Last Thursday morning, as I was walking up the stairs to the courthouse, I saw a gentleman exit the big central doors, so I grabbed the door and walked in, at which point about four armed people descended on me. It was instantaneous. All of them admonished me to turn right around and come in the other doors.
It was not my idea of an auspicious start. No one drew a weapon on me, which was nice, but a sign on the doors would have been helpful. At any rate, I turned about and re-entered through the first set of doors, and subsequently though the metal detector, which afforded me the opportunity of explaining how a pedometer is a perfectly innocent device.
Shortly thereafter I found a set of computer printouts thumbtacked to a bulletin board. It was some small comfort to identify my ex-boyfriend’s name– Hooray! I must be at the right courthouse!– but the printouts were otherwise unintelligible, so I decided to stand there looking confused. Confusion was a very easy expression to adopt. It came naturally.
Eventually one of the weapons-bearing uniformed people took pity on me, despite the audacity I’d shown by bringing in a dangerous pedometer. She directed me to the third floor.
I headed to the staircase, explaining to two different weapons-bearing unformed people that I preferred the stairs to the elevator. I was thus able to gain another set of suspicious stares– but my most egregious offense was yet to occur.
I found the courtroom easily enough. Upon entering I saw absolutely nobody I knew. None of Bobby’s family were present, and though his defense attorney was surely in attendance, I had never met the man. Lacking any sort of guidance whatsoever– the courthouse has many valuable qualities, I’m sure, but good signage is not one of them– I found an empty seat and tried to look like I belonged there.
The proceedings began promptly at 9. Because these were sentencing hearings, with no juries involved, there were many different cases being heard. Bobby himself wouldn’t appear until 10:30, though I had no way of knowing this. After intently following the first couple of hearings, I took out my book and began reading.
That’s when the bailiff came by. He informed me that I wasn’t allowed to read in the courtroom.
It should now be apparent to all concerned that I have a dangerously criminal mindset. I entered the courtroom by the wrong doors, presumably to try to sneak in my pedometer undetected; I took the stairs rather than the elevator, which is positively un-American; and then I had the temerity to crack open a novel. God knows what damage I might have caused to innocent people, had the bailiff not intervened.
And on top of everything else, I was boldly sitting on the wrong side of the room. After the first few hearings, I realized the the Commonwealth attorneys were all on one side, while the defense attorneys, defendants, and witness stand were all on the other. Besides, the lady in front of me was part of Bobby’s prosecution. I know this because she had a stack of papers in her hand that all argued against him.
The bailiff didn’t tell her to put her reading material away. I find this grossly unfair, but it worked to my advantage: I was able to read over her shoulder and learn all sorts of stuff about the prosecution’s side. Never would have seen it if the bailiff hadn’t told me to lose my book.
And… and at this point I don’t want to say much else. Recounting the dorky little missteps of the morning is one thing, but I find myself unwilling to discuss Bobby’s hearing or my role as a witness. The whole thing was stressful, and I spent the rest of the day thinking Deep Thoughts about justice, mercy, and crime. Forgive me for not wanting to revisit those thoughts. Let me simply say that I will be happy if I never enter a courtroom again. (Interestingly, Bobby has exactly the same sentiment.)
He got seven years, by the way, to be followed by a multi-year rehab program. The sentencing for probation violation will come next month, so we’ll see how many additional years that brings. Oh, and he’s supposed to pay $364,000 in damages.
Enough of that. And enough of writing for this evening, I think. Those readers familiar with my oeuvre– my mother, basically– will have noticed that this entry is not up to my usual standards. The prose is choppier, the narrative is weaker, and the jokes are, if possible, less funny than normal. Writing this short little passage has taken more effort than I care to admit. It’s a bummer to leave this gracing my front page for the next few weeks, but I’ll soon be traveling and opening presents and luxuriating in nine consecutive days away from work. I may have the chance and even the inclination to blog a bit during that interval, but if not, bear with me till my triumphant return sometime after Christmas.