Final notes from the Starns trial
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
April 21, 2002
So many difficult and vivid images were evoked as witnesses testified in the murder trial of Peggy Lynn Sloan Starns, convicted Saturday of murdering her 4-year-old stepdaughter, Angela Schnoor.
Michael Schnoor describing a quick trip home while Angela was in the hospital to take a shower and put on some warm clothes because it was so cold in the intensive care unit's waiting room.
A father going into his daughter's bedroom and seeing everyday objects with the clarity that such a moment brings. Folding his man's body up to sit on a little yellow plastic chair and look at Angela's jewelry, which she kept in a heart-shaped ceramic dish.
Defense attorney Dan Self clashing with Special Assistant Attorney General Scott Leary over sarcastic side comments the prosecutor had made. Two men, the rising attorney and the veteran, standing nose to nose with their chins stuck out. They could have been father and son, or two bull walruses on a beach.
A male nurse running into the hospital with Angela in his arms, doing rescue breathing and chest compressions on the way. Debbie Boswell, Angela's mother, breaking down in tears during her testimony.
But the one that will not leave me is from the moment Angela died. She had several seizures in the hospital, the last as she passed away. In this final moment, her arms lifted and her hands turned in. Angela's family stood clustered around the window of the room, looking in. They were hopeful. They didn't realize what was happening.
Michael Schnoor spoke for them all.
In his morning greeting Saturday, Circuit Judge Larry Roberts said he understood there had been some kind of meeting of "soccer moms" at the jury's motel the night before, and that there had been a lot of children there.
The judge asked investigator Bill East of the attorney general's office to break the tabs off a cassette recording of a February 2001 interview with Peggy Lynn Sloan Starns so that the jury could not inadvertently erase it.
East's wife and daughter were in the courtroom Saturday. The little girl had a Scooby-Doo doll, and told her father that she wanted to "come and take that bad lady to jail."
Evidence in a trial is not carried by a bailiff or deputy to the jury room after closing arguments. It is placed directly into the hands of the jurors as they are still sitting in the jury box.
The only charge the jury considered was murder. They did not receive an instruction from the judge that they could consider the lesser included charge of manslaughter.
Katherine Horne, a local writer who qualified as a prospective juror but was not chosen for the panel, attended most of the trial this week including Saturday's closing arguments and rendering of the verdict.
Jurors didn't have time to eat their lunches. They carried them home, as did many courthouse employees who worked on Saturday.
As he left Saturday, Leary commented on a meeting he had Friday with courtroom spectators from Debbie Boswell's family. He said "both sides were worried the other was contacting witnesses," and wanted to make sure that was not happening.
Debbie Boswell said she plans to read a transcript of the trial. For the sake of clarity, she was referred to in The Meridian Star's trial coverage by the name she was known by in 1984. She has, however, remarried and her husband's name is Charles Pepple.