Late in 2003, you’ll recall that my car was broken into. The thieves took my factory Å koda radio, and a bunch of stuff out of the glove box (including a lot of hard-to-get CDs).

About a month ago, I got a registered letter saying that the police had caught a suspect, and that I would have to testify. Today was my day in court.

According to the police report, the suspect broke into cars in my neighborhood – all the same make – stealing radios and other valuable items, which he then fenced for cash to fund a drug habit. A recidivist, this is the third time the suspect has been arrested.

The process was interesting. It was kind of like waiting to see a doctor, in that the other witnesses and I sat in a hallway in front of a closed door, waiting to be called by a perfunctory assistant. It was Kafka-esque but claustrophobic at the same time. Nothing grand here.

Two police escorts brought the suspect in handcuffs, one on each side. The police looked bored.

When it was my turn to testify, I had to enter the very small courtroom. It was probably at some point somebody’s bedroom or living room. I had to stand in front of the judge, with the prosecuting attorney on one side and the defense attorney on the other. The judge and prosecuting attorney wore threadbare velour robes; the defense attorney a tired blue suit not dissimilar to a tram driver’s.

The prosecuting attorney asked me if I’d seen the suspect break into my car. Of course not, I answered. Did the police take fingerprints or other evidence from the crime scene? Yes, they did.

And just like that, the whole thing was over. Even so, it left me feeling claustrophobic and cottonmouthed for a couple of hours afterward.

Do I think the suspect did it? I don’t know. That’s up to the police and the prosecutor to prove. They obviously think they have a case, but I didn’t get to see any other evidence presented. Witnesses are escorted in and out only for their testimony.

On the way to the court, I started to feel bad for the suspect. What if I was going to put him away for a long time? But then I started feeling mad, and then madder. This bastard broke into my car, stole my stuff and then sold it for drugs.

Finally, I figured it would be better for the state to deal with this guy. If it was left up to me, I don’t think I’d be as thorough in the process, or as fair. The verdict is expected in a few weeks.

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