First Court Appearance

So this morning at 8:45 I entered the Wake County Courthouse for my first court appearance after my arrest in the General Assembly. I went through the security maze and on to the tremendously long line at the elevators. Thankfully while I was there I spotted a partner in crime, who was older than me with an even older and slower husband in tow. She explained that she had already been up to the courtroom and that we were to be tried in the new Wake County Judicial building. Yahoo, because I was becoming very claustrophobic and obsessive compulsive with thoughts of “What if someone set off a bomb or there was a fire?.” It was a narrow, suffocating place.

On to building 2 where the worst event of the day happened. Even though my bag made it through security in the first courthouse, it failed in courthouse #2. I worried that someone had discovered my treasured penknife, a cherished item I saved from my Dad’s possessions. It’s tiny. The robust security guard asked me to produce my keys. Which I did. “More keys,” she said, “From the bottom of your purse.” I did. Nope, something else, in the bottom.  Oh no, my little red plastic corkscrew for those special occasions when I’m so desperate and nearly willing to chew the cork and glass off the top of a bottle of wine. Purchased from a cute little hardware store in Black Mountain, NC.  Yep, that one. “You can take it back to your car,” she said.  Blocks and blocks away, and the judge was waiting. I handed it over.

Next stop was courtroom #201, very modern, light and efficient looking and the approximate temperature of the meat locker at Kroger. A pleasant girl whom I guessed was a public relations official for the judge took roll and smiled a lot. I liked her, I thought.

My elder partner in crime with the slow husband finally made it into the courtroom where she was clearly upset at the fact that our lawyer was not present.  I was okay with that because I operate most of the time under the motto, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” I figured I could defend myself, if it came to that.

Slow husband began to read the newspaper and he tried very hard not to make those annoying crinkling sounds by carefully pressing down each page he turned. My obsessive compulsive self wanted to yank it out of his hands and stomp it.  Still no lawyer, but much milling around in the front, near where the judge sat.

I should stop here and describe those of us who were waiting to have our cases heard. But what can I say that you don’t already know? Lots of diversity, mostly black, some Hispanic, few whites. Dress varied from jeans so tight I could see the thong underneath to crocks with socks. Some were way pregnant, some had very young children sitting and whimpering next to them. The young black man or was he a very dark Mexican man? on the bench in front of me had tatoos of little kissy lips snaking up from his shirt collar onto his jawline.

Finally our lawyer, a volunteer, arrives from Durham. She looked dazed. Not a good sign, I thought. She had a young man with her who was also arrested for being at the General Assembly and who, like me and my other compatriot, failed to disperse.

Another lawyer represented yet another of my co-defendants who failed to show. The lawyer explained that there was a wreck on 40. My elder compatriot leaned over and whispered, “Is there ever not a wreck on 40?” She’s not dimwitted, I thought.  The lawyer presented the case for the absent defendant, and all of a sudden, Miss nice smiley girl whom I thought to be in the public relations field turned on him and spouted off the house rules of the General Assembly. Damn, she was the DA and not nice at all.  “No,” she crowed, “The State did not want the defendant returning to the second floor of the General Assembly, where our legislators are doing their business.”  There was a bit of parrying between absent girl’s lawyer and not so nice pretty girl.  The judge seemed kind and asked for a compromise: a written motion. Bingo, lawyer produced it. Pretty girl pored over it, word for word. Took forever but finally an agreement was reached. I knew in my heart that my lawyer didn’t have one of those written motions waiting in the wings.

After about a half hour of a lot of lawyers milling about and snapping and crunching crisp cellophane panes on the front of yellow envelopes, my lawyer stood and approached the mean pretty girl.  She waited her turn patiently and my friend leaned over and said, “Did you see that? She deferred to the blonde woman behind her, and she let her in line.” Nothing got past my partner in crime.

My lawyer conferred with Miss Meanness and then called the young man, the third of we three musketeers, before the judge. It was over in a matter of seconds, with just a little bit of sniping from the DA about the second floor of the General Assembly. Then the lawyer called my elder friend, Ms. Freeman.  The judge looked up and he and I made eye contact. I swear it. He said to my lawyer, “Would you like to bring both Ms. Freeman and Ms. Black to be heard together?” “YES! my heart was singing.”

The lawyer sorta nodded and up I jumped. The judge, by this time, was almost winking at me, I swear it, really. Not in a sexy way but in a “I know a person like you would never get herself into a lot of trouble without a really good reason, kind of way.” He heard the case and when I asked my lawyer about being able to reenter the General Assembly, the judge turned to the DA and said, “Has the State changed its mind in the last 10 minutes?” “No,” Miss pretty girl turned bad said. So the judge instructed my lawyer to draft a motion just like the earlier lawyer had and she looked a little confused. “I’ll help you,” I wanted to shout, but didn’t.

It was all over, just like that. To be continued, next court date October 3.

But wait, there’s more. Just couldn’t get that red corkscrew off my mind. (Did I mention OCD?) I went back to security, and there it was, still resting peacefully between the nailclippers and scissors. I asked nicely if I could have it back. “No,” the security maven snapped. “I can’t lose my job over your corkscrew.” Fair enough, I thought. But what would have happened if I’d just reached down, grabbed it, and run?

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