A Typical Late Night Conversation (from my Journals, 2007)

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?

Me: Sorta

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:  Grounds?

Me: Reasons.

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?


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