Day 9: Writing in Arabic, Public Defender’s Office, and a New “Celly”

By | December 10, 2008

by Brian A. Wilkins

This day corresponds with Wednesday, July 30, 2008.

“Misquez?!” a voice on the intercom said.”Roll up!” That is the term used for when they either move you to a different cell block or when you are going home. Mario removed the sheet from his mattress and wrapped it around his towel. “Man when you get out of here on Friday, call me…we’re having that burrito,” he said. As we shook hands and embraced, the door opened to let him out. That would be the last time I ever saw or spoke to Mario.

I moved all my belongings to the bottom bunk and just laid there staring at all the graffiti on the top bunk frame. He wrote “Mario Love Marni.” Several other people signed their names and the dates they were here. I couldn’t help but notice it was at least 10 degrees warmer on the bottom bunk. I no longer had to endure the pain of climbing to the top with my broken hand either.

But reading that police report, over and over again, was all I could do. I started marking it all up, highlighting the sheer ridiculousness and commenting in the margins as if I were correcting a term paper. The alleged “victim,” throughout the first few pages continually states things like “I don’t remember what happened because I’m too drunk” but somehow remembered all this other bullshit he and his alleged “witness” conjured up. I couldn’t decide which was more surreal; the content of the report itself or the fact the two Tempe cops, Wallace and Johnson, believed it…or just wanted to believe it.

I started writing out what I would say to the judge on Friday, but now I started writing everything in Arabic to not only keep those people from knowing what I’m writing (since I knew they wouldn’t be able to understand it), but I also needed the practice. While I was writing, I was surprised to see Steve walk through the door of my cell. He had been shot years ago (I believe in the back) and was told by doctors he would never walk again. But he persevered (he credits Allah) and could now walk with a cane.

I didn’t think he’d be able to climb stairs though. When he saw me writing, he said, “you should teach me how to write in Arabic.” I don’t claim to be fluent or even semi-knowledgeable of the Arabic language. But I figured I could teach him the alphabet and a few words. His original intention for the visit, however, was to give me a few passages from the Qu’ran to read. “I know you’re not feeling too positive right now Brotha Brian. Hopefully these words from God will help a little.” The more I talked to that guy, the more I wondered how and why the hell he ended up in jail?

After the second head count, Chino stopped in and asked if I wanted to play chess. He saw me reading that police report and writing about it, which led to us talking about the night everything happened. “You could call your public defender and tell him about the report and what really happened that night,” he said. I didn’t realize you could call the public defender’s office from those jailhouse phones. “Just press option 1, then 1 again, then 4,” Chino said.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sad at the fact he knew all that from the top of this head. Of course, dialing out on those jail phones was no picnic: 7-4-4-2-9-9-3-0-6-0-2-5-0-6-7-7-1-1. The woman who answered told me that the lawyer assigned to my case is in court right now but I could leave a message for him. Chino told me some of the public defenders would actually come up to the jail and talk to you about your case, so I asked the lawyer in the message I left to, if he could, come talk to me before court on Friday. Though deep down, I knew that would never happen.

It was Wednesday, so Walter came by the cell to give me a commissory order sheet for Thursday delivery. I really didn’t want to order anything off there since ordering would be conceding I would be in that place for a while. But I desperately needed soap, deodorant, and any edible food. I told Walter he could have everything I had left over if I got out of there on Friday. As I was filling out the sheet, four new guys walked into the cell block; one who would become my cellmate for the remainder of my time in there. Juan had been arrested a few days earlier for assault on a police officer and an immigration violation. He was a pisa and spoke very little English and had to be in his mid-40s. He didn’t say much the first day he was in there. He just climbed up to his bunk and slept the rest of the day.

Rodney stopped in, simply needing someone to talk to because of the ordeal he was going through. “You know anything about Jehovah,” he asked. All I knew about Jehovah’s Witnesses was that they go door-to-door talking to people, or shall I say preaching to people. I didn’t know Jehovah was another word for god, and he also told me there is no heaven or hell and when you die, you are just gone; there is no afterlife. I found this interesting since that is what I believed about death anyway. He gave me a few magazines to read and returned to his cell at lockdown.

This would be the first full night I not only wouldn’t have to freeze as much as I would on that top bunk, but would not have to endure the pain from my hand, climbing up to that top bunk. It would also be the first full night I had that police report. The two Tempe cops, Wallace and Johnson, wrote in there that the extortion and physically threatening text messages the criminal alleged “victim” sent me were all “basically name calling.” They also acknowledged twice in the report the alleged “victim” was on probation, yet still never arrested him for being drunk, having weapons, and having methamphetamine and marijuana.

It just highlighted more and more how I had absolutely no control over what would happen to me from here. If they wanted me to sit in jail forever, I would. I just hoped the public defender guy would come talk to me tomorrow, but again, I doubted that would happen.

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