Courtroom Fun but No Games
Wit and Wisdom from old notebooks, Paper Scraps
By Harry M. Covert
When the weather gets bad its a good thing to find an old box full of scribbles on napkins, paper scraps and old note pads.
Recent days have proved invaluable. Some interesting stuff fell out. Over time a lot of notes have been taken in courthouses, jails, political meetings and other venues where intellect sometimes is off the bubble.
How about this one. Alexandria’s Chief General District Court Judge Becky J. Moore, presiding one morning, sentenced a defendant to a jail term in the city’s William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, better known perhaps as Dana Lawhorne’s jail.
A few days later, among the chief judge’s morning mail, a handwritten letter arrived from Mill Road. The jailed inmate thanked her for his courtroom experience, then asked “if she would go to dinner with him” when his time was completed.
The veteran judge smiled and declined the unusual invitation.
A Drive With the Family
In another Commonwealth courtroom, Hizzoner asked a guilty defendant if he “had any statement before passing judgment.” The guy replied no and promptly spit on the judge. Bailiffs jumped on the defendant as the judge wiped spittle from his brow.
The late Judge Macy M. Carmel didn’t add more time for contempt and noted “he’s got 12 months on a state road gang. That’ll be enough.”
On another occasion, Judge Carmel, who also presided over the Juvenile Court, was on a summer evening family ride. A carload of high school boys just happened to pass by the family car. Recognizing the driver judge, they “mooned” him, laughing and sped off. Judge Carmel also chuckled. There’s more to the story.
A month or so later, one of the show-offs had been arrested for multiple traffic charges. Yes, the case just happened to be efore Judge Carmel.
When the teenager’s case was called, he became a prayerful young man, nervous, too, as both parents stood with their progeny hoping the jurist had a short memory. He didn’t.
The boy did squirm, got a bit antsy and started apologizing about his “mooning” before the judge said a word.
“You can relax son. I recognize you better this morning, you have your face on.”
A Circuit Court TKO
A defense attorney was knocked cold in retired Alexandria Chief Judge Donald Haddock’s court on a Thursday Commonwealth’s Day. The culprit made a mad dash from the the Circuit Court of the Franklin Backus Courthouse. Sheriff’s deputies nabbed him falling down the stairs. He didn’t escape of course and is in custody of the Department of Corrections, still a mean convict.
A now ranking sheriff’s deputy was on courtroom duty early in his career. It was his first day and came during a high profile case. The defendant suddenly attempted to belt his lawyer. The young deputy didn’t flinch, launched a choke hold on the fellow who promptly fell down unconscious. He was restrained for the rest of the trial.
Here’s the oxymoron. The deputy, doing his duty, was praised by the judge, thanked by the attorney and reprimanded by his commander. Such is life.
An Alexandria bail bondsman had been searching for a female bond jumper all over the city. Her boyfriend had been released from prison and she wanted to get married. She finally telephoned the bondsman and offered to surrender on one condition, that the bondsman arrange a marriage.
Tieing the Knot with Handcuffs
The couple got a license signed my Clerk of Court Edward Semonian, and met the bondsman in the city park near Old Dominion Boat Club.Handcuffed they stood in front of a minister and exchanged vows. Within a few hours, half of the happy couple was surrendered. Following a few weeks of incarceration, the marriage resumed but only for a short while. The husband went back to a prison term for parole violation.
On a Friday night two lustrums past, an off-duty detective from the District stopped by a Latin restaurant where the amigos and amigas were dancing, singing and having a good time. No fighting or anything like that. The Spanish speaking detective, after some unauthorized beverages, whipped out his Glock, started waving it to the ceiling and scaring the daylights out of the merrymakers.
In only moments, police cruisers arrived, grabbed the visiting peacekeeper. The good guys subdued and disarmed him as customers resumed dancing the tango. Attempting to answer charges to the magistrate, a brief scuffle erupted before order was restored. Lockup deputies got the upper hand.
It should be noted courtroom drama as often portrayed in popular television shows is just fiction. Defendants and attorneys aren’t allowed any verbal threats or intimidation while the wheels of justice are turning. Outbursts are handled quickly and decisively 99 times out of a 100. There is always a gag if malefactors misbehave. A belt to the nose also works well. ©
This column has appeared in the Alexandria (Va.) Gazette Packet.