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My First Time in Court

Hugo, Choctaw County, Oklahoma:
Even as early as 9 years old, I was interested in the law. So, I decided to attend a court session in Choctaw County District Court.

I went to the courthouse and searched around until I saw some people in a courtroom. I went to the door, knocked and a big guy opened it.

He was a little gruff, “Whaddya want, young man?” It scared me but I replied: “I wanna see some court, lawyers, a judge, stuff like that.” He said, “Okay, come in and take off dat ball cap, set down and be quiet.”

“Is court going on now?”
“Yeah, Judge Jenner is gonna hold an arraignment.”
“What’s a rainment?”
“Arraignment! A defendant is gonna be sentenced.”
“Whadde do? Is he going to jail?”
“Hush! There he is, the High Sheriff is bringin’ ‘im in now.”

I looked at the south door and saw the Sheriff bring in an enormous Black male who looked about 17 or so. As the officer took off his handcuffs, the accused waved to a group of Black people, who leaped to their feet at the sight of the young man, and I assumed they were family members.

Judge Jenner came in, dressed in street clothes, and rapped his gavel. ”Stand up!” He told the defendant. “Is yo name Henry Lee Washington?” The defendant nodded and whispered, “yeah.” The judge rapped his gavel: “Speak up! I’s hard of hearin’ and you call me Yo ‘oner! Understand?” Defendant nodded.

Judge Jenner: ”Lessee, yo charged ‘ere wit stealin’ Captain George Smith’s saddle over to Ft. Towson, a good man. How you plead, guilty or not guilty, gotta be one tuh de utter.”
Henry Lee: “I done it.”
Judge: “How you plead, I done ’ast you?”
Henry Lee: “Guilty, I done hit.”
Judge: “Okay, since de saddle done been recovered by de High Sheriff, I’m gonna give you a suspended sentence but you gotta pay de court costs, $25.00 and you gotta pay dat in 30 days. Understand me?”
Henry: ”Kin I go home now?”
Judge: “Yeah, court is adjourned.”

I didn’t hear much else since Henry’s family was yelling and clapping so I put on my ball cap and left.
-james a clark