August 06, 2004

God damn the Pusherman

The preliminary hearing calendar today had a particularly personal interest for me: while carrying my own files, I watched my next-door-neighbor, dressed in orange, while police and probation officers testified about the night they found the makings of a meth lab approximately ten to fifteen feet from my son's bedroom.

When he moved in this past winter, I was willing to give the guy a break. I'm a PD, it's what I do. I knew about his record, and his wife's, but she was exceptionally kind to my kid, and he fixed my sprinklers and my lawnmower. To a less compassionate soul, the lawnmower would have been a dead tip-off; by the time my neighbor was done with it, you could've raced it at Talladega, and what was the deal with all those custom "solvents?"

You can see where this is heading. May 4th, I came home from work to find cops standing on my lawn. This is actually not so unusual an occurence for some of my legal brethren and sistern. However, I thought I left such things behind once I gave up the idealism of living VISTA-Volunteer style after my first year out of school, when the towers of crushed cars in the junkyard behind my back fence threatened to tip over in a good breeze and crush my house, and after more than one low-income client asked, 'if you're any good as a lawyer, why do you live here?'

Anyway, back to May 4 on my tree-lined Neighborhood-Watched street. Through the evening my front yard fills with p.o.'s, more cops, and firefighters. As one benefit of doing law in a small town is that most people in law enforcement are decent, and don't bite unless the criminal defense lawyer bites them first, one of the cops comes up to the screen window and tells me that my neighbor was busted by his parole officer for using a prosthesis of suspicious origin to cheat the UA, and they'd since swept down on his residence.

Note to clients on probation or parole: p.o.'s got Internet. They know all about the Whizzinator.

I got home at 6:00 p.m. It was fascinating to watch the Hazmat guys suit up right outside our bedroom window, and the IED/pipebomb that my neighbor left in his garage gave us all a chance to see a bomb-squad robot up close. I was a bit put out when I had to stop watching cute little Number 5 creep across the grass, because another cop came to our door to urge us to leave home, or at least move our blankets and pillows to the other end of the house. Then, "fire in the hole!" We finally got to sleep at 2:00 a.m. The last of law enforcement didn't leave next door until 6:00 a.m.

Simple felony possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession with intent, manufacturing, evidence tampering, and definitely not getting invited to next year's block party. I'll surely represent the next would-be cookers who get the p.d. appointed, and they'll surely have their own neighbors who've been endangered, for me to keep in mind. But for this one, a man's got to know his limitations: I conflicted the guy out, and with his new lawyer in my usual chair, today I watched with no particular regret as he got bound over.