This persistent little red-headed bastard? He has nothing to do with this blog post. I just wanted you to know that he is determined to perforate the aluminum housing on the security light just outside my back fence. Morning, noon and night, he works on it.
Go ahead, count the holes he's made. Count 'em.
I hate this bird. And, yet...
I hate this bird. And, yet...
We are back in court, people!
Court hearings screw with my productivity. I don't have time to traipse all over the country-side to sit for three or four hours in a sparsely populated courtroom, and/or barn, to do my bit for the traveling dog and pony show that is Provincial Jurisprudence.
However, it is also my favorite part of the job, so I don't actually complain.
Court hearings were few and far between for the last six months or so because the retiring District Attorney was winding down her cases and not starting much of anything new so as to give the new guy a fresh start.
So far, his start has been pretty good. I've enjoyed getting to know Ford, the new guy, and I was thrilled to learn that he's got an extremely dry sense of humor. He's one of those people that will quietly slip a perfectly worded verbal stiletto between the ribs of conversation, then twist ever so slightly. That's my favorite kind of humor.
Of course being in court more often means more fun stuff going on. This week's round of motions and pleas had it's fair share.
Monday was our scheduled court day. Various lawyers, deputies, and questionable characters filtered through the doors into the cavernous courtroom.
One of the defense attorneys corralled the DA and I as we settled into our seats. "Since you're both here," he said, "can we talk about the Morris case?" He pulled the motion asking to have Morris' probation revoked from his briefcase.
"I know you're wanting him to go to prison," he told me, "But you don't really have anything on him since he got out of that long-term treatment other than his drug use that one time," he said, ignoring the other allegations in the motion - failure to do lots of things, like attending counseling and after-care meetings.
"He used a LOT of drugs that one time," I said.
"Well, yeah," the attorney agreed, "but he tells me he wasn't using just for recreation, he was trying to kill himself."
"He almost made a success of that!"
"Let's just wait and see how this all plays out," Ford said. "The hearing is scheduled for next month. We'll present the evidence then and see what the Judge wants to do."
The lawyer stuffed the motion back in his briefcase and moved on. Ford shook his head. "He wasn't using for fun?! Only a defense attorney would try to turn a suicide attempt into a positive!"
The first several hearings that morning were pretrial motions, continuances and guilty pleas for prison time - things that I did not have any direct interest in. When court is in session, a probation officer sits at the prosecution table with the District Attorney in most jurisdictions. The officer keeps a written record of and is witness to the proceedings so that we are available to testify, if needed, to details like whether the defendant in a future hearing is "one and the same" person that participated in this hearing. We also answer questions that the Court or the attorneys may have about probation or Interstate Compact regulations or some other area of [perceived] expertise.
So, for the first half of the day, I didn't have much to do except listen to the hearings and banter with people in between. Naturally, I doodled on my docket sheet while court was in session.
I noticed Ford kept glancing over at my drawing. He chuckled once or twice. Eventually the Judge called a recess to allow a defense attorney to confer with his client.
As soon as the defendant was out of the courtroom, the DA addressed the court: "I just don't know what to think about her," he said, jabbing an accusatory thumb in my direction. The Judge cocked an eyebrow at him. "She's over here all smiling and acting nice and then I look down and she's drawing skulls and crossbones all over everything!" He looked over at me, "Where did that come from?"
"I know what you mean," the Judge said with a heavy sigh. "I keep expecting her to come in here with black hair and fingernails. She's just the happiest goth you've ever seen."
I pointed out that I had, in fact, come to work with black nails once and no one noticed. Or, at least, no one commented. We all agreed that although my skin tone was sufficiently Wednesday Addams, we didn't think the coal black hair thing would really work for me. Because freckles.
This lead to the inevitable discussion of Munsters Vs. Addams Family. The Judge and DA were both in the Munsters camp. The court reporter and I were Team Addams. The 27 year old deputy/bailiff stood silent at his post, looking confused. This was followed by Bewitched vs. Jeannie. We were all agreed I Dream of Jeannie was the better show. Darren and the nose-twitching on Bewitched were just plain irritating.
Just as things were getting interesting and the Judge was warming up a diatribe about how both Darren and Major Whatshisname on Jeannie were two of the most stupid people ever, the defense attorney re-entered the courtroom, client in tow.
This particular plea bargain was for probation, so I straightened in my chair and put what I hoped was a more professional expression on my face. I had my paperwork lined up in front of me so I could accurately record the Court's orders during the hearing, and maybe surreptitiously add bit of shading to my skull drawing.
The hearing started innocently and progressed smoothly. The laughter lingered in the air and we were all smiles. The defendant made his plea of guilty. The Judge questioned him briefly and his attorney attested to his competency. The DA presented the terms of the plea bargain.
The Judge then began his ruling:
"The Court, finding nothing in bar as to why sentence should not now be pronounced, hereby sentences you to a term of six years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, probated for a term of eight years -"
Both attorneys leapt to their feet. Ford spoke first. "Uh, Your Honor, the plea bargain was for six years of probation, not eight."
The Judge glanced down at the file, "I'm sorry. You're right." He looked back at the defendant. "I'm sentencing you to six years of probation." A pause. "Unless you want another two years." He gestured vaguely in my direction. "I mean, look at her. Don't you want a chance to come see the probation officer for another two years?"
The air sucked out of the room.
Eyes widened en mass as we were all - the Judge included - struck by the blatant sexism of that comment. I wasn't particularly offended, just surprised. The Judge vacillated momentarily between out-right apology and/or mute shock at his poor choice of words. For a moment, a long tense moment, the entire room paused, intent on his next utterance.
It was then that an as yet unheard voice spoke timidly from the far side of the defense table.
"Uh, I'm legally blind, Your Honor. I can't see her."
He's only gonna do six years.