wife.  And nothing short of that.  So our group, which has had some exposure now in the media...some people think we're interested in fame and fortune.  They couldn't be less...that couldn't be less true of us.  Susan and I would love nothing better then to be peaceful with our family and just go on with life.  We can't do that and we won't do that until something else has happened for us.  We simply will not do that.  We long for that.  We long for it.  Our organization "Enough" has had a media professionals - was it October, November?  We've had a vigil at Christmas.  Our purpose is to inform people, to - to invite people - adult survivors, parents of children who've been abused, not just in the way our son Adam was abused but in other ways - to invite them to say something, to act, to talk, to identify themselves.  We have as an additional purpose, ah, changing legislation.  We're not sophisticated in that regard but we know people who are.  We have scheduled for the 15th of May in Golden Gate Fields a rally - what we call a rally - where there will be large numbers of people, hopefully a lot of you, politicians . It's a great year to have rallies - there are lots of politicians.  We'll do whatever we need to get people so that we can inform them.  We invite - we want people in general; we want professionals; we want survivors; we want grandmothers and grandfathers and students.  People...people need to be informed.

...are not in place to protect our children.  My son cannot be protected.  He cannot be avenged.  Now we refuse to go through the process...almost inevitable ...failing process... If the McMartin parents and Presidio parents...and that zillions...a number of other parents have gone through. They come to court...they can't testify...children can't...parents can't in most states.  Hearsay is not admissible.  How can my son testify?  He was a year...he was in diapers when this happened.  He was in diapers when he was raped.  He can't testify.  The law doesn't make room for him to testify.  So we intend to change laws. No, we will not change laws. The people who should be changing laws will be change laws.  What we hope for is to get so many voices shouting at people to act - legislators - people who are equipped to have influence - the clergy, police - that they cannot be ignored. And we won't stop short of that.  We'll up the ante to whatever extent we have to until something happens.  We're committed to that. Uh, if you're interested in what we do we have enough literature out there - you can even have a button.  There's a basket with buttons, we invite to take that.  Jamie's here.  She's... Jamie is...identify you Jamie...is a survivor and she's putting together a book written by survivors.  And there is literature available for you out there.  You will have two reactions out there. I see them now.  Some of you will open your eyes and some of you will close them.  I've... I see that reaction out there now...it's about half and half.  I'm used to that.  I'm actually gratified that more of you are opening your eyes rather then closing them.  That's gratifying me.  It's gratifying.  And I...I...as I get more graphic I see those two dramatic reactions...opening and closing.  I encourage you to hold them open long enough to see and not to do what is so tempting to do which is to deny...or to relegate to insanity.  Something that, if fact, happens on a large scale all over the country.  The rallies, by the way, are not limited to San Francisco.  They will be in other parts of the country as well. You're invited to participated in that.  We want...we need...a lot of help.  We have a lot and we need a lot.  That's what I wanted to say.  Thank you.

(Applause)

Virginia McCullough © October 11, 2005

 


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