Accourting To Plan

I went to the Albany City court on Morton Street on October 12- Yom Kippur, the only day I could get off of both work and classes. I got in at nine in the morning and stayed until they finished up at noon. I’d tried going directly after work the day before, but I got out of work at 2 and was told to come back the next day.

I got to sit inside the barrier. The police officer who let me in told me I’d be able to hear better from there, but I was stuck behind a gigantic printer and could barely see any of what was going on. I could only hear what the judge was saying, and occasionally one or two words from a defendant or a lawyer. Do courtroom reporters develop superhuman senses? I was next to two other studenty types, both of whom were on their phones. Mine was off. They took notes on printouts they’d brought of the names of people scheduled to appear, I took notes in half a composition book.

Nothing particularly unusual happened while I was in the courtroom. Most of the defendants were black, most of them were charged with minor offenses. One woman was charged with second-degree assault- she’d scratched a man on the face. There were no further details given, so I have no idea if it was a fight with her boyfriend or a random guy on the street. Another man had pulled up in his car beside a woman (again, no idea what their relationship might be) and told her that “nobody in your family is safe, your mother is dead.” The judge entered a plea of not guilty for him and told him to appear again in court on the 19th.

Three of those being arraigned came in in handcuffs. Two of those were wearing bright orange INMATE T-shirts and had their hands cuffed in front of them to a leather belt around their waist; the third was in street clothes and had his hands cuffed behind his back. He was the only one charged with a violent crime- third degree assault; he was sentenced to three years probation.

Some of the people whose names were called did not appear.

Nothing too out of the ordinary happened, or if it did, I didn’t notice.

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