Well, that was easy. A morning spent like cattle being sorted into pens ends with “Have a blessed year” around 11 a.m. and I was outta there. This time I actually got out of the assembly room and was sent to a specific courtroom, but never crossed the threshold. I had a feeling we’d not be called after we started cooling our heels, and they got cold indeed. We were asked to wait in the hallway outside, then told to take a 15 minute break that stretched to 35, then thanked for our service and sent back to the assembly room, where we were freed by a clerk who passed out excuse letters to all.
I had but one objective at that point — to supplement the 4.5 hours of sleep I’d gotten the night before — so I detoured into Greektown for an early lunch to put me in a soporific state by early afternoon. I was not the most pathetic nerd in the place, eating lunch at 11:15 a.m.; that would be the table of four ordering saganaki at that early hour, i.e., the Full Opa. Some things should only be enjoyed under the cover of darkness. An incomplete list: The music of Tom Waits and Miles Davis, single-malt scotch. To this I’d add flaming cheese.
My morning at the courthouse wasn’t wasted, however. I got 100 pages into the new nightstand volume and enjoyed seeing the sights. You’d have to go to Hieronymus Bosch to find a more interesting canvas of humanity than the courthouse in Detroit. I took my time returning to the bullpen, letting the claustrophobic elevators pass, and was rewarded with a ride down with one of the lawyers in the case. At least that’s what I assume he was. He came out of the courtroom we’d been teed up for, carrying a battered leather briefcase, the old square-bottom kind; it looked like something from the 1940s. His hair needed a trim and his jacket was of the same vintage as his briefcase, its lining drooping below the hem. He wore his reading glasses Carl Levin-style. If I were a painter, I’d ask him to sit for a portrait, and call it The Old Barrister. The bailiff said it was an embezzlement case we’d just avoided, and while I knew it couldn’t have been the fun couple from the Palace (wrong county), I wondered what I’d have said if the judge asked if I had any particular interest in the subject. Probably, “Ummm…”
Still, we were freed by that miracle of American jurisprudence: The plea bargain. Remember when inveighing against plea bargains was the hot topic for certain smartypants pundits? Remember how prosecutors started calling them plea agreements, on the grounds it sounded less sleazy? What a waste of time that crusade was. Without plea bargaining we’d have a prison on every corner. Informants would stop being forthcoming in exchange for a little consideration. Mutual back-scratching would cease. Negotiation — a skill everyone who hires a lawyer should place high on the must-have list — would become irrelevant. And we’d do a lot more jury duty.
I can’t remember where I read this, but I suspect it was a Scott Turow novel, since I’m not exactly a legal scholar — the idea that for most offenses, a trial by jury should be considered a last resort. Not exactly the nuclear option, but something that should be avoided if it can be. It explains the contempt we feel toward all involved when stupid, obvious cases come to trial; you think, someone didn’t do their job here. The phrase “rack twelve” sticks in my head. If you rack twelve, you better be ready to play the game.
Oh, well. Done for another year now. A blessed one.
I’m surprised you guys didn’t toss the Obama speech around a bit more yesterday. I had it on as I worked, and even with divided attention, it was a beautiful thing. I got the same feeling I get when I watch video clips of Secretariat, that tingly sensation that tells you you’re seeing one of the greats. I tried to remember this when judging Bobby Jindal, that even Abe Lincoln would have looked like a punk, cleaning up after Barry. Still, I think we can all agree Jindal was more than a disappointment. I’ve read a bit about the guy and know he’s considered one of the short-list best hopes for 2012, which is why watching him sing-song his way through that Toastmaster disaster left me with another tingly sensation, the one you get when you realize just how bare the opposition’s cupboard is. You can dress up thin content with a great delivery (which he didn’t), or an attractive package (Mrs. Palin’s forté), but when you don’t have either one, it’s just embarrassing.
And speaking of embarrassment, I want it on the record now that I’m going to disrespect Jindal’s religion if he doesn’t do some ‘spainin’ about that exorcism. I can respect an awful lot about someone else’s beliefs, but when they’re running for office I think I have a right to ask what the HELL about some things, and I draw the line at casting out demons. No way he’s hiding behind the “deeply religious” veil on this one. Michael Gerson did the kneepads duty Tuesday morning with this piece, the patented George Will allow-me-to-introduce-you-to-this-fascinating-outlier treatment, with whoppers like this stuffed in there like butter under the chicken’s skin:
He converted to a traditionalist Catholicism, in a nation where anti-Catholicism has been called “the last acceptable prejudice.”
Oh, really? Who has called it that? How would we explain that, given that half the Supreme Court, a huge chunk of official Washington and various other well-paid sinecure holders are just so? They like to throw around charming phrases like “culture of death,” but say, “let’s hear some more about that exorcism, Bobby,” and they run to the fainting couch, sobbing into their hankies. What a tool.
Well, maybe all that no longer matters. I can see Obama in 2012, batting this guy around like a cat with a mouse.
Look at the time. Look at the word count. Look at my to-do list. Time to sign off, get to the gym and make up for losing Wednesday.