I spent Monday morning walking around (mostly sitting and waiting, actually) in the halls of justice. It’s not a setting in which I am comfortable. It is all a bit strange because is it different. Joseph Jaramillo and I waited more than three hours for the preliminary hearing for the transient (Gerry) who’s been a constant visitor to Peninsula in the wee hours of the morning.
With lots of time to kill, I went inside the courtroom and listened as other hearings were underway. In the pursuit of justice, they do waste a lot of time. It was, however, fairly efficient and flexible…for a courtroom.
Among the proceedings were two women in shackles, their cases postponed, so I don’t know what they did. There was one guy who was accused of breaking into a truck at a strip mall (while his wife and kid were out of sight in his Mini Cooper waiting) to steal an iPhone. Are you serious?
Somebody else was on someone’s balcony and jumped off (from what I could gather from the conversations in the hallway). That case got postponed too, but seemed more serious than anything else. The jumpsuits and handcuffs certainly raise the level of tension in the room, at least for a novice like me.
There were nine cases on the docket on Monday. “Our” District Attorney had eight of them. He was sharp, but haggard. He knew his cases well but seemed overwhelmed at times juggling all this crime. Such is the nature of the preliminary hearing I guess. Remember, this is a new world for me. My experience inside a courtroom is only as a juror, which has been way too often, from my point of view.
I sat in the back of the courtroom, watching law enforcement officers come and go, watching the judge and bailiff and court reporter and lawyers scurry about, and the administrator for the DA’s office attempt to bring order from chaos. And where does my mind go? Sin and economics, of course. There is a lot of money being spent every day on the criminal justice system. Police. Judges. Staff. Cleaning crews. Facilities. Lawyers. Everything. It’s a bit mind-boggling. If we could just love our neighbor as ourselves, think about how much money we could save. There is an economic price to pay for sin.
This world is broken. Horribly broken. We can’t keep our hands on our own stuff and even get along with each other. Courthouses aren’t going to fix anything. We need a Redeemer. On Monday I saw the economic cost of sin on society. One courtroom among thousands in the U.S. I’m not sure that connection is ever made by those who argue for the innate goodness of humanity. They argue we aren’t all that bad; we are basically good. Really? Walk around a courthouse. Check out their budgets. Reflect on the costs of building and staffing and maintaining just the buildings. That’s the cost of sin. It is overwhelming. Like our sin.
The day got immeasurably better as I left the courthouse, however. Bruce McGregor was coming to see how we were doing – and took me to an amazing lunch. There is hope, redemption happens.