Hillbilly Justice For The Poor In Newton County (And Elsewhere)
Posted by jeremiasx on August 20, 2007
I have to come right out swinging on this one. The judicial system in this country is REALLY weighted against the rights of the accused on nearly every level of the game. From traffic court to AL-berrrrrrrto GONEzales…the justice system needs some serious review and reassessment of priorities and practices.
Case in point. A couple months ago my wife was pulled over here in Newton County driving down a hill on her way to drop off our son for school and go to work by a state trooper who has a long record of zealous persecution of motorists at large. How do I know this? Well, I didn’t have to ask, let me assure you. Folks in Newton County are pretty curious if the day ends in the letter “Y.” Many and various people asked ME who it was who issued the ticket and I told them it was Trooper X (who will remain nameless FOR NOW.) Upon hearing this, there was a noticeable WINCE and obligatory, “yea, that guy IS a hard-ass and does MORE than his share of ticket writing here in the county.
How do cops gain notoriety as individuals? Well, first of all this is a small community. We have a mighty population of only 498 souls in our little burg. We have about less than 5,000 in the county. People talk. However, I don’t think you can discount the unvarying opinions by the people of this county that there seems to be a major PROBLEM with law enforcement priorities.
There’s a new sheriff in town and they’ve “nabbed” seven people year-to-date with a fleet of 3-5 deputies on duty at any given time riding around in brand new Dodge Chargers, courtesy federal funding…good for them, they have nice looking rides now.
But what have they been busy doing with our tax money? Are the meth labs getting busted? Are the probation absconders and scofflaws rounded up for punishment? No. They are busy WRITING TICKETS as fast as they can. They were kept especially busy during the recent Rainbow National Gathering 2007 out at Fallsville. In writing that series of articles I learned that our county sheriff’s office was wasting UNPRECEDENTED amounts of money to “support” a 3/4 MILLION DOLLAR federal operation aimed at thwarting “inappropriate freedoms” in the middle of nowhere in a national forest. (No one around for MILES.)
During this experience, I saw the law enforcement officers, including our county boys, violating (or usually ATTEMPTING, the Rainbows have to be de facto street lawyers due to their constant oppression and scrutiny) nearly EVERY basic article of the Bill of Rights, and trampling on good times to boot as often as they could. It was LUDICROUS for our county to waste the money and resources. People in this county died and the law was nowhere to be found at times during the gathering.
All that aside…back to the ticket. We went to court a few months ago and they scheduled a date to appear and we showed up dressed in proper attire (“No Hats, No Shorts, No Halter Tops” is posted outside the courtroom door and it is enforced from what I hear…) to participate in the justice system. We waited for a few hours due to being later on the docket past the more “serious offenses.”
Here’s what I saw. Some guy I used to throw canoes with got busted for stealing electric from some old man’s garage who was allowing him to park his car there but curiously not allowing him to have electricity to charge his battery…strange.
Next case…local young man…mama sat with him at the table. (No mention of irregularity in her sitting next to him, and that will become important LATER in this drawn out story of injustice, irrationality, and arrogance bordering on terminal hubris.) The charge was read and lo and behold it was a DUI charge…serious stuff…this young man was driving an SUV with a horse trailer and couldn’t keep it between the fences. Wreck-o-matic and a bad one to boot, apparently. So bad that the ambulance and the police were called right away…well…he had to face the music in court.
HERE IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING. The responding officer was in court today, dutifully, duty to what or who I’m not sure…but he was there on the stand and after swearing or affirming to tell the truth on NOTHING but thin air…and he said when he responded to that SERIOUS accident…he did not visually identify the defendant…and the case was dismissed. I had to do a double-take to figure it out! However…as I glanced from the smiling face of the defendant and his mother to the smiling prosecutor who performed LAZILY at BEST…criminally NEGLIGENT at worst. (We’ll come back to HIM later.) Meanwhile, the responding officer (who was recently promoted to DETECTIVE) who did not VISUALLY VERIFY who had crashed an SUV with horses behind it into a tree…walked back to his pew with his eyes on the floor…hard to hold your head high when you’re DOING BAD THINGS…isn’t it…DETECTIVE.
AND THEN the next young man who was busted for “paraphernalia” which is a misdemeanor, but a damned EXPENSIVE FINE…over two hundred Ameros (oh hell just get USED to calling them that…) and he even had a LAWYER…which did him absolutely no good. Regardless of the fact that the evidence was obtained without consent to search, regardless of a reasonably plausible defense of no knowledge of the pipe in the car…hey it can happen! lolz…anyhow…that kid was guilty too. Fine-o-matic.
Next young lady…same officer…not our officer…but an older local yokel with gray hair, a portly physique built-up by many hours on the couch and fewer hours on his feet…had pulled this young Mexican-American lady (legal) over for speeding and had reportedly been EXTREMELY abusive to her. She defended herself with an obvious lack of any understanding of jurisprudence and of course walked away…guilty. I caught her on her way to the bank across the street from the courthouse in beautiful Jasper, Arkansas…and asked her why she was crying? She told me that while she wasn’t broke, she was close…and she couldn’t afford to wait it out or appeal the ruling of the court (ah yes…now we are getting to the HEART OF THE MATTER) so she tearfully went to the ATM and walked back in and ponied up the money obediently to the court clerk…but not before telling myself and a group of old men whittling away the hours how she was mistreated at the hands of officer PORKY…and I seconded that I’d heard MANY reports of negative activity from this particular officer. Duly noted by all present on the courthouse square.
So it was soon OUR turn…after having witnessed an utter lack of prosecution against a local blonde-haired blue-eyed golden boy….and a string of rubber-stamp “guilty” verdicts against everyone else…including having a man literally hauled off to jail for not paying a fine…after he had the DECENCY to show up for court to plead for more time. He told the judge as he was being cuffed that he had a 103 year-old aunt to watch, but the judge told him he’d heard it all before and he should have thought about that poor old lady before he spent money on things other than his fine. PRICELESS.
So it’s our turn. We head up to the bar…I accompany my wife because after watching Goldilocks and Son hang out with virtual impunity I assumed it was OK for me to go on up there. I caught puzzled glances from the entire courtroom…and the prosecutor mentioned it during his opening banter with our State Trooper X several times…”was the man seated next to the defendant in the car at the time” etc. etc. trying to establish that somehow I was COMPLETELY uninvolved in the affair. Maybe he figured I was just her boyfriend. I don’t know. Marriage does have legal protections though. Anyhow…on with the show.
The basis for OUR complaint with Trooper X is that he decided to be sneaky in writing the speeding ticket in question. He ORIGINALLY stopped my wife for a BUSTED TAIL LIGHT. We have a copy of the warning. Same date. Same stop. He claimed on the stand that he observed her “speeding down the mountain in the brake check area and pulled her over after clocking her at SIXTY-SEVEN miles per hour…DOWNHILL…with our 3-year old son in the car. RIGHT. Anyhow…no mention of the tail light yet. Waited. Waited. No mention of busted tail light. Ok…this will be easier than we thought. Right?
My wife, after much whispering in her ear to the utter dismay and shock of our smartass prosecutor (and he IS a smartass in general, from my observations of his demeanor in court towards all defendants except blondie who didn’t just cower to his will…) who made mention of it to the point I was sitting there helping her…and the JUDGE finally told him flatly, “Look, you don’t have to have a law license to give someone advice…he can whisper in her ear all he wants, I’m enjoying it.” I thought that was cool. Unfortunately, it was the ONLY cool thing the judge did all morning.
My wife was relentless in her cross-examination of Trooper X…she let him have it from the jump…”Why do you say you pulled me over for SPEEDING when YOU KNOW that you pulled me over originally for a busted TAIL LIGHT?” He got red as a beet. I think it might be the first time a brave citizen got in his face…in court. He stuttered and stammered his way into an obstinate position of utter denial…regardless of his acknowledgment of the tail light WARNING…he would not concede that’s why he pulled her over. At this point I’ll enter Exhibit A for my readers…this WAS the letter I was going to have her pass up to the judge, but we didn’t…too bad we couldn’t get it printed up in time, eh?
On the date in question I was traveling on my way to work down the hill on Highway 7, in no hurry at all, from my residence on Mockingbird Hill. I was pulled over by State Trooper X who had been posted on the Round Top Mountain trail driveway. He initially explained his reason for detaining me on my way to work was that he noticed I had a tail light out. I informed him I would be getting it fixed at Bob Reno’s right away and thanked him for advising me of the condition of my vehicle.
What happened next defies logic and usual law enforcement standards. He asked for my identification and ran my motor vehicle history, and discovered I had a speeding ticket 2 years prior in Guy, Arkansas. I guess you have heard of the tendency that Guy, Arkansas has in handing out traffic tickets mercilessly. They have been sued and lost in court over that issue more than once. However, not being one to normally rock the boat I received a ticket from Guy and paid it, and thought that would be the end of my punishment for that “offense.”
Not so. Trooper X vested himself the authority to surmise that since I had that traffic ticket 2 years prior, he would like to give me a ticket for speeding because he thought I was, “coming a little too fast down the mountain.” I firmly contend that was not the case and the very idea of me speeding down a mountain with my son in the car is ludicrous, and I also question this trooper’s judgment in meting out justice with unwarranted bias based not on the facts of this traffic stop, but on the merits of an assumption of guilt from a case two years prior in another district, the circumstances of which he isn’t even aware.
I ask your Honor to dismiss this unwarranted charge with extreme prejudice and to please advise the state trooper that if he decides he’s ready to adjudicate justice rather than just enforce the law plainly and regularly as is his duty, he should pass the bar exam and then run for county or circuit judge. Given that eventuality, he would discover that he had no right to assume any guilt due to a past infraction. That is obtuse and far outside the due bounds of usual law enforcement or jurisprudence. I hope it doesn’t happen again.
That lays out the basics as we see it. Anyhow…to make a LONG story short…the whole “guilty” rubber stamp fell and we were told (after asking) that we could appeal. I returned to the courthouse after changing a flat tire to have a chat and a chaw with our lovely and helpful court clerk, Mona. We had a long conversation which enlightened me to two PERTINENT FACTS.
1. If you want to appeal a finding in our court system you have to have $150 for a filing fee…the fine for the ticket is $120.
2. There is no transcript of our court as it is not a “court of record.” Nothing said by the judge, the smartass prosecutor who tried to intimidate us, or Trooper X has been written down into a documented format. Interesting.
THIS IS NOT JUSTICE PEOPLE…it is a RACKET. You have better odds playing THIS GAME than obtaining JUSTICE in this system under the current rules of the game. The poor are meant to pay…not to win. Bottom line.