Tag Archives: court

Court: My Purgatory on Earth

 

This was my first court date since January.

January!

Even after reading countless news stories and John Grisham novels, I never cease from being astonished at how slowly the system operates. It’s been well over a year, and I’m still in the “pretrial” phase. Ridiculous.

After briefly meeting with my lawyer after my January court appearance, I never heard back from her. In fact, I have called and emailed her office multiple times since then, and most of those times I never received a reply.

Finally, the day before my recent July 16 court date, I emailed her. I wanted to say something like, I paid you $4,000, and you don’t even return my phone calls?! However, I’m glad I didn’t; my stepfather used to work for the district attorney in his hometown, and he said if I make my lawyer angry, then she could very well lose my case on purpose.

Wow.

The lawyer responded and blamed the slow process on the county psych ward for not releasing my records. Why the lawyer didn’t bother to tell me this before, I have no idea.

My latest court date was routine. I waited for the courtroom doors to open at 9:00am, and then I went in and grabbed a front-row seat. I figured if I had to be there, I would at least keep myself entertained by observing the three-ring circus known as county criminal court.

An inmate from the jail across the street sneaked in with a sheriff through a door beside the judge. Interestingly, I had never noticed the door before; it had a big square window and no handle from the inside. The inmate, a thin African-American guy with matted hair and a full beard, was dressed in a baggy dark green jumpsuit. He stood like a statue. I thought he was in handcuffs until he scratched his nose.

I didn’t see it, but apparently the inmate was suddenly removed through that back door. There was some commotion, and then his distraught lawyer came back in. He and the judge whispered to each other for about 5 minutes. The judge slowly ran her fingers through her hair. “He always does this,” she said as the lawyer stormed out of court.

Next, a young hipster in business casual pled guilty to the charge of obstruction of a highway. For the uninitiated, this misdemeanor usually stems from an initial DWI and is pled down to the vague “obstruction of a highway.”  He received 30 days’ probation and was told to pay $900 in court costs!

Dang.

When my lawyer mentioned I would have to pay court costs if we lost our case, I was thinking more of a $40 service charge or something.

Anyway, starting to get bored, I looked at the clock.

11:00?!

I had been waiting for my blasted lawyer for two hours?! I went out in the hallway and called her office. A secretary said something about the lawyer having to defend a case in city court at the last minute. In other words, she became too busy to help me.

The court secretary confirmed this news to me when I went back in.

“Am I free to go now?” I asked.

“Unless you want to take me out to lunch.”

I gave her a placating smile and left. It could be worse, I thought.

It could be a lot worse.

~t

 


How Are You Doing?

Credit: Pushead

Saint Anger ’round my neck

He never gets respect

                                                –Metallica, “St. Anger”

Recently, a friend and reader of my blog asked me how I was doing. A nice, simple email. She really does care about me, but I didn’t answer her question. Actually, I gave a pat answer to the effect of, “I’m pretty good.”

Well, I’m not pretty good. Last Friday I had yet another court date. I am supposed to be in the trial phase (the contest phase, to be precise), but the damn legal system here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. drags everything out for months and months. My case has been open for over a year — a friggin’ year! — and my lawyer is just now getting my signatures for the release of my hospital files.

My wife is on my case about pressuring my lawyer and the court system to move faster. Yeah, right. That’s like telling Obama to become pro-life or else. Ha ha.

She also keeps reminding me that the system in Japan, her homeland, isn’t as screwed up as it is here. I’m sorry, but I’d rather leave my fate to a jury instead of to a panel of three grumpy judges like they do in the Land of the Rising Yen.

Here is some more info on how I’m doing: Today I have managed to piss off everyone who works around me. It’s almost like I’ve been looking for trouble.

I took the last two days off for “personal” reasons. I will take the next two off for the same thing and then go back on Monday.

I’m doing well (?) spiritually, but you sure as heck can’t tell, can ya??!

The truth is, dear readers, is that I’m an a**hole. Plain and simple. I do fine within church boundaries and at church events, but my daily life is often different.

Blame it on my illness? Yes, but not all of it. Mostly it’s because I’m an a**hole like my dad.

Today I wanted to kill someone because the person was messing with me and with the way I do my job. I’ve had run-ins with this person before, and the individual likes to push my buttons. Why? Maybe because my buttons are easy to push.

So, my friend, to answer your question: I’m doing pretty sh*tty. Could you pray for me?

~t


Another Court Date

I just got back from another court date. The pre-trials are over. All they consisted of were my showing up, saying “here” when my name was called by the judge, and my lawyer speaking with me for 60 seconds to say we wouldn’t accept yet another plea deal.

If you’re new to this blog, you can get caught up to speed here.

Today was the first date of the actual trial; however, the procedures were exactly the same as the multiple pre-trials that I have attended. My first thought was, I guess my lawyer made a mistake. This is just another check-in. So, I took a seat in the courtroom and watched as individuals approached the judge one by one with their lawyers.

All of the seats toward the back are taken first, so I usually sit in the front of the courtroom. It works out well, though; I can hear each case being tried right before me.

Today, one stood out in particular. A young man was charged with assault for the fifth time in four years. It breaks my heart to witness things like this, but I have to watch. For me, it’s a lesson in what not to do; the same reason I’m addicted to gritty prison documentaries.

It was evident from the proceedings that the young man had no intention of turning his life around. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, so I will be praying for him.

This time, the man was charged with assault on an elderly person. The judge always speaks at normal volume while the defendants respond as softly as possible. From what the judge said, the young man seems to assault only women and the elderly. While she was lecturing him on his anger problem, the judge suddenly stopped and said, “So now you’re angry at me?” I don’t think it was a coincidence that a third Sheriff suddenly appeared from a rear door.

The defendant works only three days a week at a nightclub. Alcohol was involved in each of his assaults, yet he chose to seek employment at a bar (the judge’s words). This is a big reason why I gave up drinking. I’m not saying it’s “evil” per se, but I’ve seen nothing good come from alcohol. In the Bible, Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine to help with his stomach problems, so I believe it’s okay when consumed in moderation.

I’ll never touch the stuff again because, although no alcohol was found in my bloodstream after my accident, it was still a factor that led to my DWI charge. Plus, it’s a depressant, and I sure as heck don’t need any help feeling depressed.

By the way, the young man was ordered to attend anger management classes, to get his GED, and to serve ten days in jail. What about the alcohol part?? I thought.

My lawyer came running through the doors like she usually does, spoke briefly with the court assistant, and then motioned for me to talk with her outside the courtroom.

“The expert witness isn’t ready, so you’re free to go!” she said before walking away.

“Wait,” I called after her. What in the world just happened? For $4,000, I expected a little more information from my lawyer.

Apparently, the expert witness, a medical doctor who had analyzed my blood sample after my accident, wasn’t prepared for whatever reason. Without him, the trial would have to be postponed . My lawyer had no idea when the next court date would be. No surprise there.

Even though I never intended  to operate my vehicle with a bloodstream full of Xanax, what’s done is done. I can make excuses like, “This shouldn’t have even happened,” or “My blood alcohol content was 0.00%,” but it wouldn’t do any good.

Intent or not, recollection or not, I have to face the consequences. It could be worse, I tell myself as I think of the financial costs that have been adding up since spring. I could have taken an innocent life. Someone’s son. Daughter. Mother. Father. My own life.

Thank you, Lord. I am a nervous wreck right now, but thank you for sticking with me through the thick and thin.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

People commit suicide because it’s a way out. A way out of the gloom that has encased them. They see it as a way to finally achieve peace; little do they realize that they leave behind family, friends, and other loved ones who have to carry on with the enormous amount of grief weighing on their hearts.

Being a way out is the reason why I attempted to end my life last summer. Had I been successful (and I still don’t see how I wasn’t), it would have put an end to my suffering — or so I believed. But who’s to say the afterlife doesn’t have its share of problems? Hmm. Maybe it depends on which afterlife to which one goes.

Individuals who are trapped in their mental illness don’t/can’t stop and say, “Hey, what if I don’t die? Will I be paralyzed? Will I suffer permanent brain damage? Will I be hooked up to feeding tubes, my brain a worthless vegetable?”

When I was being checked in to my first mental hospital, the nurse and I began to chit-chat. Normally I don’t like to make small talk; it’s a waste of time. However, she brought up a topic that immediately drew me in. “You know,” she began while filling out the first of numerous pages of forms, “you’re lucky.”

“And why is that?” I asked bitterly. I was ticked off that I was still on planet Earth.

“Well, because some people live through their suicide attempts.”

“Really.” I didn’t ask in a typical shocked or interested tone; it was more like a response to her telling me what she had to eat for dinner the night before.

She began to tell me about a young man, a former patient at the same hospital, who shot himself in the temple and actually lived. The bullet passed through his head, somewhere between his brain and his eyes. It missed his brain but severed some nerve systems leading to his eyes. He was perfectly normal except for permanent blindness.

She said that another person at the county hospital (where I was initially taken) survived after jumping off a five-story building. He was in pretty bad shape, as you can imagine, with permanent damage to his back and legs.

She proceeded to explain why I was so fortunate: I didn’t have any lasting damage (at least at that time I didn’t; the overdose may have affected my memory and so forth).

So, to summarize a bit, it basically sucks to live through a suicide attempt because most people suffer physical and other lasting injuries.

However, at the time I didn’t know, but I wasn’t off the hook.

Luckily my parents helped my wife and me pay off the thousands of dollars in hospital, ambulance, and “miscellaneous” (i.e. doctor visits, blood work) bills. Psychiatrists and medication that they dispense are not free: They cost a lot. As do therapists.

My paid-off car was damaged beyond any hope of repair, so we suddenly had a car payment again. Plus, my insurance went up. Way up.

After the horrible accident which I don’t even remember having, the police mailed back my driver’s license without a single note attached.

I was finally free!

Months went by, and as each one passed, I prayed hard. Six months after the accident, still no word from the police. Lawyers began telling me: You’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. Go on about your life. It’s all behind you.

Nine months after the accident, nine months, I received an ominous envelope in the mail one day from the police department. My first thought was that I had run a red light and one of those intersection cameras caught me.

I opened it and almost fainted: It was a warrant for my arrest.

“Why did it take nine months for them to send me this?!” I remember yelling to my wife. For crying out loud, they even told me my blood alcohol content was 0.00% after the accident.

So, it was not the end of the story; in fact, there were quite a few more long chapters that I had failed to notice.

I turned myself in and was booked like a common criminal, including the infamous mugshot and fingerprinting. I had to scramble to get a bail bondsman and pay the 20% which turned out to be $200.

Then I had to get a lawyer who charged $4,500 whether we would win or lose the case.

Then I had to start missing work due to psychiatrist appointments, counseling appointments, and court dates. The first several court dates were pretty much a joke: I had to be in the court with a bunch of other offenders for roll call, and then, one by one (i.e. whenever the lawyers got around to it) the lawyers would saunter in. Some would appear with their clients in front of the judge, and others, like mine, would take us out into the hallway and tell us the lowdown before releasing us.

By the way, if you have read any John Grisham novels or have seen the movies, um: He doesn’t embellish a whole lot. I would say not at all.

The lawyers that walk in and out of county criminal courts are the most eccentric, goofy-looking lot. Okay, okay, some look and act normally (like mine of course), but, but…

I know this is Texas, but do some of them have to wear their ten-gallon hats to court? Some lawyers look like they wear the same suit day after day, and others don’t seem to own any hair brushes or combs (or soap).

I swear, one guy came stumbling in, a small black bag in his hand, and almost tripped over some of the benches. His eyes were bloodshot, matching nicely with the color of his face. Yep, he turned out to be a lawyer.

Anyway, it’s a circus in the court on any given day. People milling about the spectator area, conducting business, while the judge hears cases at the same time. The second time I went to court, I made sure to get a seat in the very front row right behind the rail.

This is so embarrassing for the defendants, I thought as the judge heard cases while the circus was in full swing all around her.

Another thing I was surprised to witness was that the judge carried on emotionally and admonished the defendants like a drill sergeant mother, not that much differently than Judge Judy and all those other reality show court programs. Who would have thought?

Today I was actually glad that my lawyer was running three hours late because I got to witness several cases. The first one was a 40-something man who got his second DWI conviction. The judge had no mercy on him because, for some reason, he hadn’t even bothered to start an AA program that he was supposed to. Plus it was his second DWI charge in two months, bumping it up to a class B misdemeanor (that means hello jail and goodbye driver’s license).

Another lady looked strung out and was dressed in light blue county jail attire. She didn’t seem to understand why she was before the judge. Her charge was public intoxication for the fifth time. I’m not kidding. She got sent back across the street to corrections just as quickly as she had entered the court.

One case really pierced my heart, though: An 18-year-old pregnant woman went before the judge for an offense which I didn’t really hear. It could have been DWI or drug possession (seemingly most of the cases in County Criminal Court (CCC) #6). The judge went through questions about her life, and for the first time, I saw the judge’s compassion for certain offenders: She was asking the defendant what kind of future she imagined for her and her child because the father had abandoned her. The young woman had recently quit her waitress job and was living with acquaintances. Even the stone-faced bailiff looked softer as he fetched a box of tissues for the young lady.

The judge cut her a break, only adding on an extra six months to her probation and telling her to complete her GED program. Since I was directly behind the bailiff area, the young lady had a seat inside the court and was just inches away from me. I wanted so much to tap her shoulder and tell her everything would be all right because there were strangers who cared about her and who were going to pray for her. She could have been my daughter.

However, I didn’t dare attempt to reach over the courtroom barrier. I had already had enough excitement a few hours before.

Earlier in the morning, as I passed through the metal detector downstairs to come in, of course all the bells and whistles went off even though I had taken off my belt and wedding ring. Well, I had totally forgotten that the rosary ring that I sometimes carry in my pocket could be considered a weapon in a county courthouse. I had to leave it with one of the sheriffs. Talk about embarrassing: I was whisked away and separated from the general area while the rosary ring was examined and while I was yelled at.

Rosary ring: a weapon for spiritual warfare. In a county courthouse, though, just a straight-up weapon.

Anyway, after several initial appearances, the trial is finally set to begin in September. My lawyer told me it will more than likely be moved back due to the state having to assemble witnesses and experts. So the end to all this is still nowhere in sight.

A whole year after my suicide attempt, the consequences of that fateful night are still popping up like ant hills in our backyard during the long summer months.

Here is the moral of my story: Don’t try to kill yourself.

Just don’t even try.

Besides forever hurting those who love you, you just might live through it, and your problems would then be multiplied. And, believe me, it sucks.

~topaz