Continued from Chapter 9.
The felony arraignment court of the San Diego Municipal Court had not been used as a trial department for years. Aside from the occasional overflow hearing, the court was used for arraignment and setting bails of those accused of felony crimes. On a busy day, the court may hear 100 cases in the morning and an equal number in the afternoon.
Enclosed in a metal frame with frosted glass panels, the jury box was now used to keep prisoners at the ready for the court, while precluding their communication with family and friends in the gallery. It was also used by defense counsel to briefly meet and confer with their clients once they had been retrieved from the bowels of the aging courthouse. This is where Susan Meyer had been waiting for an hour and a half.
The arraignment is the time for the DA’s office to advise the court and the defendant of the charges it intends to prove. The court records the plea of the defendant, in the vast majority of the cases, “not guilty.”
If the defendant is still in custody, the court sets a bail. Bail is based upon several factors; severity of the alleged crime, the defendant’s danger to the community, the defendant’s ties to the community, flight risk, past record and so forth.
Judge Kosmo Nicholas had called the nine o’clock calendar, entered pleas and set bail for the accused. The court was now in recess and Susan waited for the bailiffs to allow her to talk with Clarence Taylor before his arraignment during the ten o’clock calendar. She, at the direction of Charlie Stevenson, would enter a plea on behalf of Clarence and then argue for a low bail or possibly a release without bail on his own recognizance or “O.R.”
Susan had already spoken with the deputy district attorney who would advise the judge on the appropriate bail or concede an O.R. Kenneth Piedmont, a six month veteran of the District Attorney’s Office, was the duty deputy today.
Fortunately for Clarence, Kenneth harbored a substantial crush for Susan. And today Susan was wearing a pleated plaid skirt, white blouse and blue blazer, creating a busty Catholic schoolgirl look. Kenneth was not hard to convince that Clarence was neither a danger to society nor a flight risk. Even if he did not have the full file, it was only a D.U.I. and possession of drugs. Not a very heavy weight set of offenses. Well, it wasn’t murder, was it? Oh, by the way, you should really join us at Dobson’s sometime. We could swap war stories. Oh, really, how about tonight? Great. See you there about five thirty.
Charlie was quite pleased with Susan’s success, knowing full well Kenneth would have settled for nothing less than a $15,000 bail if he had negotiated for Clarence. Charlie was now absent from the courtroom excusing himself to use the “can,” and left Susan in charge.
A few minutes before ten, the bailiffs ushered the in-custody defendants into the courtroom. Clarence, having been added on to the calendar, was the last to be brought in. He sat down in his still pee-soaked pants as the defendant next to him moved over one more seat. Susan sat down next to Clarence.
“Hello Clarence,” Susan started.
Clarence turned toward her voice and looked into her fresh, concerned, smiling face. His mind began to race. A familiar face. Oh God, it’s Susan Meyer. No secrets anymore, everyone is going to know. I’ve peed myself. Please get me out of here. What if they send me back in there?
And Clarence began to weep. Then he began to cry and sob uncontrollably. He managed to sniffle, “Hello Susan.”
“C’mon Clarence, we’ve got to get you ready for arraignment,” said Susan in a soothing, mothering voice. “Stop crying now, there will time for that later. Right now we’ve got to convince the judge he should let you out. I think I can get you an O.R. release, but you’ve got to straighten up, okay?”
Sniffling, Clarence asked, “What’s an O.R. release?”
Smiling at the one-time future-corporate attorney’s ignorance of criminal procedure, Susan explained, “That is when the judge lets you go on your promise to appear at all future hearings in this case.”
“You mean he would just let me walk out of here?” asked Clarence, absolutely amazed at the prospect of never returning to County Jail.
“Well, not exactly,” added Susan, “you would still have to go back to jail to be processed out. You would be out sometime late this afternoon. Pretty good, huh?”
The prospect of returning to jail, even for a short time, brought on another crying jag from Clarence. “Oh no, Susan, you can’t let them send me back in there. They took away my clothes and put me in a dark little room. Then they took me out and put me in a cell with about a thousand criminals. Do you hear me? Criminals! I’ve been next to some crazy guy all night. All he talked about was dealing speed and killing snitches and cops. And…I think he likes me. Please, Puhleeeeze, don’t let them send me back in there, I don’t know what’s going to happen when he wakes up. His got some crazy friends that are going to get him out. They kill people. Do you hear me? Yhey kill people!”
Clarence’s crying and ranting had drawn more than a little unwanted attention. The bailiff, a muscular woman of thirty-something, walked over to Susan and Clarence. “He is going to have to settle down or he is going back inthe tank.”
“No, don’t! Don’t send me back in there! I’ll be good, I promise!” Clarence, now frantic, raised his manacled hands in mercy to the bailiff.
“That’s it, he’s going back. Judge Nicholas will put him in County Mental Health,” said the bailiff, as she reached for Clarence’s right arm.
“No, no, don’t!” cried Clarence, pulling back from the bailiff as two other deputies approached.
Susan withdrew to avoid the gathering melee. This was not the pompous ass with the Gucci penny loafers and cardigans from school. This was a person ready to snap. No, he had snapped, and she was going to distance herself before she got caught in the maelstrom. But it was too late. Clarence had grabbed her waist and had her in a death grip, tearing her blouse, exposing her lace camisole, much to the delight of Kenneth Piedmont and all the other males present.
“Don’t let them take me, Susan!” he yelled.
“What’s all this then!” bellowed the bass voice of Judge Nicholas. He had entered the courtroom unannounced and was now standing at the bench. His bald head, large, severe Mediterranean features and black robe towering above the courtroom gave the appearance of an operatic Mephistopheles.
The entire courtroom froze and became silent. No one uttered a sound, including the now paralyzed Clarence, firmly attached to Susan’s partially unclad body. Even the bailiff who had just realized the wet pant leg she had grabbed was in fact urine soaked, dared not move.
Charlie, who had stopped to find out the scuttlebutt on the murders the previous night from one of his many inside sources, selected this moment to return to the courtroom. He quickly and correctly assessed that something was terribly wrong and his charge appeared to be at the center of it all.
“Shit!” he said almost inaudibly, but in the silent courtroom the word reverberated blasphemously to the bench and back.
This drew Judge Nicholas’ glowering gaze directly at Charlie. “Mr. Stevenson, I do not know how, but I am sure somehow…in some way you are involved in this. Am I correct sir?” It was not a question, it was an accusation.
“Well your honor, I believe I might be able to shed some light on this incident. If I might address the court…”
He was cut off.
“Now! My chambers! You!” snarled Judge Nicholas, pointing his finger like the sword of Gideon at Charlie.
“Your honor, if it pleases the court, might I have five minutes to…uh…arrange…er, compose, my associate, Ms. Meyer?” Charlie asked, motioning with his head toward Susan, still held by Clarence and precariously close to popping out of her now fully exposed undergarments.
Judge Nicholas’ head snapped toward Susan, as did any other head which had not already become fixated upon her. Seeing her predicament, the Judge blushed and turned back to Charlie. “Three minutes Mr. Stevenson. And this had better be good.”
“Thank you, your honor,” said Charlie in appreciation, forcing a smile under his walrus moustache.
“Now get him out of my courtroom,” ordered Judge Nicholas pointing at Clarence, but refusing to look in his direction. He then stormed off the bench and exited the courtroom as three bailiffs extricated the now catatonic Clarence from Susan, and carried him back to the court holding tank.
From the tank, a disembodied howl came, “Don’t take me back there…”
Judge Nicholas stuck his head back into the courtroom. “Two minutes Mr. Stevenson,” he roared, turning his stare to the frozen deputy district attorney. “You too, Mr. Piedmont, I want you in there too.”
“Yes, your honor,” managed Piedmont, his face turning red, praying Nicholas had not seen him staring at Susan’s breasts.
“Christ, what the fuck happened?” muttered Charlie, watching Susan as she pulled her blazer over her ample bosom and attempted to retrieve her files scattered at her feet.
The courtroom was silent.
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