A Day at the Courthouse

I got up early on the day I had to appear at the court. The temperature was 240 Fahrenheit and with wind gusting to thirty miles an hour the wind chill was close to zero. I walked from the parking lot to the courthouse, a distance of about two blocks. My hands were frozen and my nose was running when I entered the lobby. Fortunately there was no long line at the security check point. It was ten minutes to nine. I had time. I took the escalator to the third floor.

As I stepped off the escalator I faced an H shaped open area — an elevator lobby and two corridors on each side. At first glance it looked like a cafeteria with round tables and chairs with people sitting with their coffee cups. There were three rectangular electronic boards on the wall with airport arrival/departure like listings. I saw the name William Guthrie against room 3H.

“That’s my room.” I said. I knew the name of the defendant from the papers I had received from the court.

I turned right and walked over to the end of the hall. A number of chairs were placed in groups with their backs touching. Some people sat on the chairs. Some were walking fast, almost running, across the hall with stacks of paper in their hand. Some were standing in groups. Everyone was dressed in casual clothes, except a few wore suits. These must be the attorneys, I thought. No one looked like the handsome lawyers they show on TV shows.

I located a vacant seat and waited. The courtrooms were behind me, in a row, with a plastic plate displaying the numbers. The rooms directly opposite them were conference rooms for private deliberations.

At exactly nine o’ clock I heard someone calling me by my name. The person was having problem pronouncing my name. I looked in the direction of the voice. It was Angelica with another young lady. Angelica had a folder in her and her assistant was empty-handed. Angelica introduced the assistant as Robin, a volunteer.

After I shook their hands Angelica briefed me on the proceedings. As she was talking, Officer Jackson came around to ask her if she had an estimate from me. She said yes.

“Are you nervous?” Angelica asked. “Do you recognize the defendant?”

I answered in the negative.

“Do you feel uncomfortable sitting in the same place as the defendant?”

What did she expect — me charging at the kid if I saw him?

“I don’t even know who he is,” I said. “I’m fine.”

Even though I had seen the kids from my bedroom window I didn’t know which one of them was the culprit and I had not seen their faces from up close.

Angelica informed me that the state’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney would talk to me.

“Just say what you know and if you don’t know something just say so.”

“How long will it take?

“Can’t say. We just have to wait. Sometimes they plea bargain or if needed they’ll have a full-blown case.”

“If they decide to have a case, will it be today?

“It’s possible.”


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