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Jonathan Kraut: Meanwhile at the courthouse

Posted: July 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.

For more than 15 years, several times a week, I find myself standing in line at the “criminal window” at one of our local county courthouses.

Fortunately, I am in line as a private investigator pulling records and running criminal backgrounds — rather than to answer to any personal charge of misconduct.

Standing in line week after week and year after year, I have made some observations that the occasional visitor might miss. I thought I would save you the trouble, so here is a quick synopsis.

The rich and famous are never in line — just their attorneys appear.

A significant percentage of those addressing drug charges are actually on drugs while they are at the court.

Habitual offenders and career criminals always make it a point to passionately tell the clerks at the window every and any excuse why they were wrongfully arrested, convicted, or found in violation of parole.

There are those who need constant emotional contact, as they inevitably talk with everyone in line about their personal stuff and suffering.

And finally there are lots of crazies in line, many of whom seem totally lost, dysfunctional or mentally impaired.

It’s sort of like being in line at the post office.

While it is true that there are a number of investigators, military recruiters, paralegals and researches whom I frequently see at court, most people waiting the 30 to 90 minutes to get some help have got “issues.”

I have pulled records over the years in probably 50 courthouses in at least five states, but the group of characters seem always the same.

One cure for stopping illegal immigration could be hosting an all-day tour of the criminal line at the court. This may illuminate for our neighbors the true nature of many Americans.

Recently a drug dealer was making drug deals on his cell phone while he waited to pay a fine on a drug possession charge. I guess the threat of jail is not working to deter crime.

I have seen a number of mother-daughter duos who scream and yell at each other in line, only to act like perfect angels at the window, and then resume the screaming and blaming as they walk away.

It is also common to see a frail elderly woman, dressed to go to church, trying to find where her son had been incarcerated. Most of the time these poor mothers can’t remember their son’s dates of birth or true name.

These examples seem to indicate there may be ties between criminal misconduct and the families in which criminals were raised.

In 2005 a research study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information estimated that about 46 percent of adult Americans experience some form of significant mental or cognitive impairment.

Authors Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Lin and Merikangas described an America that seems less wholesome and less functional than one might think.

Further, almost everyone — possessing or not possessing excellent cognitive and problem-solving skills — suffers from distorted memories.

This is where someone remembers the last memory but not the details of the actual event itself (Distortion in Memory for Emotions: The Contributions of Personality and Post-Event Knowledge, published 2014).

This means that memories drift over time and that even a horrific event “seems to get better and better” with each reflection.

One has to wonder if mental illness, cognitive impairment and memory drift explain why we elect some of the people in public office. It certainly explains the condition many of those actually in office.

This also could explain why we tolerate the same idiots who talk around an issue, agreeing with both the proponent and opposition viewpoints, and then refuse to take any meaningful steps to solve anything.

Immigration, the national debt, health care, taxation, privacy laws, a social welfare state — none of these issues are new and none will be resolved in our lifetimes.

So while I am amused and constantly entertained while waiting to pull files and read criminal reports, I am no longer enjoying the speeches and rhetoric extolling the merits and deficiencies of both sides of the same issue — while in the end nothing gets done.

But maybe it is not as bad as I remember.

Jonathan Kraut is a private investigator and serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV and on the SCV Interfaith Council.


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