Having spent much of my non-employed free time searching for work that doesn’t exist or spending money I don’t have or writing about places I can’t visit…I decided to listen to my friend John and visit the Manhattan Criminal Courts with him for some jaw-dropping reality and perhaps a different sort of writing inspiration. I could probably sit outside and find all the inspiration I need right at the entrance of 100 Centre Street but we had a specific trial in mind that any 30-year-old woman who has been out on the town enough in NYC would be drawn to.
I haven’t had a run-in with the cops, I like to think of myself as a decent, law abiding citizen—and my opinion of the cops from personal experience is mostly positive—my best friend’s husband is an NYPD officer and I count him as one of the best men I know. But the NYPD overall, possibly due to a few bad apples, is NOT highly regarded as the courteous or professional or respectful entity that their ubiquitous public relations campaign (TLC) may suggest. The most sensational tarnish on the reputation of the Police Department as of late is the current trial of two NYC cops accused of raping a drunk girl in her East Village apartment in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2008.
We joined the press and other curious spectators a week into the trial, so we had a little catching up to do. Maybe to the gossipmonger we had little catching up to do since the victim hadn’t yet taken the stand. She was slated to testify later that week so we hadn’t missed the real meat of the trial. The first two witnesses we watched were friends of the victim, followed by a 911 central dispatcher, a neighbor of the victim and then the victim herself. We plan on chronicling our experiences on a new blog called www.criminalcourtblog.wordpress.com. The idea is to give a civilian take of the goings on at the Manhattan Criminal Courts. Perhaps we will closely follow certain trials, like this current rape case, but also other interesting happenings at the court. Maybe we’ll venture to Brooklyn Criminal Court eventually, too.
One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed as a civilian (and by Civilian I mean not a lawyer or law student or anyone associated with the courts, court procedures or justice system) is that during this rape trial the judge will call a five-minute break where the Jury and Witness exit the court room and he quickly takes time to sentence or hear other cases. I saw a distraught looking and obviously drug-damaged older woman get sentenced to two-years for the sale of a controlled substance and taken out of the court in handcuffs. Two years. When I think of two years I think graduate school programs or a big chunk of someone’s five-year-plan and here this judge is handing out two years like a receipt. Here you go.
I know I am outrageously oversimplifying this and of course I don’t really think the judge is flippant about his sentencing. I believe he respects people and hopes that they reform their lives. I truly believe that he is in this position because of his passion and respect for the law. What baffles me is that we are all going on about our lives complaining about the prices at Whole Foods and the cost of a cup of coffee or that we drink too much coffee or that we don’t spend enough quality time with our loved ones—when other people have real problems. People are going to jail because the only way that they could make a dime is to sell a dime bag (although, just a dime bag is probably not enough for a felony charge so that wouldn’t be a huge issue in criminal court…but you get it!) It’s this crazy underbelly of the city that we all get to ignore and it is scary and upsetting and real life.
So this new blog is supposed to show another side of the city that we probably don’t get to see very much and sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s sad but mostly it’s really interesting. So check it out. I will also post highlights on this blog about the rape case because it’s important.