Mister Jones wore a jumpsuit with thermals and waistcuffs. He smiled and waved, as best he could, to his family in the gallery. Three generations of Jones women attended; his mother, grandmother and sister. Also attending was a handful of ladies from the Brown family including Tyairr Brown, quite a normal looking toddler except that she did not toddle. She sat in a special pram with a thick foam harness that held her upright as her spinal chord has been severed at the ninth thoracic, right around the height of her elbows. Today was Judgement Day for Mister Jones. His most recent crimes and my peripheral role in them, you already know.
He took a guilty plea to no surprise from anyone. Ms Tamera Brown, Tyairr’s mother was not in court although according to the prosecutor she was free to show up and speak. Having made her own guilty plea to related charges she is on probation and has lost custody of her daughter. Her sister has taken the child into her own care and it seems to be good care indeed. That lady spoke to the details of Tyairr’s injuries, her prognosis and the reality of the daily round for a paralyzed infant. She expressed no animosity for the man in the dock though the Brown ladies stared sternly while the Jones girls quietly wept.
You may have wept also. A series of pro-forma questions were asked, one being to state your name for the record; “Marcus D’Angelo Jones.” What is your age as of today? All of Jones’ words were a mere mumble. “Twenty-five or twenty-six,” he said. It seemed to not surprise the judge that he was unsure of his own age. So your birthday is September sixth, nineteen eighty-six, right? He shrugged microscopically. You are twenty-five today… as of today. And how far did you advance in school? “Sixth.” Sixth grade? A nod. Again, an unsurprising statement. Are you able to read, write and understand english? This was the first one Jones seemed to genuinely consider, “Um, not good.”
But good enough. The state prosecutor, a thin and efficient woman, consumed nearly all the half hour or so of the proceedings with a recitation of his history, a record of crimes heinous and hilarious extending back a decade. He is in the habit of swiping cars, employing them in other crimes and fleeing the police however briefly. He was on probation sixteen days before the last incident. He has robbed. He has assaulted. He has dealt and consumed drugs including attempting to sell candies as crack cocaine to get money to buy crack cocaine although some crack cocaine was already in his possession. But on that icy night when he bolted through rush-hour traffic with the police in pursuit his blood work-up reveals he was under the influence of exactly nothing. No coke. No pot. No barbiturates or any other prescription medicine including those that he was supposed to be taking to keep him level. BAC 0.00%
So what did get into Marcus Jones? If he was especially fearful of incarceration he was in fear all his life. A social worker, a stout white lesbian, has made a career out of him. Or so I hope though perhaps her days are filled with other men like Marcus Jones. Perhaps worse. But she and his public defender stood lovingly with him before the judge and the various eyes in the gallery while his tale was told. Boxes of county-issue tissues are all around the courtroom. The bailiff dispenses them. The mood was one of resignation reflecting that of Marcus Jones.
The prosecutor dealt crisply in mathematics. Taking into account all the re-imposed sentences, the default warrants, the record of criminality, insanity, depravity and the dire costs she came to a sentence of twenty-five years, having whittled that down from a theoretical maximum of life plus one-hundred and thirteen years without the possibility of parole. In my previous estimate I did not take into account the volume and severity of Mister Jones’ record though I stand by my original calculus. He has drawn one-seventh or so of the maximum; the life sentence is owing to the kidnapping charge which would have applied whether Tyairr were injured or not.
And what of those injuries? Absent this crushed life the whole event would yet be a giggling affair; an urban scene from The Dukes of Hazard. A mother and two sons were almost killed on the sidewalk but were basically unharmed as Jones took flight over them, careening off the curb. The prosecutor told this tale well. It is good she did, taking her evidence from dash-cam video (that was not shown), as the officer involved has since been murdered in the line of duty. She took us on a wild ride, detailing each bump and dash including the original failed chase where the clearance of my Liberty took Jones and company over urban obstacles that a high-speed cruiser could not attempt. Inside the car, all was chaos. Tyairr was not strapped in although I found a baby seat when I went to the scrap yard. Jones was not strapped in. Tamera Brown was not strapped in but has previously testified that she grabbed her baby from the back seat and clutched her to her chest. It is the opinion of the spinal surgeons that it was the inflating airbag that broke the little girl’s back although certainly her subsequent rough treatment was aggravating.
So Mister Jones has gone away, not far but for a long, long stretch. What is twenty-five years though, to a man who does not know how old he is? If it were me, I would be three years from release now. The last twenty-two years of my life have passed so quickly I can barely score them. Will they pass more quickly for Marcus Jones? Or will this be, in his experience, a sentence to eternity? Will a grey and crumpled ex-con one day meet a vibrant, if crippled, twenty-seven year old woman of accomplishment and brio and receive her kind dispensation? Or will he be hooted into hanging himself by angry denunciations? Almost certainly we will never know. The world will turn without Marcus Jones and that turn seems to be accelerating rapidly. Alone in his cell he will be unaware of it, as unaware as he was of the weight of his crimes until caught, and perhaps still. He had little to say for himself and nothing exculpatory. “I’m sorry for the people I harmed. Especially my mother,” was all he entered into the record. I happened to ride the elevator down with his public defender, a smart young woman in colorful rainboots as today is a most dismal Monday. “How much will he actually do?” I asked her.
“Every day,” she answered without looking.
“Every day of it. Have a good one,” she said as the doors opened to her floor.