Aug 05 2008

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Posted by J. Craig Canada in robert norse, trial

In about an hour I am to be sentenced for peeing in public.

It’s not something I would ordinarily do, but something I was forced to do, not just once, but on a daily basis by the meanness and cruelty that is a daily and ongoing experience for the poor and unfortunate here in Compassion Central.

The trial, in and of itself, was a traumatic and abusive experience. A kangaroo court with not the slightest interest in either justice or truth; what I have come to expect from the courts.

I wrote the above last night and couldn’t write anymore. As I sat thinking over the past three years and how to begin to describe what it’s like to be thrown out in the streets and forced to endure the most impossible privations and restrictions, and then to be cited and prosecuted…

During the course of the trial last week the judge stated there are no laws against peeing in public in the county and therefore I should have gone outside the city limits. And she said something about “no more necessary than a beer”. I really couldn’t figure out what that was about. I’m not a tee-totaler but I rarely drink. It doesn’t take much to give me horrible hangovers and I don’t like the way alcohol makes me feel in the first place.

I assumed going into the trial that a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. Robert had advised me to disqualify the judge, and I had done so numerous times in the past. But during the window I had to disqualify her for this citation I was so depressed and harassed I didn’t do it. I was never allowed to get to the point where I gave a damn before I was hit with something else; a trial, an arrest, one thing after another.

The so-called trial was essentially an exchange between the judge and myself. The person who called 911 to report my peeing showed up as a witness. She testified that she arrived at work and saw me get out of my sleeping bag and pee and she called 911. I questioned her as best I could and established that she could not see any body parts. I just asked her directly, “Could you see any body parts?” and she quickly and decisively replied, “No.” When I then asked her how she knew I was peeing she stated, “I could see the stream against the wall of the building.”

And based on that she called 911.

I also asked her if she had seen me on the street before and she replied she had but couldn’t say how long. Best I recall, she stated she had been employed by H.O.P.E. for two years. It wasn’t until afterwards I realized I hadn’t asked if she was a ‘client’ or ‘staff’. Or if she was on medications. And a number of other things along those lines.

I also asked her if she had noticed me peeing before, and I can’t clearly remember her response but best I can recall she said “No.”

Then I made my case for necessity, that I had been homeless for three years because I’m a medical marijuana patient, I had no where else to sleep, that I had been forced to sleep further and further away from facilities while at the same time places with facilites, such as LuLu’s and The Veterans Hall had prohibited me from using their restroom. I explained it was four blocks to the public restroom in the Locust Street garage and that I could not pack up my belongings and walk four blocks carrying about 50 pounds of baggage with straps over my shoulders without peeing on myself. That I had tried it many times and ended up peeing in my pants while people laughed at me.

I stated I had been banned from homeless services at when she snapped, “Why?” I was at a loss for words, and that is when she said, “You’ve burned your bridges behind you.”

There were no bridges. But by this time I was too upset to explain it. And it would take forever. And the fact was she had made it clear she didn’t want to hear it. I was guilty as far as she was concerned and that was that.

Sometime in the course of this confrontation I did state this was “cruel and unusual punishment”.

When I saw there was a witness against me, and since Robert showed up, I asked him if he would be willing to testify thinking he was all I had to establish that I was homeless, why I was homeless, how long, and that I had long made an issue of not having access to toilet facilities. In fact, it is the thing that has been most torturous about being homeless. Well, maybe 2nd to sleep-deprivation.

So Robert was excluded from the courtroom, he says twenty minutes, while all this was going on between me and the judge. When he was called in to witness, after the judge had told me I had not made a necessity defense, I asked him the six points of the necessity defense.

Well, now to get ready for my sentence.

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