For two months now, the Ann Arbor chronicle has been publishing the Washtenaw Jail Diary, a series of chapters by a former inmate at that jail, chronicling his life behind bars and his experiences. Interestingly, the content of the chapters were originally published as tweets, but later taken down and deleted. This unnamed inmate is now in the process of writing a book, it seems, while at the same time publishing these stories in the newspaper. They’re up to the third chapter and you can find all the installments here.
The latest installment, Chapter 3, is of particular interest to me, because in it he writes about “The Public Pretender”:
I still cannot decide if I had decent representation within the parameters of the “McJustice” doled out via the overworked Public Defender’s office and the backroom horse trading that goes on. If I could have afforded a real lawyer, one with “connections,” would I have done as much jail time? I do not know the answer to that. I tend to think that I would have gone free sooner. But I will never know for sure.
I am taken from my block and brought to a room back near the dreaded holding tanks, meeting with the person with whom I am to entrust my life. And here, in front of me, is Clarence fucking Darrow, himself – all bluster and a bit cartoonish, reveling, it seems to me, in being the center of attention. He is surrounded by assistants, interns, law students – almost all of whom, I am strangely curious to discover, are attractive young women.
The Pretender tells me that I am not the usual kind of person he represents, since I am apparently well-spoken and educated. But that does not prevent him from launching into street lingo, some of which I ask him to translate for me. He speaks this way out of habit, I am guessing, to try to win the trust of his usual crop of clients.
I have mixed feelings about my Pretender. Do I want what appears to me to be a snake oil salesman representing my interests in these felony cases? Maybe this is exactly the kind of person I need on my side. The lawyer in my misdemeanor cases seemed much too timid for me – in fact, agreeing with the prosecutor in court.
But there’s more. For instance, this handy guide to writing a successful “speech to the judge”:
Major ingredients for a successful speech to a judge include:
1. Apologize to the court, to the community and to any victims harmed and admit your mistakes.
2. Talk about what you are doing while in jail to further your education, help the jail community or help control destructive behavior (AA, Alternatives to Domestic Abuse, GED, etc.).
3. Discuss your job possibilities after you return to the community and the support system of family and friends that awaits you.
4. Mention family members, teachers, members of the community who might have written letters to the judge on your behalf.
1. Insist you are innocent.
2. Tell a hard-luck story about yourself and your family.
3. Fail to address the court clearly and with respect.