It wouldn’t be fair to the men and women working in the Judicial System if I said it was completely broken; there are some fine folks trying to make things better. However, when I attended court proceedings this month for the criminal who tried to smash her way into my home, I witnessed enough to set law-abiding gun owners-who by definition rarely find themselves in criminal court-on edge. It was quite an education.
At 10:45 a.m., as I was entering the county courthouse, an apparently under-the-influence-of-something couple approached and asked if I was an attorney. Their clothes were noticeably dirty, he was unshaven, her hair was uncombed and they cleared security right behind me. Being poor or living on the street doesn’t make you a bad person, but upon entering the courtroom I discovered they were in dress code and I was not.
There were five ties in a room filled with roughly 70 people-worn by two bailiffs, two district attorneys and myself. Three sport coats were in attendance, the DAs’ and mine. The judge had on a red bow tie. In the audience-of-accused there were tennis shoes, work boots and sandals. Not everyone can afford decent clothes, but the deliberate disrespect for the authority of the courtroom was obvious in hoodies hiding heads, camo raincoats that remained on during proceedings and holey T-shirts.
Remember, this is criminal court, not an early morning arraignment as they drain the drunk tank. I decided it best to sit as far back as possible, so I pardoned myself by a woman wearing Jack Daniels perfume with eyes redder than a road map to Cincinnati.
Sometime around the third or fourth case she began some sort of unnatural gurgling, so I didn’t hear the entire conversation at the bench. I was, however, able to hear the DA tell the judge, “Unfortunately we’re understaffed and overworked, so things like this do happen.” “So you’re free to go,” the judge said disgustedly after delivering a short lecture. The accusations of drug trafficking were dropped due to some sort of paperwork snafu. Without saying so much as a “thank you,” the no-longer-accused turned and strode out of the courtroom with Hollywood defiance.
More than half of the chairs in the gallery section had their arms broken off, so it was sort of a relief when the DA called my name and finally moved me up front for my case. I say sort of, because my back was to everyone-and we all know how that turned out for Wild Bill Hickok.
The plea agreement was already set, so there was no need to address the judge. One-year probation with substance-abuse monitoring and counseling, a no-contact order, I get my $500 homeowner’s deductible back (paying higher premiums thanks to the incident) and the court recoups about $200 in costs. The perp’s high-priced attorney hinged the defense on the fact that his client was drunk and had no criminal intent-alcoholic absolution, so to speak, where all is forgiven and forgotten, except my memory of the night, when my AR-15 pointing directly at an unblinking zombie did absolutely nothing to stop a criminal attack.