By P. Berman, K. Hecht, and A. Hosack
Life in jail was paralleling Larry’s life growing up; he was always being humiliated or beaten up by someone with more power than him. At night when he was finally was able to fall asleep, he had bizarre dreams in which he always ended up begging Claire to drop the charges and let him out of jail. Waking up from these dreams was an exercise in self-hatred. While they were just “dreams,” Larry felt they were signs that he was not a “real” man. None of the men he knows at the bar, and certainly not his dad, would ever beg a woman for anything. Claire should be coming to jail every day and begging for his forgiveness. She had never come by and something in his mind was telling him he had reversed roles with her.
He couldn’t get out of his head what the police had said to each other as they had driven off with him in the back of their patrol car. They were talking about Claire, and with him off the streets, how she was now safe.
Claire didn’t need protection from him! He had been her protector at school from all the guys who had been bullying her.
When they charged Larry at the station, they showed him a photo of Claire with a black eye. He didn’t deny he punched her, but he tried to explain that she had asked for it and she knew it! Larry wondered over and over what crazy thoughts the Carsons were stuffing into Claire’s head that would make her press charges against him just because he hit her at the restaurant.
It was her dad she was terrified of, not him!
Claire was always black and blue from something she had done to irritate her parents; he had been the one to comfort her! When they were dating in high school, things went smoothly most of the time. But sometimes she had needed to be reminded that he was calling the shots. She had always learned before.
She was so grateful when I stopped by the house after giving her the cold shoulder for a month. Now that was how things should be between men and women.
He was dragged out of his cell by the guard saying it was time to meet his attorney. Larry looked up at the clock and was instantly furious; it was forty minutes later than his appointment had been scheduled. Larry had never met an attorney before but had seen plenty of police shows on TV. Attorneys only treated scum this way, and he was not scum. This guy was supposed to prove that in court. A very angry Larry was shoved into a small room with a table. The guard then slammed and locked the door.
Larry’s attorney didn’t even look up; he just started to talk fast while reading a pile of documents. “My name is Mr. Branister, and I am your assigned public defender. . .” Larry broke in and said, “How about an apology for keeping me waiting like an idiot for forty minutes.” The attorney didn’t bother to look up. He just said, “I have about fifteen of you guys to see today, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.”
That was no apology. Mr. Branister clearly didn’t think he deserved one. There he sat, not even looking him in the eyes like a man. Clearly, he thought Larry was a bug beneath his feet.
Mr. Branister had succeeded in humiliating Larry in about thirty seconds—but that had not been his intention. Some people called it “unconscious cultural elitism” that can be common among individuals who have lived privileged lives. Mr. Branister had never gone hungry, never been beaten, never wondered if he would live to see the next day – but Larry had. Until Mr. Branister had agreed to be a public defender to help him gain experience as an attorney, he had never met anyone who had gone to jail before; he just didn’t have a clue how tough life had been for Larry. He thought of Larry as one more guy that he had to process that day, not a guy whose whole live had been turned upside down and who desperately needed help.
Larry stood up, pushed at the papers on the desk and yelled that he expected to be treated with respect. Rather than apologizing, this Branister quickly closed his briefcase and said he would be off to see the next guy on his list. All of the fight went out of Larry in that instant. He had been so sure he would finally get out of jail. Now, his attorney was threatening not to help him.
“You gotta get me out of here. The other guys, even the guards, are treating me like I am their private punching ball. Of course, I am fighting back! What else would you expect me to do?”
The attorney looked up at Larry, looked back at his paperwork, and saw how young Larry was. . . the same age as his younger brother who always had trouble keeping his mouth shut. Mr. Branister took a deep breath and said, “Larry, let’s start over.”
3/22/2019 Part 27 Claire’s Story: Larry is headed for a tough day in court
By A. Hosack, K. Hecht, and P. Berman
Larry had no adult criminal record, so his case had started out simply enough. If nothing else had happened since the assault, Mr. Branister could have gotten the charges dropped, or maybe gotten Larry probation. Unfortunately, Larry had resisted arrest. Mr. Branister believed Larry’s story that he had been drunk when the police knocked on his door and that he had still been able to control himself until one of the officers had insulted him. Larry didn’t seem to understand that these facts would appear differently to the judge than they did to him. The judge was going to think he must have a serious alcohol problem that he had been drunk at 10 in the morning. This was not the only issue making Larry’s case more serious. Since being in jail, rather than waiting “calmly” for his case to be called, Larry had been written up three times for getting into fights during the last two weeks. This was going to make it appear to the judge that Larry has a pattern of interpersonal violence that included both men and women. If things didn’t go just right in court, Larry was facing some serious jail time.
I don’t know what to do tomorrow. How am I supposed to act in court? What is this judge going to do? It seems like that prosecutor is out to get me? How am I going to protect myself?
These thoughts kept Larry from getting much of any sleep. Attorney Branister had told him all the things not to do. But, what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t believe he was supposed to just sit there and shut up. Only suckers did that. Should he trust Branister? All of these guys who seemed to have more control than him, the judge, the prosecutor,and this Branister were all so different than Larry. Could they ever understand what was really going on between Claire and him?
It started out as planned. Larry came in and sat down next to Mr. Branister who reminded him again that he should stay completely quiet unless addressed by the judge or an attorney. He told Larry to trust him, to handle anything that happened and to especially not make any effort to talk to Claire or any other witnesses. Larry hated being told what to do, it made him feel like a puppet. But he felt very out-of-place in the court room. He was in his jail jump suit, his lawyer and the prosecutor were in black suits. In fact, besides looking alike, they exchanged friendly hellos as if they knew each other. He didn’t get this setup at all. Larry wondered again if he Mr. Branister would sell him out.
Larry was staying in his seat with his mouth shut but he kept twisting around trying to get a good look at Claire. He knew she loved him. He figured with one good look in her eyes, she would back down and drop the assault charges. That might have worked, but Larry never got the chance. Claire was there but she was flanked by her foster parents and Ms. Hysock from Child Protective Services and he could not get a direct look in her face. There were also three other strangers who came in and talked to the prosecutor briefly before the judge started the hearing.
Who are all these people? One woman looked vaguely familiar… Oh yeah, he remembered with a groan, it was the crazy waitress from the diner. She might have seen him hit Claire. Would she admit the truth? That Claire had asked for it?
Larry tried to ask his attorney a question but got hushed. . . the all-mighty judge was walking in. Larry had expected that the hearing would start right away but the judge was just sitting there reading papers. To Larry, it looked like the judge was reading as slowly as possible to make the point that he was