A Prologue from Pre-Trail Detention

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        The ‘Backstairs Justice System’

My client pushed back on a protesting plastic chair until he leaned against a cinderblock wall the color of watered-down pea soup. He waved at the table in an ‘it’s all there’ motion, folded his arms and waited.
I flipped open a tattered, coffee stained file folder, it contained a creased, equally stained police report. Damn thing took an eternity for us to get and it looked like they dug it out of a Starbucks garbage bin.
“I going to find anything different from what you’ve been telling me?” I asked.
“What do you think?”
“That a no?” I smiled to remove the sting of my professional skepticism. He had been talking to me about his case for at least two months – to the point where I had his version memorized. I believed him, but then, I had believed a lot of things that had been somewhat outside the strike zone truth wise.
“Yeah,” He confirmed. He was Terry Jones. Black, 6’2”, 260 on a light day, cut in ways that were simply not possible two decades ago when I was his age and steroid technology was in its infancy. He was also smart as hell and loathe to show it.
“Okay, then,” I opened the report, flinched at some unidentifiable musty smell, and began scanning for key words. Found them.
That did not go unnoticed, “Find something?” Terry asked with only a slight ‘told you so’ edge.
“I did.”
“Great.”
I moved the report with a well-gnawed fingernail, “According to this, you’re walking down – “
“Up, Counselor,” he corrected.
“Up Atlantic Street, two am on a Saturday morning.”
“They got that right,” he seemed impressed.
“And here I thought downtown Stamford closed at midnight – at the latest.”
“Check cashing place and Chinese restaurant stay open,” he studied the molting gray tiles above us.
“You were getting cash for moo goo gai pan,” it was not a question, it was the beginning of a legal theory.
“Love that shit.”
“Many street lights up that way?”
“None that work.”
“So it’s pretty dark?”
“No, it’s very dark.”
“And the cop?”
“Cop car slams on its brakes four feet from me, cop jumps out, screams what the fuck I’m doin’ . . .”
I looked down at the report, turned the page while making a mental note to really wash my hands later, “Don’t stop now.”
“I don’t say nothing, he grabs me, pins me up against the wall – “
“Searches you.”
“Punches me,” he snapped, “then goes through my pockets and finds a bag.”
“Of heroin.”
“A small bag,”
“Right,” I turned the page, read down the arresting officer’s report, stopped, reread, then again, “all there, just like you say -”
“But?” Terry asked, concerned.
“But, cop says he had probable cause, big time.”
“What was it?” Terry, with professional curiosity.
“Seems he saw you walking … up … Atlantic with a gun in your hand.”
“What the fuck?”
“You saw him coming, tossed it in an empty lot.”
“That’s a fu – “
“Relax, Terry,” I said lowly. And he did. Not the usual client in that respect, “listen, what color was this cop?”
“What?”
“What race was he?
“Whiter than you, man.”
“I’m as white as it gets, Terry,” I admitted in complete frankness.
“Nah – you got all those freckle things, the cop, he was like glow in the dark white.”
“Okay, so – “
“Those things are freaky, you know,” he grinned viciously.
“What things?”
“Things you’re covered with, freckles, man …”
“No, they’re – “
“Never see bro’s with ‘em.”
“Dennis Johnson, asshole,” I snapped.
“Who?”
“Celtic guard, hall of famer? Black – “
“Of course.”
“And freckled.”
“Really?”
“Really … how ‘bout we get back to you – glow in dark white cop sees black guy walking at two in the morning with a gun in his hand and walks over and requests that he stand against the wall.”
“He wrote that shit up,” he marveled, rolled his eyes, began playing with the zipper of his canary yellow jumpsuit.
“Sure did.”
“That’s jus’ … I don’t know, it’s …” for a black guy who had been arrested a half dozen times before his thirtieth birthday and had seen it all he was the picture of nonplussed.
“Fucking ridiculous,” I finished for him, “… if you had a gun he would have either emptied his Beretta into you or called the SWAT team.”
“It’s Stamford. Counselor, he wouldda’ done both.”
“And here you are alive and well to tell the tale,” I pointed out.
“What about the gun? They got some bullshit evidence of that?”
I paged through the statement careful to touch only its corners – it really did stink in a purely non-metaphorical sense. Terry thumped down off the wall, plastic squealed across the linoleum.
“It’s – “
“Not there,” he finished for me.
“Nope, disappeared from the lot while he was arresting you.”
He sighed, “What. The. Fuck.”
“An extensive search of the empty lot found nothing, they figure someone – or something – wandered off with it.”
“Bullshit.”
“Regrettably, they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to search the lot at night.”
“Bullshit,” he again stated the obvious.
“Yup,” I confirmed, “but – “
“How we gonna handle this?” He asked, the way only someone fucked over by the system since puberty could ask an attorney unsurprised by said fucking over.
“I have to think but – “
That was truncated and obliterated by the 1950’s vintage loud speaker high over Terry’s shoulder:
‘WRAP IT UP, GENTLEMEN. RECALL. RECALL. RECALL’
“Later, Counselor,” Terry stood, headed out the door.
“Yeah, talk to you …” I grabbed the file, pushed back my Ocean State Odd Lot plastic chair with ear piercing results, stood, got to the door, zipped up my canary yellow jumpsuit – the things were a bitch to walk in otherwise – and headed into the cellblock and my cell, ten down from my client.

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