I took to writing stories about a little over a year ago for something to do while recovering from a broken foot. I've had about thirty published here and there. They have appeared in Romance Magazine, Heater, The Flash Fiction Press, The Fable Online, Frontier Tales, Clever Magazine, The Zodiac Review, Fear of Monkeys, Abbreviate Journal, and The Texas Writer's Journal Quarterly. (I think that's all of them.)
THE COLOR OF JUSTICE
“Look Mr. Walker I’ve already offered your client a reasonable plea agreement of three months court supervision and a small fine. If your client behaves himself after three months the case is dismissed like it never happened. You know how these things work. What’s wrong with that?”
Jamal Walker veteran defense attorney looked down at the young assistant state's attorney sitting at the prosecutor’s table. “What’s wrong with it is that the state still makes money on it at my client’s expense. Look Barron this whole case is silly. I know you're just starting out. I too started out in the state’s attorney’s office years ago and I know you’re lookin to get a high conviction rate, that’s what you people do, but for God’s sake this is only a misdemeanor, littering. There’s no harm in dismissing it. It won’t reflect badly on you.”
“I’m sorry but my instructions are take a plea or go to trial.”
Attorney Walker let out a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“You gentlemen ready?” queried Judge Hauptman from the bench on high. “We’ve got a courtroom full of people here waiting for their turn counselors. Let’s get on with it. We don't have all day. Do you have a pleas agreement or not?”
“Not your honor,” both attorneys answered simultaneously.
“All right call your first witness Mr. Von Heintz.”
“The state calls Game Warden Wilhelm A. Frassa.”
“Please swear in Officer Frassa bailiff,” instructed Judge Hauptman. The bailiff did so.
Game Warden Frassa was a young man thirtyish, thin as a rail all muscle, clean shaven with mousy colored closely cropped hair and no sideburns whatsoever. His heavily starched uniform crinkled as he sat himself upright, stiff backed in the witness chair, his shiny badge prominently displayed on his pleated ironed shirt. “You may proceed Mr.Von Heintz.”
“State your name please and your job.”
“Bill Frassa state game warden.”
“Please tell the court what happened on December 24th at 10 a.m. of last year concerning you and the incident with the Defendant Willie Jackson.”
“I was working along the river in the vicinity of the area commonly known as ‘Swamptown’ checking the backwaters there for people fishing without a license when I observed the defendant ice fishing by himself in one of the inlets there next to where all the houses are. I approached him and noticed that he had fish scattered around and told him to pick them up.”
“And what was his response.”
“He asked me why. Why he had to pick up the fish?”
“And what did you say?”
“I said because you’re littering. That’s why.”
“And what was his response?”
“He said no he wasn’t littering and told me that beer cans, junk food wrappers, cigarette butts were litter not fish and wanted to know if I saw any beer cans, wrappers or butts here. I told him that I’ll be the judge of what’s litter not him and that he better watch his mouth as I didn’t appreciate his attitude.”
“Then what did he say?”
“He got lippy and smart mouth with me. Said, ‘Oh is it against the law to have an attitude that you don’t like?’ Said it kind of all smirky and snarky like. Again I told him to clean up this mess and after numerous repeated requests he still refused to pick the fish and put them in his bucket. I was very patient with him but finally I gave him one last chance and when he gave me another one of his jive answers, I wrote him up.”
“No further questions your honor.”
“Your witness Mr. Walker.”
“Thank you Judge. Mr. Frassa did Mr. Jackson have a fishing license?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well you were checking for license that day weren’t you? That’s why you approached him in the first place isn’t it?”
Attorney Walker interrupted him. “But you didn’t check Mr. Jackson for a license did you?”
“No I didn’t.”
“You were all concerned about all these fish laying around on the ice weren’t you? These ten or so bluegills no bigger than your hand all clogging up this backwater slough creating an eyesore weren’t you?”
“I wasn’t more worried but yes they were creating a mess.”
“You didn’t gather up all these fish evidence and bag them did you?”
“Well I couldn’t because.”
Again attorney Walker cut him off. “I didn’t ask you why you couldn’t Game Warden Frassa did I? I asked you if you did. It calls for a yes or no answer. Did you collect any evidence of litter or not? Yes or no?”
“So the evidence was left on the ice? Yes or no?”
“No buts Mr. Game Warden Frassa. Yes or no. You didn’t collect the evidence did you?”
“Objection. Counsel is badgering the witness. Question’s been asked and answered Judge,” interjected Baron Von Heintz.
“Gentlemen,” responded the Judge, “Let’s not waste this court’s time with objections. I’ve been around a while and I know the rules of evidence. This is a misdemeanor. Let’s not get dramatic here and overdo it. Mr. Von Heintz can ask you for an explanation if he wishes officer Frassa. Are you finished Mr.Walker?”
“Yes your Honor.”
“Anything further Mr. Von Heintz?”
“Yes your Honor only one question.”
“Game Warden Frassa did Mr. Jackson ever pick up the fish?”
“No he refused to do so and never did.”
“Thank you. The state rests your Honor.”
“Mr. Walker your turn.”
“The defense calls the Defendant Willie LeRoy Jackson.”
Willie LeRoy Jackson, fiftyish, a scrawny runt of an unshaven black man in his ill fitted, rumpled up second hand suit and stained tie was sworn in and took the stand.
“Mr. Jackson tell us please just exactly what transpired between you and officer Frassa on Christmas Eve at 10 a.m. of last year.”
“Well I was ice fishing by myself there in my neighborhood minding my own business when Officer Frassa comes over to me and gets in my face. Tells me I’m littering and to pick up the fish I caught. I tell him I ain’t littering and I’ll take my fish with me when I leave if you don’t mind. He minded he said and said that he didn’t trust me to do so. That wasn’t good enough for him so he orders me to pick them up right now and put them in my bucket. Again I tell him not worry about it and promise to do it when I leave. He starts ranting like a mad dog that I’m being disrespectful of the law, that I’m a wisenheimer, whatever that is, and that he doesn’t like my attitude. So I told him I don’t care if he likes my attitude or not. That it ain’t against the law to have an attitude that you don’t like and I told him that I didn’t particularly care for his attitude.”
Laughter and chortling erupted from the small packed courtroom. “No more outbursts or I’ll clear this courtroom,” warned the Judge. The crowd quickly regained its composure.
“Then what happened Mr. Jackson?” asked Jamal Walker getting his client back on track.
“The he gets right in my face, nose to nose, spitting and blathering what he’s gonna do to me. I back off and start shouting it right back at him. We get into this big old shouting match when he suddenly stops and he looks over my shoulder. I turn around and look behind me and a group of fishermen farther down the ice start running over to us. Then people start coming out of their houses to see what all the ruckus is about. Pretty soon we’re surrounded by about twenty people. Officer Frassa here gets all nervous and calls the real police. Tells them there’s a riot breaking out down in Swamptown and to send a couple of squad cars of police with riot gear asap. Well more people keep showing up coming out on the ice. Now there's about thirty people there. The ice ain’t that thick yet and pretty soon the ice broke and we’re all flopping around like fish out of water trying to get our balance in this freezing mucky gooey swamp water when the police arrive. It ain’t deep there only about four feet of water.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well the police help get everybody out, they didn’t get wet though, and then wrote up everyone for disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, rioting and mayhem, wherever they could think of. All this time all of us are standing out there in the freezing cold, in wet clothing, freezing our you know what’s off. Then after everyone got a ticket the police left. That’s about it?”
“Did Game Warden Frassa say anything further?”
“Oh yeah I almost forgot to say this. He saunters up to me, gets about six inches from my face and says real cutesy like, ‘I hope everybody enjoys their Christmas presents.’
“Nothing further. Your witness Herr Von Heintz.”
“That won’t be necessary Mr. Von Heintz. I’ve heard enough,” interrupted the judge. “I’m dismissing this case.”
The crowd of awaiting defendants suddenly and uncontrollably burst into applause, rose in unison clapping giving the judge a standing ovation.
“Order. Order. Please sit down everyone. Let me remind you that this court is still in session.” shouted the judge over all the uproar.
The crowd hushed and sat down.
“Now,” continued Judge Hauptman. “How many of you people out there have cases relating to this incident? Raise your hands please.”
The judge scanned the crowd of those awaiting their fate. “It appears that this includes everyone. Raise your hand if you’re here on a case stemming from something else.
No one raised their hands.
“Well then,” reflected Judge Hauptman smiling. “Now hold your applause until I say court’s adjourned. Everyone’s case is dismissed. You’re free to go.” The judge stopped, holding them in suspense to the point of bursting, then finally, “Court is now adjourned.”
The courtroom assembly of former defendants went wild and gave the judge a second standing ovation. Judge Hauptman acknowledged their approval, bowed and left the courtroom.
“Thank you Jamal. Thank you for putting those racist nazi pigs in their place. Frassa would have never messed with me if I was white, same thing for Von Heintz. He would have dismissed it I bet if I was white. The whole god damn system’s geared to getting the blackman. Fine him for being black. Fine the poor people who can’ afford it and are barely getting by as it is.”
“Willie you’re getting yourself all worked up again. Just calm down. It’s over.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down Jamal. You know how it is. The system don’t treat us fairly. A black man can’t get justice from the white man.”
“Willie, Judge Hauptman just gave you and all the others justice.”
“That’s ‘cause she’s black.”