It took the jury of five women and seven men one hour to come to a verdict, finding 56 year-old Catherine Carlson guilty of first degree arson, possessing a hoax destructive device and indecent exposure.
After the verdict Carlson’s attorney Phillip Heersink said that although he “was not overly surprised” he was still “disappointed” by the decision.
Against Heersink’s advice, Carlson took the stand as the only witness for the defense. Extremely thin and gaunt, the weathered looking Carlson began her testimony restrained and respectful. She responded to her attorney’s questions regarding the events leading up to her July 11, 2010 arrest.
During cross-examination Payette Country prosecutor Anne Marie Kelso’s, line of questioning agitated Carlson. It got particularly emotional during the following exchange between Carlson and Kelso.
Kelso: “For at least seven years you were trying to deal with people knowing you were a transsexual is that right?”
Carlson: “Yea, I lived in Washington country for ten years and nobody even knew I was there and then all of a sudden this starts up.”
Kelso: “So at that point people know that you also go by Daniel?”
Carlson: “No! I don’t go by Daniel Carlson!”
Kelso: “You used to go by Daniel Carlson?”
Carlson: “No! I was born with the name but nobody has referred to me as Daniel Carlson since the early 70’s!”
Kelso: “So you’re understandably angry that a personal detail about your life is out in public?”
Carlson: “No! I’m angry because the public doesn’t understand there’s people out there that deliberately and intentionally beat people like me up, assault me…Because of this information is out there…this information is making a target out of me.”
“I cannot get the state for the life of me to understand that every time they use this information, every time they transmit this information over this scanner, every time it comes out on this document, this paper or I get hauled into court…bringing this information up, it makes a target out of me for a hate crime.”
Kelso: “I understand that, I understand that you are angry but you’ll agree with me that you are very angry about this?”
Carlson: “I’m angry because what happens is that I end up locked in my own house because I don’t feel safe.”
After the Jury was excused, District Judge Susan B. Wiebe urged Carlson to participate in the pre-sentencing investigation, which would be to Carlson’s favor allowing the judge to consider probation as part of her sentencing.
The defeated Carlson softly told the Judge she did not see what good it would do for her to participate because if given probation she would deliberately violate it anyway.
Human rights activist and transgender advocate, Emilie Jackson-Edney, was in the courtroom for the entire proceedings. Jackson-Edney said she felt, “Catherine was dealt with respectfully and there was no condemnation with regard to her gender identity and for that I was pleased.” After witnessing all the evidence presented in the case, Jackson-Edney was not surprised by the verdict.
Kelso later said, “I feel bad for the defendant.” Kelso’s co-council, deputy Prosecuting attorney Jennifer Carlquist said, “It’s impossible not to feel sorry for her but she still needs to be held accountable.”
Kelso and Carlquist both agreed that Carlson appears to be mentally ill but said that in Idaho, the judge does not have the ability to sentence her to a hospital. That will be up to the Idaho Department of Corrections.
Judge Wiebe scheduled Carlson’s sentencing for June 17, 2011.
In the interest of full disclosure, a portion of a phone conversation this reporter had with Carlson in the the course of reporting was played in court. Last weeks news feature in the Boise Weekly was also mentioned.
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