Karly’s Law Posts

A Fortunate Girl


The roads are slick with snow and ice.

The sky is grey and foreboding.

Holed up here in my office, thinking of Karly Sheehan.

Today is her birthday.

Or the day that marks what is her 15th birthday, although Karly died at age 3.

Tortured, the jury declared, by a monster so much bigger than her that it’s inconceivable the wrongs he inflicted upon Karly.

I hear from people almost weekly, people around the world who have read or are reading Karly’s story. They always tell me that meeting Karly that way – through a story that chronicles her life and her death – makes them weep. They tell me stories of the abuses they, too, suffered, and how thankful they are to have survived child abuse.

read more

Somewhere in a Courtroom Today


Somewhere in a courtroom today decisions are being made about the welfare of children, abused and neglected.

Hardly a week passes by that I don’t receive a note from an adult who was abused, neglected. They always ask the same question: Why didn’t anyone intervene on my behalf? I was just a kid.

Somewhere in a courtroom today a CASA worker speaks up on behalf of  a child, caged and chained, starved until almost dead.

I answer the emails from those adults who managed to survive the abuse, the neglect: I am so, so sorry. I wish you’d had someone to intervene on your behalf.

read more

Dishonorable Soldiers



Soldier Jeanie Ditty and her boyfriend.

Most often I am compelled to write about the ways in which we need to honor our veterans and military families. This compulsion is the result of growing up a Gold Star daughter during the height of the Vietnam War. I wrote After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow) for the very purpose of setting the record straight about those who served, and how they and their families were mistreated as a result of simply doing what their country required of them. I knew my father to be a more honorable man than the crazed soldiers depicted in all those Vietnam war flicks that Hollywood was cranking out. Most soldiers I’ve come into contact with over the years have been honorable people. They don’t seek the limelight. They don’t consider themselves heroes. They go out of their way to serve others. And most importantly, they are there for each other.

read more

Lady Cop in Stayton


I saw the gal sitting in a booth at the Ixtapa Restaurant in Stayton, Oregon. Her thick Norwegian blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. A little girl, maybe two-years of age, sat on the inside next to the big picture window. Across the table, munching on chips and salsa, was a boy, maybe nine or ten.

She was dressed in her work uniform.

That of a police officer.

I was listening to Phillip Margolin (yes, the thriller writer Margolin) talk about when he taught Language Arts to kids in the Bronx, back in the day. Margolin was urging me to toss out the high brow literature of Silas Marner and replace it with Mickey Spillane noir fiction.

read more

Dressing up for Trial


I’m sensitive to these sorts of things, you understand. I can’t help myself. A person’s background informs present realities. So when I see pictures like the one above of Army Major John Jackson wearing full dress uniform as he heads into court, I want to holler at somebody.

The dress uniform holds personal meaning to me. The last time I saw my father he, too, was wearing something similar. Only Daddy wasn’t dressed up for court. He was dressed up for burying.

Every now and again, I come across those close-up photos that somebody, Lord only knows who, took of my father in that casket. When I was a young girl and would happen across those photos in Mama’s file box, the sight would sicken me something fierce. I would shut my eyes and quickly flip through the photos, scared that if I looked too closely at my daddy that way, I might not ever get that dead man’s face out of my mind. Now that I am older, I have actually held those those photos in my hands and studied them for a good long while. I am never quite sure what I am searching for, some hint, I think, of emotion. I believe the face ought to tell the living something about the dying.

read more