Today was another criminal docket day in the 19th Judicial Circuit in West Virginia. The 19th Circuit covers two small counties. On docket days, 10 or 15 cases are brought in for pleas, sentencings, status conferences, scheduling conferences and the like.
An advantage of this kind of mass docket is that in one session, you see a reasonable random sample of the kinds of cases pending before a particular Court.
Over the past year, I have reduced my criminal practice in Marion County (the 16th Circuit) and expanded greatly into the 19th Circuit. I have written in past months about the overwhelming pressure that illegal drugs and prescription pain pills used illegally are placing on the criminal justice system. The public pays lip service to it, but that’s about it.
The truth is, drugs are now all directly causing a great majority of serious crimes. It is to the point that individual decision-making hardly counts as an independent intervening cause anymore.
The Judge in the Circuit carefully questions criminal defendants at the time of pleas and sentencings about their drug use and about the effects of what drugs they used. This questioning goes beyond what is the strictly necessary to make a record in the criminal case. The Judge does it to continue to develop an accurate picture of what’s going on in this sordid and dynamic drug culture.
There is a relatively new creature in the slime pit, “bath salts.” This is an informal trade name for various sorts of synthetic speed cooked up by jackleg chemists who don’t wash their hands after they use the toilet and don’t wear gloves.
You think I’m joking? I’m not.
Bath salts are sold in head shops where all the unemployed beautiful people go to show how far they can advance our culture of crass dependence upon honest work.
Presumably, someone came up with the term “bath salts” to conceal the nature of the product, which may have worked for the first 10 minutes it was on the market. Now, of course, the term is used with a cute little nod and wink so that the retailer can say, “Oh my goodness, someone smoking this? Heavenly days!”
These head shops are owned and operated by adult businesspeople who are too smart to use that shit, yet who are so totally lacking in any moral compass that they are willing to sell it to make money. They know that it causes unpredictable effects sometimes indistinguishable from psychosis. But the bucks count, not the people.
By the way, these people have the same lack of morality as the businesses who sell “glass tobacco pipes,” which is a cute little name for drug paraphernalia.
(Message to the business chain which sold the most of those "glass pipes" in North-Central WV over the past couple of years - Hey, Assholes, I'm the one who raised all the hell with the drug guys to raid your places and bust you. Thought you'd like to know. Have a nice day.)
This morning, the general criminal docket was running about an hour later than normal. A sentencing was set at 9 AM in an embezzlement case. I had not heard that the embezzlement case was pending, but the lawyer representing the embezzler is a good lawyer and a good friend.. There was lots of public interest and lots of the public attended the sentencing because it was a quarter million dollar embezzlement from the public library in a small town.
By the way, with that size embezzlement and that kind of victim, as a practical matter the Judge had no real choice but to send the embezzler to the penitentiary.
I was glad to see lots of community interest in this case. It’s about damn time that the community shows an interest in the welfare of the body politic.
And then the sentencing hearing ended. And everybody left. Only then did the general criminal docket start.
Several cases were heard before my cases came up. After the last of my cases was concluded, the judge asked, “Mr. Curry, do you have anything further?”
Response: “You had the ask, didn’t you? A comment. Until community starts caring about these damn drugs as much as they care about money, it’s not going to continue to be a decent place to live.”
And that’s a problem. My friend Justice Richard Neely wrote a controversial book some years ago, Take Back Your Neighborhood: A Case for Modern-Day “Vigilantism”. It was heavily reviewed because he was saying that the citizens are too ill-informed, too lazy and too scared to get off their asses and take responsibility for the health of the community.
We depend on the police because we are afraid, but the police can’t handle it. There are not enough of them, and they can’t be everywhere at once. Justice Neely created something of a stir when he suggested it was time for ordinary folks to be picking up their baseball bats.
If the prospect of violence in the defense of our culture offends you, no problem – I can live with that.
In this epidemic of drugs, the date is 10 September 2001.
Sleep well tonight.