12:30 am, Ft. Dix, in a mostly empty dorm room, trying to write in a corner and pretend I’m anywhere else, still found by the bane of my existence, the inmate with a case . . ..as this was at least my 400 to 500th such interruption, I handled it as such:
Aggrieved Inmate (AI): Yo’, Professor, how you doin’ today?
Me: Tell you the truth, I went to the doctor’s this morning and they found a tumor the size of a bowling ball and I’ve got ……
AI: Hey, cool, I hear ya’ (pause to bump fists) ennyway, let me axe ya’, I appealed my conviction and —
Me: Conviction on what?
AI: Does it matter?
AI: Let’s just say it be drugs . . . and guns . . . and some computer stuff . . . and, maybe, you know, interstate prostitution and stuff.
Me: Let’s say.
AI: Ennyway, I appealed anna –
Me: On what grounds?
AI: I need reasons?
Me: They would help.
AI: Well, it’s cause it wazn’t right, man (looks distractedly around the room, searching for an audience that is not there) so I wrote it myself –
Me: Wrote what?
AI: The appeal, man, ain’tcha been listening? Okay, like, I had some help from some Spanish dude that knows the law – he’s gotten guys off from life, man, know waddi mean?
Me: And yet, surprisingly, he’s still here himself.
AI: What? . . . Yeah, let me tell ya’, we cited Grote, Boswell, Swaboda, and Koosman – ya’ heard of those cases?
Me: [I’ve had hundreds of District Court level cases cited over two years by this point, each and every one of them spoken of in the same reverential tone reserved for Brown v Board of Ed – I now glaze over when names fly] Nope, sounds like the ’69 Mets roster.
AI: Wha’? Hey, man, get serious, man, this ain’t no playtime.
Me: No, it’s my writing time.
AI: Wha’? Oh, hey, sorry man, Ennyway, can ya’ look over my paperwork and tell me if I gotta’ chance?
Me: [Straining mightily not to let on that that question has raised every hair on the back of my neck] Just a look?
AI: Just a look, man.
Me: S . . .u . . .r . . . e [in a tone that would have discouraged any sentient being over the age of 5 in the real world.
AI: Okay, hey, hey, great. I’ll go get it.
(Exit stage left, I write exactly 7 words before he returns, I do not look up, just stare forlornly at disturbingly blank page)
AI: Here ya go, ‘bro [drops a combination of War and Peace, the Complete Works of St. Augustine and Gibbon, and the transcript of Clinton’s speech to the 1988 Democratic convention on the now teetering table].
Me: —————— [nothing will come out]
AI: So, when do I come back?
Me: After I’m out?
AI: Heh, heh, man guys be right, ya’ must have some soul in ya’.
Me: [distressed] Come back in an hour.
AI: Cool, see ya’.
I flip through the 67 volumes. It’s a mess – half screaming diatribe telling Judge the law and its proper application (note: charges are so egregious that had the Judge properly employed the concept of JUSTICE, AI would have been drawn, quartered, the pieces burned to a crisp, the ashes fed to a shark, the shark then also drawn and quartered . . .) and half-statements about the effects of his inefficient/ineffective counsel. Of course, despite the desperate pleas of the Judge, AI was his own attorney and he fired 5 (yes, 5) court appointed stand-by attorneys.
The government’s response is there as well and in only five pages even a AUSA was able to lay waste to the mess.
I ascertained this in 40 minutes, he returned in 59, I had written a grand total of two more sentences.
AI: Whaddya’ think?
Me: You want total honesty?
AI: Yeah, man, I be a man, I can handle it. [apparently it never occurs to him that when you’re asked if you want total honesty you already have your answer].
Me: You have a better chance of seeing God than winning this [paraphrasing Larry Bird].
AI: Hey thanks ma ——– whoa, whoa, whoa, back it up, man. Whaddya’ sayin’, I’m gonna lose?
Me: I’m saying you’ve already lost and you have no where to go with . . . this.
AI: Ya’ mean I can’t win?
Me: No [biting back hard on temptation to launch into Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch speak: your case is dead, it is no more, it has gone to meet its maker, it is singing with the choir electric . . . .]
AI: [rapidly blinking, looking around the room like a groundhog on a bright February day] Shit, man, this ain’t what I paid ya’ for.
Me: You didn’t pay anything.
AI: [briefest of pauses] If I do, will it change anything?