Sunday, September 11, 2016

Queens County Revisited: The 1970's (74)

The 100 Centre Street and Federal Courthouse judges' offices, to which I delivered the manila envelopes containing sentencing recommendations and pre-trial "release on bail" or "hold" recommendations and reports, were often empty of judges by most afternoons during the workweek and often empty of judges all day on Fridays. Many of the appointed judges at 100 Centre Street and in the Federal Court apparently liked to take Friday off whenever they could, in order to have as many 3-day weekends as their low-volume case load enabled them to have. 

And sometimes, when I arrived at the private office of a judge at 100 Centre Street or in the Foley Square federal courthouse to deliver one of the manila envelopes, I would find the judge in his chair sleeping or taking a nap behind his private office desk. In addition, a few times, when I handed the manila envelope containing the probation officer's sentencing or pre-trial "grant bail-deny bail" or "release-don't release" recommendation to a judge, I noticed that the breath of the judge smelled strongly of whisky; and the judge seemed somewhat drunk--apparently from having had too much to drink during the 2-hour lunch breaks that nearly all the judges in the 100 Centre Street and the Federal courthouses seemed to take on the days they showed up for "work."

When delivering a manila envelope one afternoon to one New York County Criminal Court judge, I experienced a surprise:  The judge to whom I was now bringing the manila envelope in the 1970's had been one of the prosecuting attorneys in the Panther 21 trial case of the late 1960's.. This case had ended with the acquittal of all the Black Panther Party political activists, who had apparently been framed up on "conspiracy" charges by the NYPD and federal law enforcement agents in the late 1960's.

Yet in the 1970's, this prosecuror-turned judge in Manhattan's Criminal Court  was now responsible for handing out sentences and making pre-trial bail or no-bail decisions for arrested African-American defendants--despite his personal history of being involved in violating the democratic rights of the obviously innocent Panther 21 defendants during the 2 years whey were held without bail in pre-trial detention and during their trial. 

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