I am not a trial junkie.
I am not a “celebrity” stalker.
Once I got past taping Davey Jones and David Cassidy posters on my bedroom wall, I was pretty much over it.
Sure, I tacked Charlie Daniels Band album covers on my dorm room walls, but that was because I was a fan of the music and the album art was cool.
I don’t recall watching even a few hours of the circus that was the O.J. Simpson trial, and I have watched nothing but the brief nightly recaps of the Casey Anthony trial.
Generally I watch TV either to learn something or be entertained. I don’t think there is anything for me to learn by watching the trial of Casey Anthony — certainly nothing that the nightly recaps don’t cover — and I don’t find it entertaining.
I’ve had to sit through dozens and dozens of trials during my career, and anyone who has done the same can tell you that most often they consist of long hours of tedious and redundant testimony, legal wrangling and private sidebar discussions — interrupted by brief moments of “edge-of-your-seat” drama.
Take a look inside any court reporter’s notebook and you’ll see a fair share of doodling.
Court reporters generally become decent doodlers.
That being said, I did tune in to the Anthony trial Thursday afternoon to see whether she was going to testify. The drama had already occurred, she had said she would not, and the pundits began weighing in and I began tuning out.
Then the court doors swung open and a young, nervous fellow was led to the podium before the judge.
I watched and was so very entertained and, though I have no plans ever to stalk him, I can say I am now most assuredly a wild fan of trial Judge Belvin Perry.
To sum up, 28-year-old Matthew Bartlett, a simple spectator at the trial, gave the prosecutor the finger while the prosecutor’s back was turned. Cameras in the courtroom caught it on tape, a local TV station notified court officers, who notified Judge Perry, who had Bartlett immediately removed.
When jurors left for the day, young Mr. Bartlett was brought back before the judge and millions of viewers around the world and forced to identify himself in the picture and define the meaning of “the extension of the middle finger.”
“What does that mean, sir, when you extend one’s middle finger?” asked a calm Judge Perry.
The judge made it clear with just the right amount of attitude that he was about to kick some silly punk’s behind — and that he was going to do so with great grace, dignity and decorum.
Now, this was good TV.
As the man squirmed and shook and apologized all over the place, Judge Perry asked him whether he could read and write, whether he, at the age of 28, still lived with his parents and what he did for work (a waiter at T.G.I. Friday’s).
Then he ordered him under arrest for contempt of court, sentenced him to six days in the county jail and levied a fine and court costs of $623 against him.
As the world watched, the deputies slapped the cuffs on the stunned young man, who said that he planned to appeal the judgment.
Wanting to make sure the young man would be fairly represented in the appeal process, Judge Perry immediately took sworn testimony from him to determine the condition of his finances and whether he qualified for a court-appointed attorney.
“Raise your right hand,” said Judge Perry. “Oh, that’s right. You can’t raise your right hand.”
The guy who had so bravely given the finger to the prosecutor just shortly before now was standing before the world announcing that he had $160 in his checking account and $12 in his savings account.
Judge Perry rightfully appointed him a lawyer, and Matthew Bartlett was led off to jail.
I turned the TV off after that.
It couldn’t get any better.
It was the only live airing of the trial I had watched, and clearly I had lucked out.
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to tape Judge Perry’s picture on my bedroom wall or anything, and I’ll never think it suitable to view a trial judge as a star or as a celebrity — but he’s certainly worthy of some admiration.