I was in my mid-twenties, with no interactions with the legal system, when I was asked by the employer of a friend to observe a court settlement and report the proceedings back to them.  It was a case between two friends of mine.  One friend, and his employer, were out of town.  The other friend lived in town and I had known her longer.  One wanted to marry the other.  She didn’t want to marry him.  He found this unacceptable and returned to her work place with a gun.  She worked alone.  He threatened to shoot her if she didn’t agree.  She was able to summon police and he was arrested.  My mind was reeling from the whole thing.  How could he?  How could…?

A time was set for the two attorney’s to meet.  I was asked to be present also.  The three of us showed up together.  Nether of my friends were present.  The details are fuzzy now, this was half a century ago.  He was charged with attempted murder, his attorney agreed to plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon.  Both attorneys were happy.  One got a lesser charge, the other got a conviction: win, win.  The boy was sent to prison.  I did not know where and never knew anything more about him.  The girl lived in fear of betrayal, but went on with her life and eventually found someone she did want to marry, and moved away.  I never saw or had contact with her again either.

My life was also changed.  I was amazed and bewildered at the casual way both attorneys handled the situation, as if they did this all the time and the other people involved, my friends, didn’t matter.  They did matter.  Their feelings mattered.  Their lives mattered.  This was a major event.  But not to the attorneys, it was merely routine for them, maybe even boring.  I was stunned.

I had witnessed how the legal system works and how people’s lives can be messed up.  This all sent me reeling even more.  The next day, on my way to work, I rear-ended someone on the street.  I could not concentrate or focus.  The car in front of me was slowing and slowing and slowing and eventually just stopt in the middle of the street.  I could barely see the brake lights were on, they were so dirty very little light came through.  I could not tell that he had stopt.  I was going so slow that I barely touched his car, but the contact was a jolt.

At the sudden jolt, I gave up trying to think at all and collapsed over the steering wheel.  Suddenly, people were running towards my car, calling out to me.  Did I need help?  Was I alright?  Was I hurt?

“I couldn’t see he stopt,” was all I managed to say, pointing to his dirty brake lights.

When police arrived, they agreed the other driver was negligent in letting his lights get so dirty as to create unsafe driving conditions.  I think he was given a ticket, I know I wasn’t.  There was no damage to either car.  That was good, but I have remembered every time I drive down that street to beware!  A car might stop and I might not know it!  And, the legal system doesn’t care about people.

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