(Sonni’s note: It has been awhile since I posted any chapter edits so I thought for Christmas I would post one. This is fictionalized from the facts as I know them. The thoughts and descriptions are my own. Below is the music I posted earlier to go on the next album with this chapter. Subscribe to ITFO News to keep up with what is happening. Merry Christmas!)
LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
Thoughts were racing through Jamie’s head. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. What could they do to him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this was going to be a bad day.
A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. He had nothing to do but talk to other men waiting for their court date, too. Some had been waiting for years. He knew he was probably going to get locked up no matter what he said but he wanted a chance to tell the court his side of the story.
Looking around the room at dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county? That was a laugh.
Jamie needed someone to talk to who would listen and help. He did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He went out to party and have a good time. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know this friend had a gun until he talked about it in the car. He thought it was a joke. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he had done something to stop him.
Morgan wrote a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend. He knew an attorney who would take a deposit and pay off what was owed.
It sounded kinda hokey to him. She they trust him or do nothing? They should have done nothing because the friend and the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she needed for herself and the kids.
He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him, so Morgan sent money she earned working at her mom’s store. He would feel better if he could at least see her. That wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away.
Jamie’s life was falling apart. He had no control over what happening. He wasn’t going to see his infant son when he was born. He wanted to be a father more than anything but he could kiss that goodbye. He wouldn’t be able to hold him or be the kind of dad he had wanted, too. He couldn’t break the cycle of being raised without a father.
Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Everybody did, he guessed. It was the only thing to believe in and he didn’t know anyone who didn’t think God was up there overseeing things. Have a blessed day and all that. He had no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do no good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
“Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
“If anyone saw you they would gang up on you,” he whispered to himself. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
Even though Jamie was supposed to be in court today nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. He could hear his heart beating in his head and it echoed in his ears. He leaned against the grate covering the window. Hooking his fingers into the metal he stared outside, looking down at the sidewalk where he saw Morgan that first day when she brought his meds. He watched the seconds and minutes of his life pass by. He could see people coming and going as if it was just a normal day.
Clouds were creeping across the blue sky. It wasn’t normal for Jamie. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into the day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all of his willpower not to hit the window with his fists.
“Cummings, you have a visitor.”
Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled.
Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?
“Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”
“What attorney?” Jamie shot back. “I don’t have no attorney.”
“You do now.”
Jamie hesitated. Nobody told him someone was coming. Would he help him? There wasn’t much time. He had been in the jail for months, why was he coming to see him at the last minute? He slowly walked toward the guard.
“We don’t have all day.” The guard barked. “Get a move on it.”
Jamie turned around while he put cuffs on his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs.
The guard gave him a small shove to get him walking. Looking down the hallway, the door to a small holding cell was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember ever seeing him before today.
A skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks was waiting for him. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at looking like he had hair. Poor dude, it was no wonder he was a public defender. Maybe this was the only job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem at all like he was in the helping mood.
He swept his arm in a gesture over the table telling Jamie to sit down.
The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘Don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power trip to show he was the authority in the room.
The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable with the silence but he wasn’t going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze wonder from Jamie’s head to his hands as if he expected him to jump up any minute and attack him.
It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming all black man were born violent. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.
“You’re in deep trouble, son.” the attorney began his practiced speech. “You don’t have many options.”
Son? He called him son? Was he talking down at him? Before he could say anything else Jamie chimed in. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .”
It was all he managed to get out before this man, whatever his name was, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes.
“I am not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do.
“I need to . . .”
“You don’t need to do anything.” The attorney paused for a few seconds. “You need to listen to me.”
“Tell your story to someone else,” he continued.
“All you need to know is . . . the District Attorney has an airtight charge against you and if you’re smart you’ll listen to what I have to say.”
The attorney paused again after he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to open his briefcase and take out a few papers. He laid them on the table in front of Jamie.
“You need to sign your name admitting to guilt.” He put his finger on the line where Jamie was supposed to sign.
“I’m here to offer you a plea of forty years. You will only be going to court to admit to the judge you are guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”
Jamie looked up and stared him, stunned. This man was trying to scare him and it worked. Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.
“They have you dead to right. You ran out of a club after robbing it at gunpoint,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times.
“The money was found with your friend in the car you were driving. There is no defense for you.”
Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. ” I am not going to agree to that.” It was hard to keep his voice from shaking. “I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I did not have anything to do with what my friend did. That is why I ran.”
He knew it didn’t matter. He had already been tried and found guilty. Nothing he said now would matter. Being there at the club made him an instant accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years would end his life.
“I want to go in front of the judge. I am not pleading guilty.”
The attorney put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out. Jamie stared after him, speechless.
“Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall. He shrugged, but he didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down. There was no point trying to talk to the guard anyway. He didn’t know anything. They waited together in silence. The guard moved and stood at the open door. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in.
“I have another option for you. I sincerely advise you to take it. It is the best you are going to get.” The attorney put his briefcase on the table, opened it and took out a different set of papers. “There won’t be another one,” he added.
It was obvious this attorney wasn’t going to waste anymore of his precious time. Most likely he had other inmates to intimidate. Jamie wondered if he got paid a flat fee for every signed plea deal he accomplished because he certainly wanted this signed and delivered as fast as he could. He didn’t care what was best for Jamie. His motivation was his paycheck.
“You’re lucky,” the man continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.” Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie took a second to wonder why he disliked him so bad, or did he talk like this to every client he was paid to intimidate?
“Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time and the state’s money, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”
“What charges?” Jamie demanded. The attorney ignored him.
Jamie was upset. “What about wasting years of my life?”
He was being railroaded. He knew it and the attorney knew it. One case finished and on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay a real attorney? Did he enjoy making sure every person assigned to him ended up pleading guilty?
“I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth in five minutes? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove?
There were four of them that went out to the club that night. If he had known what his friend planned to do he would not have gone. Yes, he and Morgan needed money but he just got out of juvenile detention that year after four years of being locked up. He didn’t want to get locked up again on a felony charge with a baby on the way. Did they offered all of them the same deal? He needed answers, but there was no one who was going to explain them.
The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.
“You have five minutes.” the attorney said. I’ll be back for your answer.”
How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? Where was the attorney going when he left the room? Who was he talking to? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something that was not going to happen no matter what he said in five minutes. Why? Wasn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way. This was justice?
Right or wrong didn’t matter. No one was owed justice no matter what the wording said on the Bill of Rights. There was no way for him to come out of this without paying with many years of his life. He was screwed no matter what answer he gave. If he fights it, he loses more years.
Jamie started to stand but the guard shook his head and glared at him with a look that said, ‘Don’t even try.’ He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long was seventeen years? He couldn’t imagine. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now.
Should he take a chance and go to court? Maybe give up his whole life? At least he would know he tried. What other charges they could add? They could make up anything they wanted and knew he didn’t have an attorney who would fight them.
Jamie closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up all thought of raising him. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other, not really.
Morgan would go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get paroled.
So many unanswered questions were running through his head at the same time. His five minutes were over. He heard the heels of the attorney’s shoes as he neared the open door. As he walked back into the room he asked, “What’s your answer?”
Jamie looked down at the table, and at the same time reached out his hand for the papers. The attorney smiled.