Thursday, January 1, 2009


If you cannot record conversations on a camera, cellphone, ipod, or other recorder, then use “verbatims” to document appointments, hearings, children’s disclosures. Write as much as you can remember as soon as possible after it happens.

Verbatims look like a script and use people’s names or initials followed by precise words using this simple format:


This is an actual verbatim that I inserted into this post at a later date:

JH = Judge Higgins, District Courtroom 4C
PR=Special Assistant Attorney General Peter Roklan, State Prosecutor
JP=Jeffrey Pine, lawyer for MD; Pine is a former Attorney General
MD=mother of 3-year-old
HF=sister of MD’s ex-husband
AF=husband of HF

Situation: MD's ex-husband and his family have subjected her to repeated frivolous arrests and imprisonments, a well-known pattern of abuse called domestic violence by proxy. She is now being accused of taking photographs outside the home of HF, her ex-husband's sister, who claims to have a restraining order against MD. The Attorney General's office is aggressively prosecuting her.

DATE: September 2, 2009
TIME: 2 pm
PLACE: Garrahy Courthouse, Providence, RI District Court 4C and Superior Court 5G
OCCASION: Arraignment for MD (mother of 3-year-old AD).

District Court Judge Higgins sends MD to Superior Court Magistrate Gallo; Special Assistant Attorney General Peter Roklan is upset that Cumberland prosecutor did not cite MD as a probation violator.

JP: For God's sake, how many times are you going to prosecute this woman for the same crime? (JP leaves courtroom and returns to District Courtroom 4C.)

(In District Courtroom 4C:)

JH: I will not hear it. If your client is going to prison, it is just too bad, and you'll have to take it up with the AG.

JP: We just had a hearing in Superior Court and had a date set for a violation and/or bail hearing.

JH: My decision is final.

(Later state prosecutor PR returns to 4C.)

PR: She can't be released.

JP: There is not even a scintilla of probable cause on which to hold her. The restraining order was in the name of HF and the complaint was brought by AF and furthermore the restraining order was never served on MD and therefore was invalid. … Where are your balls? Be a man! Make a decision! You have the authority to make this decision!

PR: I am not in a position to make that decision.

Clerk: What is the final decision?

JP: I don’t know. It’s up to the AG, and he is not budging.

Clerk: The judge will not hear you. He’s left me in charge to note the final decision in the record.

JP (slamming his papers and file on the desk and pounding his index finger on the desk in front of the clerk): I want to be heard! You get that judge out here! I demand to be heard!

(Clerk leaves. A few moments later, Judge Higgins returns to the bench.)

JH: She’s going to the ACI, and that’s that!

JP: You will hear me, because if you do not, you are abusing your power and allowing the AG to perpetuate a malicious prosecution case. … HF has a restraining order against MD. However, HF did not file the complaint.

JH: That doesn’t matter. If MD was out on the street taking pictures, then she is in violation of the restraining order.

JP: No restraining order is presently in existence, because it was never served on MD, and if there is no knowledge, then there is no order.

JH: I’ll incarcerate MD until tomorrow and that will give them time to check the court records to see if the order had been served or not.

JP: That won’t be necessary. MD’s mother went to the clerk’s office and picked up the original that was never served from Magistrate Shepard’s clerk, and she has it with her.

JH: Do you in fact have it?

MD’s mother: I certainly do. (Searches in bag and gives it to sheriff who gives it to judge.)

JH: It is not possible that this was not served on MD.

(Judge reads, then speaks to PR)

JH: You’ve got to dismiss this case. If you don’t, I’ll 48A it.

JH (to JP): There is no valid restraining order in existence. AF does not have a restraining order against MD.

JH (to MD’s mother): I know you paid bail money, and I want you to go right down there and get your money back.

JP: Judge, her husband and his family have her arrested every time there is an issue of custody in family court.

JH (to JP): This is what to put in the dismissal stipulation. Do it now.

• report words as precisely as possible
• include actions in parentheses
• make it easier to recall and document conversations
• keep a more accurate record than a narrative description
• help you keep calm when your child's disclosures upset you
• help you avoid asking your child about disclosures (which might contaminate the disclosure)
• make the event more accessible for a reader to envision it happening

WARNING: When you document troubling comments that your children say to you, do not show these records to court officers or clinicians who may use them against you, as if you were “alienating," "brainwashing," or "coaching" your child to say these things against an abuser. However, the verbatims you keep of your child's disclosures may some day help your child to comprehend early traumatic experiences. For more about the search to find traumatic causes of DID, see The United States of Tara explanation: