A police officer fatigued because heís on the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift and needed to be home sleeping. A man with competency issues who, his attorney said, could not assist in his own defense. A defendant waiting to learn whether heíd be going home to see his children at the end of the day.
Those were among the personal dramas on display one recent afternoon in 35th District Court. It makes me think of Mr. Roark telling Tattoo about the guests who disembark from ďthe plen! the plen!Ē after it lands on Fantasy Island.
Different circumstances bring people together into a courtroom on any given day - some as witnesses, some as defendants, some as attorneys, some as family members and other spectators.
On this afternoon, Brandon Arnold was the Brownwood police officer who was on the 12-hour nighttime shift. He was at the courthouse to testify in a DWI case. He admitted he was tired, but said ďthatís part of it.Ē
The 54-year-old man with the competency issue - I donít know anything about the circumstances that brought him to court.
District Judge Steve Ellis and the manís attorney had a brief conversation about the competency issue, and the manís hand shot up. Ellis allowed him to speak. He rambled for several minutes, then stamped his feet and reached down and fumbled with one of his socks.
Iím sure I wasnít the only person watching with great interest to see if he had a weapon tucked away. He didnít. He was just trying to get a bee out of his pants.
His name was on the next dayís jail log. He was taken into custody because his bail bondsman went off the bond. He is jailed on a warrant for felon in possession of a firearm, and his bond is $200,000.
I am not an attorney (nor do I play one on TV) so I can only suggest by observation what it takes to be a good lawyer.
A excellent knowledge of the law, obviously, and the ability to speak articulately and persuasively, think on your feet and make a seamless transition if something doesnít go your way.
Most attorneys come to court extremely well prepared and appear confident and competent. Most are likeable.
There are exceptions.
A few years ago, a man was standing trial for the sexual assault of a child. His attorney said every man on the jury was just a false accusation away from being seated over at the defendantís table. He said that has to be every manís worse fear.
I donít guess thatís something I worry too much about. Iím more worried about getting run over by a bus. I have a lot of confidence in the truth.
I have never been a defendant (nor have I ever played one on TV) so I have no idea what thatís like. No one in my immediate family has ever been accused of a crime - so I donít know what itís like to sit in a courtroom and listen to testimony that could send a relative to prison.
When family members testify on behalf of a problem child, you can figure out pretty quick if this has been a family of enablers who have allowed the whiney defendant to make excuse after excuse for his/her actions.
When you are a defendant, things donít always go well for you, but neither do they go awful. Some things are fixable, and some arenít.
The DWI case - drunken driving with a child passenger, actually - didnít go well, but it didnít go awful, either, for the defendant.
I thought his attorney, a young man named Patrick Howard, did a good job, as did prosecutor Sam Moss.
ďYou suck it up and do what youíve got to do, and be the man that you can be,Ē Ellis told the defendant after ordering him confined to a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment facility as a condition of probation.
This is fixable - if the defendant wants to fix it.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.