Names have been changed, but the story is 100% real. My identity isn't super secret, really, there are probably people here who could give you my real name and possibly even contact info, but being as this is a court matter and all, might be a good idea to kick a tiny bit of dirt over things. Names, places, all that.
Why am I posting here on K5? Because of all the forms I am on, this is definitely the one that has the most discussion of mental illness, and also justice, and that's really what I'm here to write about today. Besides, you guys really gonna care? It's been a whole long time since we discussed technology around here.
My own experience with mental illness? Well, I've frequently been accused of having it. And I'm certainly no stranger to having someone in authority shout 'be normal!' at me! Although I sincerely wish that'd never happen again, perhaps it will. Some people say I'm on the Aspie spectrum but I refuse to give that credibility. But I think I'm normal, as much as most people. What is strange, though, when I think about it sometimes - is that either I'm somewhat attracted to people with mental problems, or they're attracted to me. Some of the closest people in my life are quite a bit eccentric too. And I've been known to fall, disastrously, in love with girls who float a few inches or feet or miles away from reality in some perpendicular dimension, in some ethereal plane. In total, I've spent a sizable portion of my life dealing with the needs of people who aren't really totally in touch with reality. Why do I do it? I don't even know anymore. Maybe I'm the same way, maybe I'm not. But it's all a dangerous situation. I'm very sympathetic to the mentally ill, yet I fear being involved with them yet again, although I wouldn't give up the friendships I've had and still have for anything in the world. It's one of those things.
So let's set the place. I live in a ... let's obscure things just the tiniest - a coastal fishing village. Formerly the home of various industry, which has since declined into rust. Much like my Midwestern hometown. Before fishing, it was all about - um, seal clubbing? - until it became illegal. Something like that. Most people here are - let's say Andorran, that's almost right - by descent, they came over here for the seal clubbing and have stayed ever since. And they're totally American, don't get me wrong, they were here before the United States was and they're actually pretty cool people those I've met. So yeah, an Andorran fishing village, located in a notoriously liberal state of the USA. And I live in a big old mansion that used to belong to a fur captain. Only, like I said, the fur industry is long gone here. So this mansion has been chopped into small, affordable apartments and rented to retirees, students, and they even take wandering scientists like me. I had a choice of units upon moving in, and I took the first floor so I wouldn't have to carry things as far. Hadn't considered that a higher floor might be safer.
So one morning I come out of the shower, naked, and walk into the bedroom. There's a guy there, well, I'm naked, fuck him, this is my apartment. He's fumbling with the door to my clothes closet for some reason. I thought at first he must be from the gas company or something, maybe the property manager just let him in, maybe the dumbass thinks there's a meter in there or something. But when he turned around, he appeared totally disoriented and startled to see me, although I don't know why I'd be a surprise in my own apartment. He looked schizo. I've known schizophrenic people and he definitely was one. My cat - a big, fat, dog-sized beast who has been known to take chunks out of people and animals who trespass upon his property or dignity - didn't have a problem with him. In fact, the cat walked right up to him and purred. I figured that the cat might have a point, so I was friendly to the guy and introduced myself. I had a heavy, solid-body guitar on a stand right next to me, in easy grabbing reach, but it didn't even occur to me to bash the guy. The cat thought he was harmless, well, the cat probably has a decent sense of such things.
The guy was wearing a Puerto Rican flag pendant around his neck, and didn't have much English, and I don't speak much Spanish, but he got it across to me that he'd come through my unlatched clothes closet window. And that he was feeling very depressed. He was looking for "Jennifer". And he was trying to go back out the same window. But I didn't think that was reasonable. I told him that we used the door in this household, and gently led him to the front door. He continued to inquire about Jennifer, but I told him that there never had been and never would be a Jennifer here, and that he should go home and rest and everything would be all right. He went along his way, and I shut the door. The cat was purring as if to say, how come I never let him in the clothes closet, it's obviously an interesting place!
Then I got dressed and walked down to the halfway house on the corner. They care for many people with disabilities, physical and mental, so naturally I wanted to inform them that one of their charges had wandered off. The patients there directed me to a woman, bit of a hippie look, who spoke to me in a very stern and therapeutic manner. As, I'm sure, she does with her patients regularly. She informed me that there was no such patient there, with such a psychological tone that I almost imagined myself to have dreamed the entire incident. So I walk out of there filled with doubt -
- and the guy's sitting in a cop car. Didn't have the sense to do what I told him to do. Nope. Could have gone home and rested and everything would have been all right, but he didn't do that. Being as the cops were right there, I talked to them. Told them what happened, gave my name. Not sure if that was the right thing to do, maybe it was. Told them he needed help, he didn't seem well to me. Well, I'm not a huge support the police type of fellow, but I am glad they picked him up. He can't be allowed to wander around hopping through windows, he'll get shot for sure. Better off that the police get him off the street before he takes a bullet.
So anyway, I never did get a call from the prosecutor. I was contacted by the victim's rights office, they mailed me a form to fill out an impact statement. Which is not allowed to contain any testimony for sound Constitutional confrontation-clause reasons. It can only contain statements of victimization in broken bones, shattered emotions, and dollars. But no testimony! This is a very liberal state, and the Constitution - well, is sometimes respected. Not always. Needless to say I had little victimization to report. Honestly I felt that at least this time, I didn't voluntarily invite the fellow to live with me, usually I invite the crazy person to live with me and that never works out too good! So I didn't feel too victimized. The form also asked me to recommend a punishment. I wrote that he was obviously, plainly insane and needed to be taken to a mental hospital, not just locked in a cage for a bit and then released, because that wouldn't help anybody.
I also got called by an investigator for the defense attorney's office, and told the same exact story.
Eventually the wheels of justice turn, and I am mailed a summons to appear as a witness, at a hearing, in the case of Jose Sandiego. Charged with 2 felony counts, of armed daytime burglary with felonious intent, and of possession of burglars tools. Strange charges, indeed.
On the appointed morning, I walk to the courthouse and wait in a long line. A typical crowd of young thug looking youths and their supportive families, a bunch of Andorran working people who were probably just in the wrong places at the wrong times, some pretty college girls (who I thought about chatting up, before realizing that not only do I have a girlfriend but that this is probably the worst place imaginable to pick up women), just the usual. Long line. As the line slowly passes through security, I notice an old lady on the ground up front. Blood pooling from her nose and mouth, she's not looking so good, and the police around her are trading jokes about the situation with passing attorneys. A heartless place. So I pass through the security gates, remove my belt (which makes me imagine myself a prisoner), do the whole routine. I check in at the prosecutor's desk, go to the assigned courtroom, and observe the proceedings.
The first case up is some poor Andorran construction worker having a DUI trial. The government's case was pretty weak, it boiled down to if the machine says you're guilty, you are. They really had no other evidence of impairment, it was one real weak case. That's why it was a trial, I guess. Maybe he had priors, even 20 year old priors matter in this state, maybe he had a lot to lose! The jury went out to deliberate, but I don't have a lot of hope for the guy. I'm sure the jury will presume the machine's infallibility, the trial seemed designed that way on purpose. He's the cash cow. A rare prize. A defendant with a job and a middle class life who'll pay anything, do anything, to be allowed to keep his life. A guy who will pay half a years wages for this infraction, because he has wages, because he fears jail, he's meat to these people.
So after the jury went out, we were ordered to another courtroom. I managed to snatch a short conversation with the prosecutor who had called me. The weapon, which was also the burglar's tool, was a steak knife that the police had found on him. He hadn't shown it to me, but apparently he'd had it. Unless the police planted it, but no. A steak knife just seems like a crazy person's weapon. You can kill someone with it, sure, you can also kill someone with a frying pan, it's really a kitchen utensil and not a proper weapon. Anyway, she quickly glanced at the form she'd gotten, my impact statement, and I reiterated that Mr. Sandiego was certainly crazy and needed mental help, that she can't just put him in jail for a bit and then let him out because he'll do the same thing again, he'll probably get shot if he keeps doing that, mental hospital is where he belongs at least until somewhat stabilized. She remarked that it was really up to his attorney to offer a mental illness plea, that she wasn't about to worry about it, and that good thing I hadn't hurt him or I'd be the one being prosecuted today! I couldn't understand her attitude at all.
In the new courtroom, the judge was taking pleas and various other hearings. Some cases were rather amusing - a young man getting a slap on the wrist for stealing and joyriding golf carts, well, I'm not entirely innocent of such things myself. He had to pay $150 for his court appointed attorney. They all had to pay $150. Some cases were freakier, like a young man who'd been snatching purses from old ladies outside the hospital. His attorney tried to get him off on a delayed discovery technicality, the judge wouldn't go for that, but the judge released him and ordered him to bring her $150 for his next hearing. I just couldn't believe it. Where does she think he's going to get $150? He's going to steal more purses from more old ladies! And they had a guy who was basically a bipolar druggie, the judge made sure he was attending his programs, cleaning up his act. And what got me was, the judge would discuss mental health care with some of the defendants, but every one who took a plea swore that they were not and never had been diagnosed or treated for mental illness. It was boilerplate. A formality. Every defendant who took a plea was 100% sane. And I waited.
Eventually they brought in a real criminal. I mean, it had been criminals all morning, but they were really just unlucky losers. Maybe did something stupid while drunk. Maybe weren't all there even at their best. But this guy was a real beast. Unlike the others, he was handcuffed. They cleared the first row of seats so that nobody would be near him. He was a young man, who sniffed and snarled like a leashed dog. A human pit bull. He was up for pumping bullets into a passing car, with thin steel and poor marksmanship the only thing between him and a murder charge. His worried mother, his sister in her finest skimpy attire, his brother in his colorful gang uniform, all watched as his court appointed attorney swore that he was a wonderful and peaceful boy who should be released to his mother pending trial. I wonder just how he managed to say that with a straight face. The judge, to her credit, at least denied this.
Finally they brought in Mr. Sandiego. Handcuffed. Standing straight and proud. Through an interpreter, he assented to a plea agreement. Yes, he understood the rights he was giving up. No he was not mentally ill and had never been diagnosed or treated for mental illness. Yes he understood the sentence. Then he was convicted. With time served, with good time, he'll be out by July. And back going in and out of windows. No treatment, no nothing. A nice warm cell to spend the winters, and in the summer, free to ramble schizoprenically.
I walked the other witness - an older man - home. On our way we passed the purse snatcher and his friends. I imagine they were planning a way to get $150. I wonder how they'll do it?
And I just felt so angry at all of it.
Part of being a liberal state, is that we have universal health care. But it's a complete fake. All that it means is that if you are uninsured, if you can't afford insurance due to low income or preexisting conditions or whatever, and if you can't qualify for state aid, then you pay a fine come tax time as punishment for your uninsured status. I am not even kidding about how this works. It's utter cruelty and stupidity. Mr. Sandiego needs treatment. And he is not going to get it.
And the judge doesn't care and the prosecutor doesn't care. All they care about is to rack up convictions, to put people in cells, to let them out. To tax them in time, to tax them in money, but basically more into regulating crime than preventing it. They don't care about helping the crazies. They'll just lock them up, take any money they have, and let them go again. And they don't care who they take either. If I'd hurt Mr. Sandiego, they'd have been just as happy to take a plea from me. Maybe happier. I might be able to work and pay a fine. And jail bills. And attorney fees. But what really matters, is that they keep on convicting people, that's their metric and it's all they care about.
There is no justice.
And maybe in a couple months Mr. Sandiego will come visit me. Maybe he'll accuse me of acting like a friend and betraying him to the authorities. Honestly, if he was to accuse me of such, he'd only be echoing my own thoughts. I feel that I turned a house guest over to the authorities, although in reality he was no such guest, I still somehow feel this way. Sorry and guilty. Maybe he'll attack me with a steak knife or a frying pan. Maybe I'll get hurt if he does. Maybe I'll fight back and go to prison myself for it. Maybe I ought to move. Because nothing will be done for him. He'll get no meds. No evaluation. He'll be set free and go in and out of windows, and one day get shot for doing it, and then the prosecutor can offer a really nice plea offer to the one who shot him, with time served and good time, be out in the sunny summertime. And justice, as practiced here, will continue.
In the end, is Mr. Sandiego the only insane person in the courtroom?