Seeing red

Walking away from the Carol Miller Justice Center, I thought they should take the third word out of the name.

I had just seen: a law-enforcement officer practice law without a license, a defendant unable to get discovery evidence for his defense, and a refusal by the judge to allow the defendant to see all the evidence against him. Beyond that, I saw a judge treat the obviously overmatched defendant with a condescending attitude.

In one respect, it would appear to be only a red-light-camera case. A ticket. But this is a criminal matter with a huge fine ($351!) and points tacked onto your record, and that leads to a bigger car-insurance bill.

But, more importantly, the traffic court is where the majority of people come in contact with the justice system, and to see this kind of steamroller in operation would shake anyone’s confidence in the entire system. (See “Red light, green cash.”)

Sitting where the prosecutor should be, and looking like a prosecutor, was a highway patrolman essentially prosecuting the case. He was trained by the red-light-camera company and gave expert testimony by rote. The judge even asked if the officer would like to give closing arguments.

There is no district attorney to ask for discovery evidence; the district attorney tells defendants to get it from the law-enforcement agency, which in this case ignored the defendant’s request. When the defendant called out, “Objection,” during the officer’s testimony, the judge ignored the objection and then told the defendant to hold it until later, which defeats the purpose of the objection—to stop evidence from going on the record. When the defendant asked for records regarding the camera, which the officer was testifying about, the judge told the defendant he should have subpoenaed the company before trial.

When the nervous defendant would make a mistake in questioning, or a simple misstatement, both the judge and the prosecutor—excuse me, the officer—would look annoyed and roll their eyes.

This outrageous system is meant to expedite trials. It sure made me come to a quick conclusion about the word “Justice” in the name of the building.