On Thursday, August 3, 2017, I answered a subpoena to appear in General Sessions Court, in the Birch Building in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Back in June there was a one-driver, two-car collision in front of our home, and I was a witness to it.
As it turned out, the morning was pretty much wasted, had to pay for parking, and the case was continued until November.
The time spent was interesting, however, sitting amongst a large group of people who had made stupid mistakes and now praying to God they don't go to jail. You slice through the tension. That was in the observers’ gallery. While up front the DA, various legal official and lawyers came and went, everyone smile, slapping each other on the back, punch their should, laughing, smiling, getting on with another day at work.
Judge Dianne Turner began by saying, "We're going to call your name, stand up. If you don't stand and tell us who your lawyer is we'll assume you aren't here and issue a warrant for your arrest.” One young man came in late, was told by the judge, "You were supposed to be here at 8:30 a.m., it's now 9:20, go through that door to your left and see the Sheriff; he's looking for you."
Throughout the morning the judge did a lot of pre-trial diversion, with fines and community service, and if you stayed out of trouble for x-number of months you don't go to jail. These were the "stupid mistake" type arrests.
It was also interesting to note the look of most of those who came before the judge. Pants that had to be pulled up constantly -- there was a big sign on the entry door to the courtroom stating what attire was not permissible in her courtroom -- colorful threads and streaks tied throughout the hair, bizarre tattoos everywhere, rings and things in the ears, nose and lips. One young lady almost had a very short, tight, colorful dress on, bare from just above her nipples up, sleeveless, so short you did not want to see her sit down. Her attorney brought her up while the judge was looking down signing pages, and positioned her directly behind a tall podium so the judge saw her only from the neck up. Her case was continued until later in the year. I wondered if her lawyer was buying time to share a “court room attire” lecture with her.
Just seemed like a lot of folks who wanted to be noticed, who wanted to be seen as "bucking the system," but someone crossed that line a little too far and slipped into the "illegal" pool. But their “look” set them apart from others in the court room and left no surprise that they were there before the judge.
There were also several cases of people without driver's licenses who were sent away to get a license and return later in the year or go to jail. One young woman was there for a traffic accident, case continued, but the accident caused no injuries, only property damage, so the fact she had seven previous accidents on her driving record (I saw this, the court did not) would not be brought up in court. Well, whatever. We have to leave room in our jails for the crime-wave thieves, rapists, child molesters and murderers. And the jails across the nation are full up. Makes you wonder what goes on at the family level that so many people have no empathy for others, and seek only to serve themselves. Reminds me of a brief conversation from my Marine Corps days: "But sir...! " "But sir hell, get in that cell!"
There was one humorous aspect to the morning’s adventure. I was there only as a witness, and had mercy on my mind. But I showed up in shirt and tie, suit coat and trousers, with my pastor's cross around my neck. Normal attire for a court room appearance … for me. This garnered a quizzical look at one time or another from just about everyone in the courtroom (even the lady judge kept looking my way), and you could see the question on their faces: "Holy crap! What did he do?!"
It’s been said that all the world’s a stage, but it occurred to me that while all the good actors may be on that stage, all the clowns are in General Sessions Court.