Monday, September 14, 2009

Pepper Spray, Part 2--the Holding Cell

After I was pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested for objecting to Your Hometown Courthouse Security Personnel's abusive behavior directed at a citizen/client and self--I was jailed in an area of the Hometown Jail called Protective Custody. This select area of the Jail is for honored customers like the local pedophiles, serial rapists, and celebrity offenders now including yours truly. Several hours after the melee and jailing an attorney of my acquaintance located my body and was able to obtain a judicial release without bail.

The next day my arrest made the front page of the Metro section of the Our Hometown Newspaper--at least I was called "prominent" in the report which fairly characterized the deputee-riot as pretty much what it was--though, a Sheriff-representative described how I manhandled two of the officers injuring them in the process and promising my prompt prosecution for felonious assault. Ultimately, this spokesperson proved perspicacious and I was indicted ten months later on five counts including the two felonious assault charges. The kitchen sink indictment included criminal trespass (get this--a lawyer can be guilty of criminal trespass for being in court!) and resisting arrest counts.

My next day in jail was at my arraignment. TeeVee cameras recorded my being hauled off to the holding cell which turned out to be a 6 hour adventure. The Holding Cell is the place where criminal defendants who initially receive "bond" and are to be released on the day of the arraignment. As I learned, the holding cell's purpose is to keep criminal defendants secure while a "world-wide warrant" check is conducted. This makes sense if you think about it, Joe Sleazebag is accused of breaking and entering by the local police, the arraignment judge sets bail at $1000, but it turns out he has a warrant out for his arrest in Georgia for murder. Your local elected judge lets him go upon payment of 10% bond, and Joe goes out and murders Mother Theresa. Uh, uh--local elected judge ain't gonna do that--but since Jail Space is at a premium some fail safe measure is called for. Thus the Holding Cell.

Now the day in question, I'm dressed for court (see above-illustration)--I was not quite prepared for being placed in a dimly lit room designed to comfortably sit 6 in which 20 of my fellow defendants were in fact made to wait. Being the celebrity, and in recognition of the burden on the local media--the Judge handled my arraignment first, so everyone of importance could move along. Thus I was able to take my pick of places to sit in this, um, facility. Initially, I chose a spot which permitted me to sit upright without leaning against the cinder block walls that smelled of bleach. Every ten or fifteen minutes I was joined by fellow citizens and for the first hour or so, silence was the rule.
Eventually a certain number of my cellmates began to talk and I do not exaggerate when I say I could not initially parse what was being said. It was Shakespearean in its verbal-density--all street patois punctuated by the one word that I did recognize, "nigger"--which seemed to be used in various parts of speech for multiple purposes. In retrospect, I would have loved to have had a tape deck to record the dialogue spoken in that dark little space.
This holding cell playlet--did have a plot, the reveal of which was: why we were there--as I explained; but, the plot centered around who would actually make it to freedom that day--and, who would be caught up in the worldwide warrant search. Guys fretted aloud--will child support deficiencies show up, traffic tickets? I'm just as certain that many of the anxieties in that cell went unexpressed. At least a couple of these folks knew that it was unlikely they were going to walk out of jail that day. As my ear became accustomed to what I was hearing I began to make out the various stories of my brother cell mates. By that morning I'd been an attorney for 25 years--and yet I learned a whole lot about my predicament sitting in that cell, and theirs. Much of what they knew was accurate--much of what they thought they knew was totally wrong--and, yet they spoke with certitude about judges and lawyers that I knew--with perspectives that were very narrow at best. These guys collectively knew the pattern of the experience we were sharing and they knew at what point we would be offered food and how long we would be there. At some point someone took the initiative to ask me why I was there. The result was a generalized expression of awe that a white lawyer like myself would experience firsthand what they took to be their risk of being "guilty of being black." Sometime midday a deputy stuck his head in the cell and offered to sell us candy bars from the deputy's kid's fundraiser and many of the guys bought candy bars, and food was shared around the cell, the guy sitting next to me offered me his. Late in the afternoon, by my watch, there was no window--several of the occupants of the holding cell were taken out and arrested on outstanding warrants. By 5:30 I was on my way back to my office.
The trial, did not happen for another year--because, I was "prominent," no elected local judge would agree to sit on my case--particularly when the prosecutor objected to each successive judge as being the sort to be inclined to toss the charges against me. The Supremes of Our State appointed a "visitng judge." in my case a retired judge. Overall, the general sense was that lawyers are arrogant fucks (especially, your truly), and whatever happened to me--well, I probably had it coming and doubtlessly provoked it. Simultaneously, the conventional wisdom was that I did not commit any criminal offense, but that the politically-sensitive prosecutor could not afford to upset the politically powerful Sheriff. Laughable in hindsight. But more, when I continue.

No comments:

Post a Comment