Friday, March 28, 2008


One thing I like about being a public defender is the stories I often hear. Sometimes the things people do are funnier than anything you could ever make up about them. One morning, as I waited in court, I watched a public defender colleague read a police report detailing a traffic stop. She laughed out loud, caught herself, and then slid the report across the table to me, as if to say, “check this one out.” I saw that her client faced charges of having no proof of insurance and going the wrong way on a one-way street, which was surprising to me since I knew she was waiting for her client to be transported from the jail and normally jail was rare on these relatively minor charges.
Flipping to the narrative section of the report I read the following explanation: “Reporting officers were on routine patrol eastbound on 20th Avenue at Martha Street. Officers observed a tan 1989 Cutlass directly in front of us turn north on Martha, which is a one-way street southbound at that location. Initiated traffic stop and confirmed vehicle registered to Theodore Kelley. Kelley informed officers that a black cat ran across his path and that he turned the wrong way because his uncle had once let a black cat cross his path and had gotten in a car accident the next day. Kelley said he knew the street was a one way but he ‘didn’t want to risk having bad luck like his uncle did.’”
I read on and saw that this poor guy had not only taken a wrong turn to avoid a black cat, he also had a felony warrant for possession of crack cocaine. Of course, he was arrested on the warrant and had sat in jail since that night. In fact, he was probably going to prison on the crack charges since they involved possession “with intent to distribute.”
If turning out of the black cat’s path- and ending up in prison- was avoiding bad luck, I wondered what real bad luck would have meant for this poor guy. Perhaps if his luck was always this bad, he was better off in prison, where no black cats, ladders or glass mirrors were allowed.

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