For me, my soul — not the law — judges Victor David

I have a notebook full of words here, words printed in The Herald on Tuesday: "He did hurt me. He did cause my falls."

And these: He "was not into hitting and hurting. That’s not the way he was."

I’m going to shut my notebook. I’m going to think about what I saw in Snohomish County Superior Court Monday, not the words I heard.

I saw the puffy, misshapen face of a woman who used to be whole. I saw her arm flop off her wheelchair armrest. I strained to hear the difference between peculiar giggles and ghastly sobs.

At tough questions — "Are you saying Victor did not hurt you and hit you, and did hurt you and hit you? Are you saying both of those things?" — I saw her lower her head, as a turtle pulls into its shell. There came no answer, only a terrible sigh.

I saw a man, the accused, put on his eyeglasses and fumble through folders like some absent-minded professor. I saw Victor David grin and nod while Linda David, seemingly oblivious to her husband’s presence, spoke of horseback riding, and of falling and hitting her head.

Did he throw punches? Did she fall? How did Linda David become a barely intelligible wreck of a woman who can’t see or walk? Jurors in the courtroom, where Victor David is on trial for second-degree assault, hung on her every word, trying to hear answers to those questions.

Jurors have to listen to the words. They have to consider whether Linda David knows and understands what she is saying.

I’m not on that jury. Sitting here with my notebook shut, I don’t have to nail down every detail. I don’t have to go by the law. Was it assault? Or merely, merely, terrible neglect?

Try crimes against humanity, that’s what I think.

In January of 1997, Everett police were called by a social worker to a boat moored off Smith Island. That boat was home to Linda David, the husband who was being paid by the state to care for her, and seven German shepherd dogs.

According to court documents, the woman in court Monday was found that January day nearly starved, in vomit-stained clothing, in a space covered with dog feces; two broken arms had healed without medical attention; her ears had scar tissue so thick doctors couldn’t look inside one ear canal.

Since Victor David’s arrest in 1999, there’s been no end to talk about the state’s failure to protect Linda David.

Last month, a Snohomish County judge approved a nearly $9 million settlement of Linda David’s civil suit against the state. While the state Department of Social and Health Services was paying Victor David to care for his wife, because of her supposed multiple sclerosis, no one checked on her during her last four years on the rotting boat.

Money cannot make Linda David whole. The settlement does put more than $5 million in trust for her care. Someday the trust will establish a foundation in her name to aid organizations that help domestic violence victims.

And remember, Victor David’s case is about domestic violence.

It’s easy to forget that in the bizarre story of the boat that moved from county to county, and of the horribly disfigured woman who came off that boat. It’s easy to think of this extreme case and forget suffering that goes on every day behind closed doors of ordinary-looking homes. Vomit and feces aren’t the only things that stink.

I heard a couple hours of testimony in a trial lasting several weeks. Did Victor David throw punches? In this case, does it matter?

His wife lived a subhuman existence. He was there. He saw.

Yes, the state can take multimillion-dollar blame for what happened to Linda David.

Who really let her down? I saw enough to know. He did.

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