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"Jamie" gets paper

A month ago, I blogged about the the two days I spent in trial defending "Jamie," a 46-year-old transvestite accused of possessing a crackpipe, the nadir of what most observers had already concluded was an otherwise undistinguished legal career.  (If you can't wait for my autobiography to come out, you can read about it here.)  The outcome of the case depended upon the jury believing Jamie's denial that the crack pipe found at her feet belonged to her.  Apparently, in weighing the credibility of a drag queen against that of two police officers, the jury felt that the scales were decidedly tipped in favor of the police by virtue of Jamie's twenty-six prior criminal convictions.  Who knew?

So yesterday we had the sentencing.  The bailiff, who possesses the cheerful disposition of the average prison guard, barks out, "Is your client here?" within three nanoseconds of me coming in the door.  I tell her that Jamie's not here yet, but reassure her that she will be.  Sure enough, Jamie shows up, a fashionable half hour late. 

We get up in front of the judge, and before he can open his mouth, somebody's cell phone goes off.  The ringer is set to play some wretched hip-hop tune, at a decibel level high enough so that if the phone's in your briefcase or your suit pocket -- or, for that matter, the next county -- you'll know it's ringing.  The owner tries desperately to turn it off, then runs out of the courtroom.  The judge shakes his head and mutters, "Jesus, what a circus."  I'm not sure if that's a good sign.

The judge asks me what I have to say, and, whatever it was, it wasn't memorable.  Then it's Jamie's turn.  She assures the judge hadn't done any drugs in, gosh, six months now, and she has to take care of her mother because Jamie's brothers and sisters wanted to put Mom in a nursing home and Jamie doesn't want that (Mom apparently wasn't so hot on the idea, either). . .  The bottom line was that Jamie had turned the corner and put a life of drug abuse behind her.

It sort of reminded me of the scene in M*A*S*H, where Hawkeye and the boys are getting accidentally shelled by their own artillery, and Colonel Potter finds out that the artillery commander is someone he went to West Point with, so he calls him up.  After a short conversation, Potter puts down the phone and says mournfully, "Guy finishes 365th out of a class of 374, and he tells you he'll do his best."  Well, when someone with 26 prior convictions tells you she's learned her lesson, you've got to take that with more than a few grains of salt.

The judge gave her 12 months, suspended the sentence, put her on two years of community control sanctions, ordered her to get outpatient drug treatment, and told her she'd be arrested and sent off to do her 12 months on the first dirty urine.  After he wrote the journal entry, he stared down at it and mumbled, "I don't even know why I'm doing this."

Needless to say, Jamie was happy as a lark.  When I had her sign the affidavit of indigency on my fee bill, she asked me, "How much you get for this?"

"Four hundred bucks."

"That's not a lot of money."

"Really?  And here I was figuring, 'Well, at least now I can have the operation.'"

She smiled slyly.  "Was it worth it?"

I put the fee bill back in the folder, filed it away in my briefcase.  "It always is."

See you on Monday.


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