10 December 2011
One year ago I was working to get a man out of jail. This year I'm working to get a man into jail.
While walking home from work a couple of weeks ago I hear a woman screaming behind me. This is San Francisco. But she seemed more forceful and sustained than the typical street screamer. It quickly became apparent that she was being mugged. I turned and started running towards them. As I was running my first thought was that whatever was about to happen I needed to protect my laptop which I was carrying under one arm. My second thought was that since it was a Chromebook, it was disposable, and thus prepared to use it as a blunt instrument. The attacker saw me and another passerby coming and after a brief confrontation he ran off.
Ultimately he didn't get far. The police picked him up, I was subpoenaed to testify, and he appears to be headed to jail for four years.
My experience with Jeremy Marks' case last year made me very cautious with the American legal system. But in stark contrast with the way Jeremy's case was handled, this one appeared to be spectacularly fair. The photographic lineup consisted of individuals who looked virtually identical to each other, so much so I couldn't choose between them (fortunately the victim got a much better look at the guy than I did). The trial was within two weeks of the event, so the defendant wasn't sitting around for too long. And after he plead guilty, the judge set aside his plea and referred him for psychiatric evaluation since the judge was not convinced that the defendant was of sound mind. I was consistently impressed by the professionalism of everyone involved in this process ... with the exception of the court house security guards who completely failed to notice the Swiss Army Knife in X-rays of my laptop bag.