We made sure to say hello at the next unlock, exchanged niceties, and although I wanted to ask him about his leg, or rather the absence of it, I refrained; doctors will be doctors, and all things in their time. That’s one of the first things you learn in here, patience. Believe me; nothing’s going to happen until it happens.
In the cell next door, cell 12, they’ve moved an older white male in. He appears to have a long history of alcohol abuse but seems like a decent fellow. I am particularly concerned about him for a number of reasons, first and foremost physically and secondly because it all appears to be psychologically driven. He just looks to be so very, very miserable. He slept a lot the first few days here which generally translates into coming down from some alcohol or drug high. But since then the medical staff has made frequent visits to his cell, and they’ve been there three times already today.
The last time was because he had somehow hit his head and was bleeding. To be honest, it makes me personally feel helpless because I can’t shake the feeling that I should be helping him, I’m not doubting the genuineness of the medical staff, or the notion that I could do it better – though I can – but from the outside they seem more interested in surviving their shift than the patient surviving.
Needless to say, he’s not much of a participant either. At “unlock” I asked him what happened. He hung his head low and in a whisper confessed that he had been dizzy and either passed out and hit his head, or hit his head and passed out. He couldn’t tell me whether the room was spinning or he was spinning, he couldn’t tell me his blood pressure when the nurse took it, nor could he remember what his pulse was.
Thompson, the guard, had prescribed bed rest. I personally thought it was a bad idea to lock him in a cell alone and then ignore him. I had no say in the matter and so I said nothing.
I did notice that his lips were blue. He also relayed that he had had a heart attack 3 months earlier. I told him that was important to share with the nurse and medical staff.
He seemed more interested in simply disappearing, and that was the part that was difficult to watch. A lot of my colleagues have just given up on life. It’s actually horrifying to witness the waste. It’s senseless to worry, though. Nothing is going to happen here today, or probably tomorrow either. It’s almost as if I’m just a witness to a fire that has finally burned itself out. Nothing’s left but the smell and the doubt of what it was all for in the first place.
Danny V had a court appearance today, and from his demeanor on his return, it was obvious, it hadn’t gone well. He stormed into the day room, eyes angry and fixed forward, and hurriedly made his way across the room to his cell door which he ceremoniously slammed. He ignored the catcalls and slurs that serve as a greeting from our colleagues. It reminds me of the primate habitat at the zoo: the gorillas and chimpanzees lining up to look at the people looking at them.
At “unlock” that evening Danny V approached me as I was heating food from lunch. “How’s it going?” I asked. A mistake I knew before I started, but what are you going to do. The guy was standing right there loking pitiful.
“Not well at all. My lawyer, my own lawyer, is sabotaging me. He doesn’t ask any of the questions I ask him to ask, and he’s still mad I called the head of the public defender’s office to complain about him.”
“Well, Dan, exactly what did you expect?” I asked.
His eyes started to well up, and he began to get a far off look signaling the arrival of an emotional breakdown that would only end in sobbing and so I attempted to head it off. “Turn your back to the room,” I said, “Look out the window. The last thing you need at this point is for these guys to see you crying…take a deep breath…relax…nothing’s going to happen at this moment on your case so you have time to think and plan.”
“It’s my life! My lawyer isn’t helping me, and my life will be over if someone doesn’t help me.”
Even though I don’t believe that to be totally accurate, in his simplicity Danny V makes a very compelling argument. Though his life won’t be over if he’s convicted – and even if he doesn’t get convicted – the life he knew is gone. That is for sure. No one will ever look at him the same. He’ll probably go to prison for twenty or so years and then as a sex offender be confined to a state mental facility for the rest of his life as a serial sex offender.
Through the tears he repeated, “I didn’t do this crime. I’m innocent.”
Sadly, I’m not sure – even if it’s true – that he has any chance of convincing 12 of his peers of that. Danny V looks like a guy who is about to fry. He’s desperate and it appears no one in the preliminary hearings believes a word he has to say, even the judge, but especially his lawyer. “Today my lawyer said,” he continued, “that he’s going to defend the case the way he sees fit, and if I don’t like it, I can call his boss again or defend myself.”
“Then maybe, Dan, you should let the judge know that. In a letter, no more than three lines, tell him that you and your lawyer disagree; he’s not committed to defending you and that as a result you need a different lawyer. Just like that. Don’t write him a rambling 30-page letter, just three lines.”
I knew immediately that was futile. Danny V had proven time and time again that he couldn’t get to the point. Rambling and disorganized was his way. At any rate he assured me that that is what he would do and that he would certainly not let the rest of the guys see him crying. With that he collected his things and returned to his cell.
Niko and I were enjoying the football game, Minnesota versus Texas, through the slit in our door, the one that serves as a window, when Moses appeared. “Señor Adams,” he said almost apologetically, “Dan says he has a letter he wants you to look at.”
The problem was I didn’t want to look at it. Danny V was making his pitch to drag me into his world again– a world defined by chaos.
I frowned at Moses who returned the favor. He wanted no part of it either. Mainly to get Moses off the hook, I asked him to pass it down. To my horror and to the realization of my worst fears was a legal pad completely covered from the top of the page to the bottom with no margins at the side of Daniel’s letter to the judge, along with a blank sheet for me to rewrite the letter?
The letter began by accusing the judge of saying things on specific dates – but never said what exactly the judge was to supposedly have said – and then concluded its ramblings about his girlfriend, his lawyer and who said what. It was a disaster. Nonetheless, I wasn’t about to take responsibility for Dan and his problems.
I blocked out three sentences and sent it back to him. He ignored it all.
Danny V really is a sociopath. He didn’t want help, he wanted attention, and by ignoring what I had suggested, he was demonstrating that his lawyer’s worst fears were in fact correct. Danny V is a very, very weird guy who was making it impossible to defend him.
I made a mental note to come and watch the proceedings once his trial started. In a way I felt bad for him. I also felt bad that I could see this train wreck moving slowly toward disaster and was helpless to do anything about it. As I said before, I believe the district attorney is going to have the jury believing Danny V is Ted Bundy before the trial begins.
The next morning Niko made an announcement, “Elrod is back. He’s sleeping on the floor in the day room.”
Elrod is the loud, obnoxious white guy who was placed in maximum after a fight with Smitty, and an ill-advised screaming match with Officer Broadnax.
Elrod actually isn’t a bad guy. That is, he is not vicious or mean. In fact, he’s overly pleasant. He’s just a jackass. This time he was “allegedly” arrested for a probation violation that consisted of a refusal to wear an ankle bracelet – which, of course, he denies. “I was living in a house and I was supposed to start a job as a dispatcher for the cab company…and Aram, my parole officer, had me picked up. The funny thing is I saw him the day before and he didn’t say anything about no bracelet.”
By the way, Elrod had a huge black eye on the left, the kind you only see in old episodes of the Little Rascals. Apparently he also got into a fight and that’s what prompted his interaction with the police. Elrod has a lot of confrontations and just doesn’t understand “why that dude picked me to fight.”
Unfortunately I do, and so does everyone else on H mod. Elrod’s just a jackass!