Parents appeal Anna Mae ruling
Statement by Hes labels Childers as 'a biased, prejudiced and lying judge'
By Shirley Downing
May 20, 2004
The birth parents of 5-year-old Anna Mae He on Wednesday appealed last week's ruling that terminated their parental rights and gave their first-born child to a Cordova couple to adopt.
Attorneys for Shaoqiang 'Jack' and Qin Luo 'Casey' He notified Circuit Court of their appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals of the May 12 ruling by Judge Robert Childers.
The Hes, both Chinese nationals, have fought more than four years for the return of their daughter from her foster parents, Cordova mortgage banker Jerry Baker and homemaker wife, Louise.
Baker attorney Larry Parrish earlier said it would be a "real blessing" if the Hes did not appeal. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
After a 10-day bench trial this spring Childers terminated the Hes' parental rights and branded the couple as calculating cheats. He said the Hes were unfit to parent Anna Mae. He said they were guided by efforts to avoid deportation.
"We totally disagree with Judge Childers's decision," the Hes said in a prepared statement. "His decision was based upon nothing but character assassinations, deliberate omission of some crucial evidence and distortion of basic facts."
The Hes' statement said facts would "show Honorable Judge Childers as a biased, prejudiced and lying judge."
Childers discounted virtually everything the Hes said at trial, but accepted Jerry Baker's testimony about what Jack He allegedly had said.
"If Judge Childers believes that Mr. He is always telling lies and Mr. Baker is always telling truth, then what Mr. Baker said that Mr. He said are also lies," the statement noted. "Mr. Baker can't turn lies into truth by simply repeating them. This is common sense."
The Hes said if Childers was truly concerned about Anna Mae's welfare he would not have posted such a harsh ruling on the Internet for the world and, eventually, Anna Mae to see.
"Common sense tells us that people are hurt when they are told that their blood parents are being labeled as cheats and frauds, this is true for people of Chinese and all other known cultures," the statement said.
The Hes accused Childers of "racial elitism" and said he also showed "extreme animosity" towards Casey He when he questioned the sincerity of her tears.
The Hes said they want their daughter to know her birth parents fought hard to keep her, that they did not abandon her, and that "Mom and Dad are normal human beings."
In early 1999 the Hes voluntarily gave the Bakers legal custody of the 3-week-old child. The Hes were under financial and legal stress. After a 90-day fostering period the Hes prepared to send Anna Mae to China to stay with relatives until Jack He - who had been fired from his graduate assistantship at the University of Memphis - finished school and resolved a sexual assault charge of which he was acquitted.
The Bakers offered to keep Anna Mae and put her on their insurance. The Hes said they thought the fostering agreement was temporary, an assessment backed by three court witnesses.
The Hes visited the girl more than 80 times in two years. But when the Bakers called police to their home after a dispute arose on Anna Mae's second birthday, officers told the Hes to stay away.
Several weeks later the Hes appealed to Juvenile Court. In a June 2001 hearing Referee Harold Horne indicated Anna Mae should go back to her birth parents.
Horne continued the hearing for two weeks to allow the Bakers time to get an attorney.
But the Bakers then petitioned Chancery Court to terminate the Hes' rights and allow the foster parents to adopt Anna Mae. Four months had elapsed without a visit, which met the state law for abandonment. This lawsuit removed the case from Juvenile Court.
The Hes said they were unfamiliar with American laws and customs when they gave the Bakers legal custody. They accuse the Cordova couple of using costly lawyers and the courts to steal their daughter. The Bakers said they rescued an unwanted girl from a life of hardship in China.
The Bakers have said their legal costs are about $500,000. The Hes have been represented by attorneys who are working for free.
Jack He has supported his family by working in low-paying restaurant jobs. The couple live in a Cordova apartment where Casey He tends the couple's two younger children.
While the Bakers celebrated last week's ruling, the Hes said they have been very discouraged.
Louise Baker said it felt as if bricks had been taken from her chest. "God is the one who did it for us," she told friends last week who called to share the family's happiness.
The Hes called it "heartbreaking to have our parental rights being terminated in the most brutal manner at the end of our four-year struggle. . . . This is a horror, a death penalty to us."
- Shirley Downing: