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Authors: John Nicholas Iannuzzi

Courthouse (6 page)

BOOK: Courthouse
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“I guess she's sorry she had her husband arrested and now she doesn't want him to go to jail. So she's refusing to press charges,” Marc explained. “On a case like this, the People have no objection.”

“Why'd they bother to bring the case to court in the first place then?”

“Because the woman made a complaint,” said Marc. “The policeman in the street is not a judge to decide if a crime was really committed. He received a complaint and made an arrest. Besides, the cop got paid a hundred dollars overtime to come to court, so he doesn't mind a bit.”

Mrs. Maricyk frowned.

“The defendant will waive any suit for false arrest or for anything else against the City and against this officer,” the Legal Aid lawyer announced to the Judge for the court reporter to include in the record.

“Very well,” said the Judge impatiently. “Have him sign the affidavits to that effect. Case dismissed. Call the next case. Let's go.” Judge Rathmore looked to neophyte Judge Bauer to be sure he took in the entire lesson. Judge Bauer nodded, and watched Charlie put three different rubber stamps on the court papers, then toss them in a basket next to the bench.

The defendant in the sneakers turned, put his arm around his wife, and walked toward the rear of the courtroom. One of the small children held his hand. The other tailed along behind. The wife was crying, nuzzling her tears against her husband's chest.

“Docket Number A29630,” intoned Charlie. “William Turner, charged with violations of one forty point thirty, one fifty-five point forty, and one forty point thirty-five. On the complaint of Arthur Stark.”

A man with a bandaged head rose from the audience and went forward to swear to the truth of his complaint as another police officer got a Black prisoner out of the bull pen and stood him in front of the Judge. The District Attorney spoke to the cop as Legal Aid spoke to the defendant.

“This place is wild,” said Mrs. Maricyk. “This always go on?”

Marc nodded.

“When's Joey's case get called?” she asked.

“In a few minutes,” Marc replied.

“Why are all the women sitting inside the rail?”

“They're mostly prostitutes,” said Marc. “Our male chauvinist past makes us regard women—even prostitutes—as too delicate to be kept in those animal cages in the back. Maybe women's lib should complain so they can all get tossed in the cells equally.”

Mrs. Maricyk grimaced, then turned to watch the court proceedings. After a few minutes, Mrs. Maricyk tapped Marc's arm. “She really likes you,” Mrs. Maricyk said, motioning toward one of the women sitting inside the rail. “She's been staring at you for ten minutes now.”

The woman staring at Marc was Black, exotic-looking, tall with a solid, taut figure. Her dress had a deep décolletage.

“She's beautiful,” said Mrs. Maricyk. “Is she a prostitute?”

“First of all,” Mac replied, “
she
happens to be a
he
.”

Mrs. Maricyk stared at Marc and then turned to stare at the person in front of the courtroom. “You're kidding!”

“No, I'm not.”

“She's got breasts,” Mrs. Maricyk countered.

“Silicone,” said Marc.

“How do you know about all these people without even knowing who they are?” she asked.

“You get a sense about cases when you've handled enough of them.”

“That good-lookin' thing is a
man
?” repeated Mrs. Maricyk incredulously, looking forward again.

“Sure is. A strange man, but definitely not a woman.”

“But how, I mean, after all, if he's a prostitute, I mean, the customer finds out and … does she, he, make money doin' this?”

“I imagine so,” replied Marc. “He must pick up a customer and after they get through the preliminaries, he tells the customer that it's one of those times of the month. But just so the customer's not disappointed, he says he's sure he can do something for him. And he does. And the customer pays him, and then the customer goes home to East Cupcake, Nebraska, and tells all his buddies about the really hot time he had in New York. Never knowing he was really out with a man.”

Mrs. Maricyk studied Marc dubiously. She looked back to the figure in the front.

“Next case,” said Judge Rathmore, finishing with the case before him. The Black man, originally charged with a burglary, pled guilty to a petit larceny misdemeanor. His sentence was set four weeks ahead.

The bridge man called another case. The he-she prostitute stood and strutted exaggeratedly to the counsel table.

“Back again, hanh, Ruthie?” Charlie the bridge man said softly, smiling.

“A girl's got to work,” Ruthie replied effeminately. His-her skin was very dark, smoothed with very carefully applied make-up. He-she glanced over his shoulder at Marc and smiled.

Ruthie had a private lawyer who made an application for an adjournment of two weeks. The Judge granted the adjournment and paroled Ruthie until the return date. Ruthie swayed saucily out of the courtroom, probably straight to put together enough money to pay the fine to be imposed and the lawyer's fee.

“Docket Number A46753 Joseph Maricyk,” announced Charlie, looking over and winking at Marc. The policeman with the crew cut rose and walked into the bull pen. He returned with his prisoner. Joey Maricyk was short, wide, with blond straight hair. He had an angry bruise under his half-closed right eye. Maricyk walked slowly with discomfort, winked at Marc and mumbled a hello. He stood next to Marc at the counsel table, facing the bench.

“This defendant is arraigned under two hundred point forty-five and two twenty point five of the Penal Code,” continued Charlie. “Do you waive the formal reading of the information, Counselor?”

“Yes,” replied Marc.

Judge Bauer sat slightly back of Judge Rathmore, and he smiled down at Marc.

“Will you give your appearance to the stenographer, Counselor.”

“Marc Conte, two thirty-seven Broadway, New York City.” The stenographer, a thin Black man, was slouched in his chair, looking across the room. Only his fingers moved, and they quickly, on the stenotype machine.

The District Attorney began speaking to the crew-cut cop. He was being informed for the first time about the charges against Maricyk, and based on this information, he would decide how to handle the case and the amount of bail, if any, he would allow. Although bail was exclusively the province of the judge, when the D.A. recommended an amount of bail, very often, particularly with a judge like Rathmore, that recommendation carried a great deal of weight.

“This prick worked me over with an ax handle,” Maricyk whispered to Marc.

“I know. Your wife told me,” replied Marc.

“A real tough punk,” said Maricyk, standing with his head lowered so the Judge couldn't see him speaking. He held his hands behind his back. “I'd love to see him try something like that out in the street, where he didn't have all the cops in that station house to back him up. I'd rip the top of his skull off. The bastard.”

“Not so loud,” Marc cautioned softly, as the D.A.'s conference continued. The Judge on the dais sat back silently, waiting. He turned and chatted with Judge Bauer. “One of the sections of the penal code the bridge man just read has to do with narcotics, Joey,” said Marc. “Did you have narcotics with you?”

“What the hell would I do with that,” said Maricyk. “Nah. These punks planted a marijuana cigarette on me, just to be sure I got hung with something so they'd have an excuse for the beating they gave me.”

“Counselor, here's your copy of the papers,” said Charlie, handing Marc a copy of the complaint sheet.

The District Attorney broke his huddle with the crew cut and turned to the Judge. “The People are going to request an adjournment of two weeks in this matter, Your Honor,” he said.

The Judge glanced at Marc. “Counselor, do you want to be heard on this?”

“I certainly do, sir,” replied Marc. “The defendant is ready for a hearing right now, and moves that a preliminary hearing be held forthwith.”

“Counselor,” said the Judge thinly, “the District Attorney had made an application for an adjournment. I'm sure there's a good reason for that request. Is there, Mister D.A.?” He glanced at the D.A.

“Certainly, Your Honor. This matter is very likely to be presented to the grand jury this afternoon. All the witnesses, the policemen, are here already.”

The Judge looked back to Marc, a satisfied look on his face.

“Your Honor,” said Marc, “most respectfully, I suggest that this is the first time the D.A. ever heard about this case. It has not been scheduled for grand jury hearing. The D.A. merely says it very likely will be presented today. However, I'm sure the schedule for the grand jury is already filled for the day with other cases. Since all the witnesses in this case are
here
right now, right in front of you in this courtroom, this court should hold a hearing. Until an indictment is actually handed down by the grand jury, this court has jurisdiction over this case, and the defendant demands an immediate hearing.”

Judge Bauer sat silently now, watching Judge Rathmore.

“Counselor, I know the law, thank you,” the Judge said coldly. “I just want to know what you want to do about an adjournment. Is two weeks acceptable?”

“Can we have a representation from the D.A. that this case is, in fact, going to be presented to the grand jury today?” asked Marc.

“I don't know of any statute or rule which allows me to require the D.A. to make such a representation. Unless he wants to …” The Judge looked to the D.A.

“I do not want to make such a representation,” said the D.A., picking up the Judge's cue.

The Judge looked back to Marc with a shrug, a thin smile on his lips. “Two weeks, Counselor?”

“Your Honor,” said Marc, “most respectfully, section one eighty point sixty of the Criminal Procedure Law requires that if a hearing is postponed, it can only be postponed for twenty-four hours. I'll consent to an adjournment only until tomorrow.”

“I guess counsel hasn't read the law correctly,” the young District Attorney said haughtily. In the District Attorney's office, the younger men had to work their way through each of the bureaus or departments, and the youngest of the court men handled the Parts in the Criminal Court. The more experienced men handled the pre-trial proceedings in the Supreme Court, and then, finally, trials in the Supreme Court. “The statute speaks of a seventy-two-hour limit only if the defendant hasn't made bail,” continued the D.A. “The People have no objection to reasonable bail being set in this case, Your Honor. I'd recommend five thousand dollars. And I press for a two-week adjournment. Counsel can't have objection now.”

The Judge looked to Marc patiently.

“While I appreciate my learned colleague's dissertation on the law,” Marc said softly, “his reference, if Your Honor pleases, is to a section requiring parole for a defendant in jail if his hearing is not held within seventy-two hours. I refer to a completely different section, Your Honor, section one eighty point sixty, which indicates that any hearing, whether there be bail, parole, or not, can only be adjourned for twenty-four hours at a time. I realize the District Attorney prefers to curtail the defendant's right to a preliminary hearing …”

“The People can present a case to the grand jury at any time they wish,” interrupted the District Attorney. “If counsel doesn't like the law …”

“May I finish, Your Honor, without interruption.” Marc addressed the Court firmly. “I gave the District Attorney a chance to speak without interruption, and I'd appreciate the same courtesy.”

The Judge nodded patiently, looking at the D.A., assuring him in a glance that all was not lost.

The stenographer, still slouched, still glancing at a side wall, said: “Don't speak both at the same time. I can't get it.”

“The District Attorney is right, you know, Counselor,” said the Judge indulgently. “But go ahead and make the record if you wish.”

“While it is true,” said Marc, “that the People can present a case to the grand jury at any time it wishes, this case isn't even scheduled for a grand jury yet—as we stand here now. The law doesn't eliminate this court's jurisdiction based on what the D.A. is likely to do in the future. Nor can this court eschew its jurisdiction by adjourning cases for inordinate lengths of time so as to give the District Attorney the opportunity of obtaining an indictment.”

“Are you saying that I'm eschewing jurisdiction to accommodate the D.A.?” asked the Judge indignantly.

“I am merely repeating the words of the Court of Appeals in the case of People versus Markovitch,” said Marc. “That Court used the very words I just quoted to Your Honor.”

The Judge looked down to the bridge man. “Give me a copy of the Criminal Procedure Law,” he said. “What section did you say, Counselor?”

“Section one eighty point sixty,” repeated Marc. “And, Your Honor, while I am on the subject, and before it slips my mind, I wish to indicate to this Court, that the defendant was physically manhandled in the precinct house by the police. I wish Your Honor to note the defendant's physical appearance for the record.”

The Judge looked down at Marc, then to Maricyk. “I'm not going to get into medical descriptions for the record, Counselor. I'm the Judge, not the doctor. If you want to note anything for the record, you do so. I'll mark the defendant's papers for medical attention if you wish, but I certainly am not going to be used by defendants to further any schemes or purposes they may have to escape justice.”

“Your Honor refuses to note the defendant's condition for the record?” asked Marc.

“I do.” The Judge began to thumb through a book the bridge man handed him.

Judge Bauer looked at Marc, then looked over to Judge Rathmore.

BOOK: Courthouse
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