April 03, 2005

Cop shop talk, p.d. PTSD

Even if I don't always like cops, I like a good cop story, and if the teller is New York Irish like my mother-in-law, so much the better.

Friday I'm driving home on Pacific Ave. in the commuter pick-up, listening to Fresh Air on KPLU, and the guest is Edward Conlon, author of the memoir Blue Blood, which begins with his first days on the street as an NYPD and goes back three generations.

If you like this sort of thing, you can listen to him here.

After a few blocks, Conlon gets to "just about the most terrible thing that I've seen" and I pull over:

"There was this old woman who was on a bed. She was emaciated. There was what you recognize as a DOA smell. A couple of the paramedics were crying... They were lifting her off that plastic sheet and then she started to moan. There were maggots all over her. Maggots only eat dead tissue, so she was dying bit by bit. The really terrible thing was that she didn't live alone."

There was this old woman in Twin Falls, Idaho. She was dying bit by bit. There were maggots. Her son who shared the house with her was charged with felony abandonment of a vulnerable adult. The brilliant young associate to whom I assigned the appellate brief quit, and later blogged about how the case horrified him, and was part of the reason that he left criminal law.

I was trial counsel. We waived the jury and lost anyway. He went to prison. She died. The Idaho Court of Appeals opinion is here (PDF file).

Who knows how our jobs corrode us, or the ways we might pay for the roles we play. In the morning, I'm going to hug my wife and kid and go with them to Mass.