Thursday, September 28, 2006

Justice Court

The place you go when you throw your food wrapper out your truck window, or when you slit someone's throat.

(It reminds me of high school, where you got in-school suspension if you cut class or brought a weapon to school. That was pre-Columbine.)

Ah, the life of a small-town newspaper reporter.

See, in March, we had a man in our county who was opening up a Mexican restaurant. He was not Mexican, but had partners who were.

One morning, this man's ex-wife found him dead in his living room.

The chief suspects: a young Latino man who had lived with the man and helped him with renovations to the restaurant building, and the Latino man's girlfriend, a young girl from around here.

The two disappeared, along with the man's car, around the same time as the murder.

Although many speculated that the pair and their child had hightailed it across the border, they were finally found in Memphis at the beginning of this month. They were living in a motel, living off handouts from a church. They had apparently been going from congregation to congregation for some time before someone recognized the young man's last name and called authorities.

Today was a preliminary hearing. It was supposed to begin at 2:00 p.m. I got there about 1:50. The deceased's family was already there. The suspect was not.

And boy, was it ever cold. I need to write a scathing editorial about how cold this county keeps their buildings. I mean, seriously - I'm a taxpayer. I'm paying to freeze. It's not right.

So, for a little over an hour, I sat and listened to traffic tickets. One young boy was clocked doing 104 in a 70 m.p.h. zone. Needless to say, he got a pretty hefty fine and was advised not to get another ticket anytime soon.

A college student was clocked doing 81 in a 55 m.p.h. zone. She insisted that she couldn't have been going that fast, because there were two cars in front of her. The Highway Patrolman who clocked her said he didn't see any other cars.

But the best one yet was the boy who was eating something with a wrapper while he was driving. He had his arm out the window of his truck, and the "wind" blew the wrapper out of his hand.

Problem was, there was a Sheriff's Deputy behind him, and the wrapper landed on his car. When the boy was pulled over, he was still chewing the food. He gave the deputy his "wind" story.

He got a fine, too.

Finally, it was the murder suspect's turn. His hearing lasted about 20 minutes. The only witness was the Chief Deputy.

Not much was accomplished, but the suspect has been bound over to the Grand Jury. I won't know anything else for at least a month or two, when they meet again.

It was slightly surreal, sitting between the accused and the family of the slain man. I don't know how they stood to be in the same room with him.

And, as the authorities are pretty confident that they have good evidence, I assume we'll be in the same position again in a few months.

I've never covered a murder trial before, so I don't know quite what to expect.

One thing I do know, however - I will remember to bring a coat.

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