Chris Butters

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July 22

Every time the kid says
he was  looking at the moon
the cop charges  it was 
a drug prone location

Every time the DA alleges
the keys were in the ignition
the defendant says
it was his uncle’s car

Every time the officer says
the gun could not be found
the defendant claims
it was  a cell phone in his pocket

Every time the accused says
it was dark as night
the detective  insists  he had
an unobstructed view

Every time the DA claims
the drugs were on the front seat 
the defendant swears
they were in the glove compartment

Every time the defendant has
a broken jaw
the judge asks if he wants
CCRB to get involved

Every time the DA says
the car  had a broken taillight
the judge rules
the search was constitutional

Every time the officer  testifies
the memo book is missing  
the defense asks is the officer
making this up as he goes along

Every time the police claim
the seller  cannot be found
the mothers wail even the twelve year olds
can tell you where the drugs  are  sold

Every time the defendant blames
the jim crow justice system
the court officers smirk
you can’t fight City Hall

Every time the DA alleges
he is a kingpin with the Latin Kings
the attorney reports his client
is  a security guard

Every time the officer says
the perpetrator had a mustache
the complaining witness
cannot recall

Every time the DA reports
the defendant has no community ties
the legal aid retorts
that is because he is homeless

Every time a police officer testifies
about the night
the judge  takes his testimony
as the gospel truth

Every time the brand names
are Black Death or Grim Reaper
all the treatment programs are
Phoenix House or Project Renewal

Every time the DA asks
for high bail
the defendant says
he has just been fired

Every time the husband claims 
his wife fell down a staircase
his  wife says she was beaten
black and blue

Every time the mayor announces
it’s a new ball game 
the prisoners in the House of D
declare  nothing is revealed

Every time the DA  says a liberal
is one who has not been mugged
the defense retorts a conservative
has not been falsely arrested

Every time the governor declares
a war on crime
the demonstrators chant 
we want safety  but we want civil liberties too

Every time the cop speaks
so smoothly
the people believe
he must be  lying

Every time the DA throws
the book at the defendant
the legal aid asks
for the moon

Every time the defendant
declares he had one beer
the breathalyzer reads

Every time the witness tells
a story so screwed  up
people know
it must  be true

Every time the defendant
does not appear
the People declare
ready  for trial

Every time the People  ask
for July 16
the defense attorney asks
for July 22


Chris Butters: This  poem  is  from a manuscript (First Contact With the System) I am circulating about my thirty years as a court reporter in Brooklyn Criminal Court. I have been published in Blue Collar Review.