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February 5, 2004

District Court: Provoking the judge is not a wise thing to do

From: Evening Times, AR - Feb 5, 2004

By Jennifer Swain Evening Times Staff Writer The audience was appreciative and the judge was provoked Wednesday, as a number of alleged criminals in West Memphis District Court aggravated their own situations with unwise comments. The situation escalated at the start when one inmate in the holding area had a bodily function and smelled up the prisoners' area. Inmates knocked on the adjoining door to let Bailiff Lacy Robertson know and could be seen gagging from the smell when the door was opened. The inmate responsible, a deaf man, was called out in front of District Judge William "Pal" Rainey and asked if he understood that he could have an attorney represent him. When he attempted to reply in a type of sign language, Rainey said, "We're going to have to get an interpreter down here from Little Rock. This is J- W- pig-Latin sign language and they're the only ones who can understand." He was taken back in the holding area and when the state docket was called later, he was not brought out. A public defender appointed for the man was informed that an interpreter would be brought Friday. The man, charged with felony sexual misconduct, had a temporary bond of $50,000 set until his Friday court date.

One defendant, a man who had been out on bond and had skipped town, appeared to think he was the court clown. Every statement he made played to the audience in the courtroom and was calculated for trying to cajole Rainey into seeing him as humorous and harmless.

The man was appearing on a number of charges including DWI first and a failure to appear.

"Mr. G- S-, anything you want to tell me?" asked the judge.

The man grinned and said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Pal Rainey."

Rainey shook his head. "I'm sure. You're not sorry, just sorry you got caught."

Rainey looked at the suspect's record and discovered he had a prior DWI in the 1990s which was now not applicable for sentencing, but also discovered a variety of other charges, some felonies.

"G-, how many felonies have you been convicted of?" Rainey asked. When the suspect began counting on his fingers, the judge said, "Do you have enough fingers to count that high?"

The suspect determined he had had four felony convictions for which he had served eight years.

"You served only eight years on those convictions?" Rainey asked. The man nodded.

Rainey asked the man why when he was released he couldn't behave. The suspect said it was just a minor matter that got out of hand. Rainey told him he was on a tear, out committing crimes and not caring about the results.

When the judge asked him if he could control himself, the man shrugged.

"We need to know if we see you coming, do we need to go home and lock the door!" Rainey exclaimed. "You are a criminal Mr. S-."

The suspect said, "I'm a man, Mr. Pal Rainey."

The judge said wearily, "You're a man who is a criminal. If I thought you would do anything to turn your life around, I'd walk on my hands to Gilmore and back."

The man smiled and said, "Mr. Pal Rainey, just let me go and I'll leave West Memphis today!"

The courtroom burst into laughter, and Rainey told the man that would not happen.

When Rainey then asked him if he could pass a drug screen, the suspect asked, "For marijuana?"

Rainey said, "For any drug, I didn't specify."

The suspect then admitted he couldn't pass it for marijuana, but that his job he currently held didn't require him to stay clean.

"Your job may not, but the situation here is different," the judge said.

Rainey gave the suspect a fine and a low amount of time on the DWI and more time and a fine on the failure to appear. As the suspect was led out, he said, "Thank you a lot Mr. Pal Rainey for that."

A female defendant tried to tell the judge she only had one failure to appear charge when the record showed she had two.

"I missed one," she argued.

"No, you missed two. You have two separate failures to appear," Rainey said.

"I missed one. I came to the other one, but then I didn't come again on Monday," she said. "So I only missed one."

Rainey stared at the woman.

"No. This is like who's on first. You missed two."

She answered, "I only missed one."

Rainey told her she had already pleaded guilty to the two failures to appear and she then attempted to explain the whole history of her violations and how she had not come one time, had come to court about that and 13 hot checks, and then had failed to come to court for that charge.

"So you failed to come to court twice?" Rainey asked, not so patiently.

"Yes," she said.

Rainey told the woman, "Good. That's what I've been getting at and it took five minutes for you to admit it. Look at all the people out there and you're standing up here wasting my time."

Copyright © 2004. Evening Times.