The first time the defendants accused in the death of a young man showed up for court, they looked ready to (pardon) poop their pants.
Each of the three shuffled in to the courtroom wearing a red-stripped jumpsuit, wild-eyed and reactive to the judge’s gavel as if he was pounding nails into already-assigned coffins.
Each was possibly detoxing from drugs, which is, of course, the common denominator among virtually all the others sitting shoulder to shoulder in the crowd bused in from the county jail.
They were caught.
And they were scared.
They were likely teachable at that moment because of the potential gravity of the situation.
That was in December.
One is still locked up, likely because both bail and the profile of the case remains high.
Two are out and about between appearances.
One now arrives to court, dressed and dyed and made-up as if on her way to a nightclub.
The other, rumor has it, is not faring very well in limbo.
In the months between their first and most recent appearance, some of their cohorts (now familiar to me) have also gone through this kind of metamorphosis.
The same who swagger into court now in half-shirts and high heels or sagging pants, or are called down for laughing and playing in the jumpsuit-gallery, were shaking with fright just a few months ago. Over time, the “gravity of the situation” has turned out instead to be nothing more than a game, or some sort of bizarre stage play.
Everybody, even those with initial stagefright, learns their part it seems.
The judge does what he must and grants status hearing after status hearing.
The defense does what it must and files for status hearing after status hearing.
The prosecution does what it must and sits on its hands month after month.
By the time a trial begins or a plea agreement is reached, any sentence is so far removed from the crime as to be ineffectual in any meaningful way.
An agreement that includes drug rehab may look good on paper but, months later, without the fear and desperation required to fuel change, it’s just pantomime.
Facing the judge for sentencing must be like showing up for a funeral that kepts getting postponed, over and over. Months after the fact, any earnest tears would be hard to produce. No matter how shaken, how devastated we may be early on, people move on.