Wed 09 Mar
I had to appear in criminal court today to answer a summons given to me by a NYPD officer in Central Park back in January. It was early on a Saturday, and I was walking Mister President off-leash, which is permitted before 9:00a. But I had unwittingly wandered into The Rambles, a section of the park that technically qualifies as a nature preserve, meaning dogs are never allowed off-leash there. How I was supposed to know that isn’t particularly clear to me, either.
The judge was kind enough to dismiss the charges contingent on six-months of me “staying out of trouble,” and no fine was levied. In spite of my worries that the process would consume the better part of a day, I was done in about ninety minutes. So all told, I have little to complain about.
But I did notice a few things: First, the whole court house was a dilapidated mess, an embarrassment to the idea of justice, and bore only faint resemblance to any courtroom you’ve seen on television. It was clearly underfunded and overworked, and it was depressing just to be there. And second, when I looked around me at all the other people who, like myself, were waiting to stand trial for relatively minor offenses, almost all of them were males of African American or Hispanic descent. It was a stark illustration of who is targeted most often in criminal proceedings, and in what kind of building society feels like those people deserve to be tried.