Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts October 2007

Weekend Justice

The public defender was good.  The Asst. D.A. was better.  The jury took just two hours to decide.  Guilty of first degree murder.  The sentence was automatic - life in prison for a former police officer.

Jeffrey Dennis.  Photo from

That's pretty much how it went down yesterday at the Luzerne County Courthouse as the two-week trial of Jeffrey Dennis came to a quick end.  The final witnesses were called on Friday.  For whatever reasons, the judge decided that closing arguments would be on Saturday with deliberations beginning immediately after.  My station needed someone to cover the happenings, so I volunteered to sit in on the closing arguments and then hand things off to a reporter.

It's been several years since I had the opportunity to sit in on a trial.  The best one was in 2000 when the former mayor of York and several other white men went on trial for the shooting death of a black woman during the city's race riots in 1968.  I was there, working as a field producer, from jury selection to the verdict - the whole thing took about a month - and I loved every minute of it.  I remember the verdict came down on a Saturday (I think the jury had already been deliberating for a day or two), we barely made our slot for the 6PM news, and then we celebrated by ordering pizza and eating it on the courthouse steps!

For me, the most memorable moment of that trial came shortly after the verdict.  There were six or seven defendants, and they were all found guilty of something - except for the former mayor.  He was found not guilty.  Then, it was time to get reaction from all the players.  The problem was that the York County Courthouse had two exits - the front and the back - and you didn't really know when or where someone was going to come out.  So, our reporter and a photographer staked out the front, and I went to the back with another photographer.  (The competition did the same, so there was quite a crowd.)

Well, who comes out the back but the former mayor and his high-profile lawyer.  They came out the back door, turned left, and headed down the alley toward the main street.  We all followed, taking pictures and asking questions.  My thought was that it had been a year or so since the former mayor was first charged.  That's a lot of stress for anyone, especially a guy who's 70 or so.  I blurted out something like "Now that it's over, what are you going to do tomorrow?"  His answer, "Go to church and play golf."

Anyway, back to our former cop in Luzerne County.  The basic story is that his wife, Carli, was shot to death in their bed in February 2006.  Prosecutors said Jeffrey Dennis killed Carli because she was having an affair, then tried to make it look like a suicide.  Dennis claimed that it was a suicide - no murder, no cover-up.

I did not get to sit through this whole trial, just the closing arguments.  I thought the public defender did very well, using words such as "absurd" and "ludicrous" to describe the prosecution's version of events, and trying to cast doubt on the evidence and the testimony of expert witnesses.  But, in her closing, the Asst. D.A. addressed all of his points, doing her best to refute them.  And, she ended by showing a sequence of pictures - the couple on their wedding day, then a picture of dead and bloody Carli at the crime scene, and then a picture of Dennis in a blood-smeared T-shirt.  Very effective.  And worth going to work for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

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Strange Fascination

I don't know why I'm so obsessed by this Goya story, considering that art is one of those things that I just don't get.  In terms of painting and drawing, my skill is limited and so is my knowledge of the skills that go into making valuable art such as Goya's "Children with a Cart."  Why is it worth $1 million?  Other than the fact that it's 230 years old or so, I don't know.  But, apparently it is a valuable painting, and it was stolen, so I have questions. 

I was going to post this as a response to Harold's response to my previous post, but, I have too many questions for that.  So ....

1.  Exactly how was the Goya being transported?  I have no idea how big this painting is.  I'm thinking it's of some decent size, as opposed to being very tiny.  So, was the painting being transported in its frame?  Was it also perhaps placed inside some sort of crate?  Or, was it taken out of its frame, rolled up, and put into one of those cardboard cylinders.  Maybe that's just not done with million-dollar paintings.   Whatever happened, the transport vehicle (a van, according to the original article) was big enough to hold it.

2.  Why were the professional art transporters taking a "circuitous route through the backwater of Scranton" to get from Toledo to New York City?  For security reasons?  Wouldn't the most secure option be to get to NYC as quickly as possible by taking the most direct route - Interstate 80 - and driving straight through?  If you, as a professional art transporter, don't feel safe doing that, shouldn't you at least make sure that the painting is "attended" at all times, even when you stop for the night?

3.  The FBI seems to be of the opinion that the suspect in the theft, an independent trucker from New Jersey, allegedly stole the painting in what they believe was a crime of opportunity.  The FBI does not even seem convinced that the suspected thief knew what he was stealing.  My question is, if he didn't know he was stealing a valuable painting, just what exactly did he THINK he was stealing?

This goes back to my earlier point about the packaging.  Let's say the painting was rolled up in a cyclinder.  If the alleged thieving truck driver didn't know there was a painting in there, just what did he suppose it was?  Blueprints?

If the painting was in some sort of crate, maybe the guy thought it was a TV or a computer or something.  OK.  I'll buy that.  But, AFWK, the trucker acted alone, meaning that he broke into the van and removed the crate all by himself.  If one guy can do that, don't you think the two "professional art transporters" could have managed to carry their million-dollar cargo into the motel for the night - especially if they were worried about security and that's why they took the aforementioned "circuitous route through the backwater of Scranton."

The whole thing makes no sense.  Kind of like the art world.

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Goya: Part III

The wheels of justice move slowly, but they do move.  Just ask the truck driver from New Jersey who just got busted for stealing a Goya.

Flashback to almost a year ago, when I posted THIS entry.  The gist of it is that a valuable painting by Goya was stolen while the transport vehicle was left unattended in the parking lot of a motel in the Poconos.  A few days later, I posted THIS update when the painting had been found.

Now comes THIS update, in which an arrest has been made.  The suspect?  A self-employed trucker from New Jersey.  It seems he saw an opportunity to steal the painting, allegedly did so, but then suddenly "discovered" the painting in his basement when he realized it was too hot to handle.  Now he's under arrest (why did it take a year to charge him?) and, according to the article, has decided to "not immediately contest his detainment."  I guess that means he likes the food in jail??  And here's me, thinking that maybe it was an inside job.  Never overestimate the criminal element.

Anyway, the questions I posted in the previous post remain.  Specifically, what's the deal with these professional art transporters?  I still don't understand why these people had to stop for the night - at a HoJo's, no less - in the Poconos when it's only a 9 hour drive from Toledo, where the painting was, to Manhattan, where it was being taken.  I don't understand why two people couldn't make that trip in one shot.  And, since they did stop, why are they leaving a valuable painting unattended?

Just another thing I don't get about art, I guess.

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41 is the New 35

While we wait for the death pool dying to commence, here's a little something to kill the time.  It's a life expectancy calculator, which I found through one of the news websites that I frequent.  You enter your actual age, answer a bunch of questions about your lifestyle, and end up with your current virtual age and the age at which you can expect to die.  For those of you who really want to plan ahead, it also calculates how many days of life you have left.

Have fun!




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Give Me the Daggers!


20.  Norman Mailer                                         10.  George H.W. Bush
19.  Nancy Reagan                                         9.  Ernest Borgnine
18.  Betty Ford                                               8.  Olivia de Havilland
17.  Kirk Douglas                                             7.  Eli Wallach
16.  Fidel Castro                                             6.  Abe Vigoda
15.  Ariel Sharon                                             5.  Mickey Rooney
14.  Muhammad Ali                                          4.  Alan Greenspan
13.  Billy Graham                                             3.  Phyllis Diller
12.  Louis Farrakhan                                       2.  John Wooden
11.  Mark Felt ("Deep Throat")                       1.  Jerry Lewis              

"Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures."
 - Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, act II, scene ii, lines 52-54

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I See Dead People

This past week was rather slow.  Not much news to speak of.  At work, I'm busy preparing for our coverage of the upcoming election.  Most of the action would seem to be in Lackawanna County which has the most interesting commissioners' race, and which will be using optical scanners to count votes because the new electronic machines have been de-certified for what would appear to be a really stupid reason.  Anyway, it should be an eventful night.

It's been about a month now since my computer crash.  In that time, I have rebuilt (and backed up!) my music database.  This morning, I finished doing the same for my book collection.  My next project is to get my CV in order.

I also need to come up with a list of 20 people who just might die sometime in the next 12 months.  One of the guys at work is starting up a "Death Pool" and I'm in!  I was in one for a few years, but eventually I dropped out because I never won.  Hardly anyone on my list ever dropped dead.  I was like the angel of life.  If you were on my list, your chances of surviving were pretty good.  In fact, I think I personally kept Pope John Paul II alive for about three years.

Anyway, I've been out of the "Death Pool" loop for a while, so suggestions are welcome.

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Too Hot to Handle

On Monday, October 1, as the Padres played the Rockies for the final playoff spot in the National League, we Phillies fans in the newsroom were hoping - HOPING - that the Padres would win.  Because the Rockies were hot - HOT - and HOT is hard to beat.

Well, the Phillies found out just how hard, getting swept by the aforementioned Rockies 3-0.  The Phils, who averaged something like 6 runs a game in the regular season, could only muster 8 total runs during the short-lived series.  They struck out at an alarming rate, showed a lack of discipline at the plate, and mustered a team batting average that didn't get above the Mendoza line.  That's no way to win even if the team you're playing is NOT on a 17-1 roll or something ridiculous like that.

Maybe this is the Rockies' year.  I will not be at all surprised if they manage to sweep the Diamondbacks and make it to the World Series.  I may even root for them! 

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Name That Tune (Again)

Because there's no baseball worth talking about, let's see if we can't track down another one of my mystery songs.  At last check, there were still three songs with unidentified artists.

Today's candidate is a ballad called, as best as I can tell, "No Other Love."  My best guess is that it dates back to the mid-80s, likely 1986 or 1987, and may have enjoyed limited airplay in the UK.  I'm guessing that because the song is on a tape that's filled with songs I recorded off the radio during that time period.  On this tape, if you must know, it's sandwiched between "Forbidden Love" by The Communards and "Everything I Own" by Boy George.  (I know - it was the 80s, OK???)

"No Other Love" would seem to be in the R& B/Soul genre, sung by a man (with female support on the chorus), and with lyrics as follows:

No other love can break my heart
No other love can you set my soul on fire
No other love can break my heart
No other love can you set my soul on fire

(man) Last night, dreamin' 'bout my babe
I just ....
I ......
Surely break us apart


(man) I travel all day to see my baby
The city that you live in, so far away
I ....  
Surely break us apart


Baby, you know I love you, girl
I'll do anything you want me to do
(there's more, but this is the general jist)

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One Hot Series

Looks like the Phillies will have to fight fire with phire.  The only team hotter than the Phillies down the stretch was the Rockies.  Within the past hour, the Rockies gave up 2 runs in the 13th inning against the Padres, then came back with 3 of their own against the Padres' suddenly vulnerable closer.  I suppose that's only fair, since the game never should have gone to extra innings ...

Anyway, now we know that the Phillies will take on the Rockies in the NLDS that starts on Wednesday.  You have two hot teams, playing in two hitters' ballparks.  Anyone taking bets on how many runs will be scored until it's all said and done?  I hope the official scorekeepers have lots of extra space!

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I Love New York!

Thank You, Mets!  Go Phillies!!!


Photos from September 30, 2007.  Courtesy:  Rob Kandel, Morning Call (Top); Tom Mihalek, AP (Left); Eric Hartline, US Presswire (Right)

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