While the Anthony Weiner rehab piece in the NY Times Magazine is ideal for cracking jokes into your mimosa, the initial thrust of the paper's expansive investigation into the Bronx court system will make you want to throw your glass against the wall. While much has been written about the criminal division's endless backlog of cases and the Bronx DA's disconcertingly low conviction rate, the Times' investigation is startling: on a single day last month, reporters found that more than half of the courthouse's courtrooms were closed or idle for a majority of the day; a prosecutor once took a vacation in the middle of a trial; and a defense attorney postponed court because it was his birthday.
The delays mean there are innocent people wasting away in jail, as well as guilty people who are denied their constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defense attorneys exploit the foggy memories of witnesses who lose details after a case drags on for four or five years, or they simply wait for the witness to die or be incarcerated.
Despite two reorganizations of the system, and a recent change in administrators, the article shows that the culture of apathy, which has been allowed to thrive for decades, has been nearly impossible to break.
Another veteran of the long Bronx wait for justice, Miguel Cintron, who was charged with murder, remembered in an interview feeling almost invisible inside the courtroom. He was brought in chains again and again through nearly four years only to hear the judge, clerks and lawyers bantering as they agreed on some new postponement.
“They’ll start laughing and giggling,” he said. “I was like: ‘What’s happening? I’m fighting for my life here.’ For them, it’s everyday business.”
Today's portion is part one in a three-part series, with the next installment coming tomorrow.