|We all know that one thing
that distinguishes our great country from dictatorships, military juntas and other bad
places is our justice system. The American system lets everyone, the commonest of man seek
justice in the court of law, where decisions are made based on the merit of the case. In
other countries, it may be wealth, social standing, rank and whatever else. But here in
the United States of America, it is merit what counts.
This is reassuring to know when one goes up against the state.
Our man had to appear in the court of Magisterial District Justice William Wagner.
Since the District Justice's Court is not a court of record, we have to rely on the memory of someone who was present at the proceedings. After the participants had sworn in, this is what we can reconstruct from memory:
District Justice (DJ):
You are charged with driving 66 mph in a 35 mph zone. How do you plead?
Our Man (OM; Defendant):
OK. Officer, go ahead with your testimony.
Police Officer (PO; Witness):
Your Honor, on October 11, 1996, about 3:00 PM I was monitoring through Fort Pride, Whistling Plains address when I had the occasion to observe a 1991 Toyota sedan, gray in color, going at what appeared to be a high rate of speed. I got a speed reading of 66 miles per hour. I have stopped the vehicle and issued a citation to the driver who is standing in this court room.
DJ (to the Defendant):
You may ask questions from the Officer if you wish.
Thank you, Your Honor. Officer, what was the distance between your markers?
And what was the elapsed time you have observed the car between the markers?
Let me see -- 1.54 second.
Your Honor, would you mind if I made a quick calculation to check the Officer's numbers?
OK, go ahead.
OM (pulls out his calculator and to compute speed 100 feet distance and 1.54 second elapsed time):
Your Honor, the Officer's numbers does not add up. The speed should be about 44 miles per hour if the officer's numbers for distance and time are correct. I ask you to dismiss this case because the Officer is offering conflicting testimony.
Your Honor, we have received many complaints of speeding from that area.
DJ (to the Defendant):
How did you get that number?
That's simple, Your Honor. You take the distance, which is 100 feet and divide it by the time, which is 1.54 second, and you get 64.935 feet per second for speed, which is...
OK, I have heard this defense a thousand times. I find you guilty...
But Your Honor, respectfully...
...of 60 mph in a 35 mph zone, because your license would be suspended for 66 mph.
Well, that was sobering. Infuriating, our man thought: What kind of justice is this? Seems like the policeman offered testimony that did not make any sense. The policeman's testimony proved only that either the VASCAR machine was broke or the policeman made some error. For sure, 100 feet in 1.54 second is not 66 mph, not even close.
Our man thought at the beginning that $173.00 was too much a tax to pay for just to get home with his car. Now he knew that District Justice William Wagner was bent on making him pay, no matter what.
But hey, there are bad apples in many places. One District Justice does not make the entire American justice system rotten. One should be optimistic, anyway.
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