Angeles County the bailiffs are actually sworn deputy sheriffs who are assigned to the jail division. I approached the bailiff, whose desk was right next to the bar railing so citizens could come up to ask questions without having to violate the space assigned to the lawyers, defendants and courtroom personnel. I saw the calendar on the clipboard in front of him. I checked the nameplate on his uniform-R. Rodriguez-before speaking.
“Roberto, you got my guy on there? Harold Casey?”
The bailiff used his finger to start down the list on the call sheet but stopped quickly. This meant I was in luck.
“Yeah, Casey. He’s second up.”
“Alphabetical today, good. Do I have time to go back and see him?”
“No, they’re bringing the first group in now. I just called. The judge is coming out. You’ll probably have a couple minutes to see your guy in the pen.”
I started to walk toward the gate when he called after me.
“And it’s Reynaldo, not Roberto.”
“Right, right. I’m sorry about that, Reynaldo.”
“Us bailiffs, we all look alike, right?”
I didn’t know if that was an attempt at humor or just a dig at me. I didn’t answer. I just smiled and went through the gate. I nodded at a couple lawyers I didn’t know and a couple that I did. One stopped me to ask how long I was going to be up in front of the judge because he wanted to gauge when to come back for his own client’s appearance. I told him I was going to be quick.
During a calendar call incarcerated defendants are brought to the courtroom in groups of four and held in a wood-and-glass enclosure known as the pen. This allows the defendants to confer with their attorneys in the moments before their case is called for whatever matter is before the court.
I got to the side of the pen just as the door from the interior holding cell was opened by a deputy, and the first four defendants on the docket were marched out. The last of the four to step into the pen was Harold Casey, my client. I took a position near the side wall so that we would have privacy on at least one side and signaled him over.
Casey was big and tall, as they tend to recruit them in the Road Saints motorcycle gang-or club, as the membership prefers to be known. While being held in the Lancaster jail he had cut his hair and shaved, as I had requested, and he looked reasonably presentable, except for the tattoos that wrapped both arms and poked up above his collar. But there is only so much you can do. I don’t know much about the effect of tattoos on a jury but I suspect it’s not overly positive, especially when grinning skulls are involved. I do know that jurors in general don’t care for ponytails-on either the defendants or the lawyers who represent them.
Casey, or Hard Case, as he was known in the club, was charged with cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana as well as other drug and weapons charges. In a predawn raid on the ranch where he lived and worked, sheriff’s deputies found a barn and Quonset hut complex that had been turned into an indoor growing facility. More than two thousand fully mature plants were seized along with sixty-three pounds of harvested marijuana packaged in various weights in plastic bags. Additionally, twelve ounces of crystal meth which the packagers sprinkled on the harvested crop to give it an extra kick were seized, along with a small arsenal of weapons, many of them later determined to be stolen.
It would appear that Hard Case was fucked. The state had him cold. He was actually found asleep on a couch in the barn, five feet from the packaging table. Added to this, he had twice previously been convicted of drug offenses and was currently still on parole for the most recent. In the state of California the third time is the charm. Realistically, Casey was facing at least a decade in prison, even with good time.
But what was unusual about Casey was that he was a defendant who was looking forward to trial and even to the likelihood of conviction. He had refused to waive his right to a speedy trial and now, less than three months after his arrest, eagerly wanted to bring it on. He was eager because it was likely that his only hope lay in an appeal of that likely conviction.