Tuesday, April 20, 2010
All that happened at the hearing yesterday, April 19, was an extension. The issue of reduction of bail can't be brought up till they receive the psyche evaluation which is in the works, so Buster's still in the pokey.
A Prisoner for Pot
I'm gonna call him Buster because that's what I call him. Don't YOU call him that. He changed his name to Michael Dare Jr., just like Madonna, so call him Michael or Junior. If I've had to get used to people referring to me as Senior, he's got to get get used to people calling him Junior. It's only fair.
At the age of 12 Buster was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder for which he was given a laundry list of drugs. They gave him Xanax and Ateral and Seraquel and Trazodone and Abilify. They gave him Ketoconazol and Imipramine and Prozac and Depacote and Lithium. Still, since he was a teenager, Buster had horrible fits where his body couldn't quit shaking, he'd hit his head against the wall just to take his mind off it, similar to tantrums he had as a child, making me immediately suspect he was faking it, but these fits, not quite epileptic seizures but definitely physically violent, did not involve any sort of acting out just to get his way. He genuinely wanted them to stop when they were happening, dad, he'd say, do you think I WANT my leg to be shaking like this? No, I don't. At one point, one of his doctors recommended medical marijuana which is a legally accepted treatment for his condition in California. To my astonishment, the next time he had an anxiety attack, beating holes in the wall, hurting himself, I gave him a hit of pot that completely calmed him down. It was a giant AHA moment. Right in front of my eyes. A drug that worked.
There's no doubt Buster has some sort of physical/chemical/emotional/psychological imbalance that can only be treated with meds and a lot of patience. When he's in his right mind, he's fantastic, but sometimes he crashes, usually for no apparent reason, just like Windows, he needs a reboot because some renegade program has taken over, causing him to obsess over something trivial, something he can't get out of his mind and it drives him crazy, no use trying to deal with the actual obsession, the only solution that works is to change his mind, flip channels, grab the remote and switch him to something else, and for that, for the ability to let something slide, to forget what you were doing and get off to the next thought, nothing works better than marijuana.
The scientific data concerning the relationship between marijuana and mental illness is full of deliberate misinterpretations. They will do a study where the data shows a relationship between mental illness and marijuana, such as the inescapable fact that a lot of people with mental illness use it. From this they conclude that marijuana CAUSES mental illness, as though correlation equaled causation. Just because people with headaches use aspirin doesn't mean aspirin causes headaches, it means aspirin works. Similarly people with mental illness use marijuana because IT WORKS, it relieves whatever internal pressure they feel that's driving them crazy and allows them to calm down and shift gears. In many ways, marijuana is a psychological clutch pedal that lets your gears disengage. It puts you in neutral, which is precisely where you want to be when your mind is racing and you can't get it to stop, whether it's thoughts of suicide or a Weezer song, we've all had things in our heads that mysteriously loop, like we hit the repeat button on our iPods and they won't stop playing the same thing over and over. Experience suggests that marijuana gets you out of those loops. I have seen, with my own eyes, in as scientific a setting as I'm likely to be in, my own living room, a human ripping themselves apart, unable to cope, being given a puff of marijuana, and COMPLETELY relaxing. Nothing else works like that, even alcohol, believe me, I've tried, knowing full well the blow to my credibility admitting such things entails. When your child is in pain, you're in pain, and you'll do anything to stop it.
And here's where the story gets complicated. My son was arrested on a completely different matter. Deprived of his meds while in jail, his condition worsened, he was shaking, having fits, yelling, uncontrollable, ended up in the psych ward under suicide watch. There was a hearing to determine his bail. He was clearly disturbed. The judge ordered him psychologically evaluated and properly medicated. Good luck with both. He's in therapy and for good reason. His case is WAY complicated, impossible to digest in one sitting, during which he is certain to rattle off all the drugs he's been given and what effect they had upon him, and even if the therapist were enlightened enough to believe him when he said that medical marijuana was the only thing that worked, they wouldn't be in any position to do anything about it. (Note to self: go to petitions.com and start a petition called "Free pot for prisoners.")
Unfortunately all his medical records are in storage in California. I can say he has no history of violence to others at all, in fact quite the opposite. When he has his anxiety attacks or experiences extreme mood swings characterized by uncontrollable shaking, he turns inward, hits the wall with his hands or head to try to stop the shaking, and in one case took an overdose of drugs which landed him in a psychiatric clinic in Loma Linda for weeks. As the one person who has seen him through all stages of his mental illness, I can say he has never, ever, been violent towards someone else, in fact retreats from physical confrontations, expressing violence only towards himself, and then only under extreme conditions of anxiety.
So we're in this horrible Catch 22 where he's experiencing extreme anxiety in jail that can only be relieved by the one drug there's no chance in hell they'll give him. As strange as this may sound, if I had the money to bail him out and anyone had the opportunity to interview him at home on his medical marijuana, they would have met an entirely different person than the one in jail, with virtually no signs of mental illness.
I showed up for a visit. I was told he was involved in some sort of violent incident, had been moved to a separate room with different visiting hours. I came back on the new visiting hours on Sunday to find he had been moved BACK so I had to come back Monday at noon, after his hearing at 8:30.
Sunday night his attorney called with the news that bargaining for a plea wasn't working out as well as we had hoped. Since it was a weapons charge, the feds were now involved and there was the threat of federal assault charges that carried with them multi-year sentences. They were offering to settle for a guilty plea on the possession charge, which "only" had a six month sentence. I pointed out that nobody witnessed the "assault," that they were going on the word of a junkie/thief who claimed the shot was fired at him, and that he would never in a million years actually show up in court. The feds had simply read the police report without re-interviewing the only witness. It was bullshit but a public defender's job is to make a case go away as fast as possible, so I smelt a little bit of "we should settle this" from his brimstone breath. I wondered if he had EVER actually taken a case to trial and gotten an innocent person off. Buster had told me he would gladly plead guilty just to get the hell out of there, but THIS guilty plea would have potentially meant another six months. I had to talk to him before the hearing but our visit was scheduled for after. Shit.
Next morning, Monday, I showed up at 8:30 to find his hearing had been rescheduled to 1:30PM. Good. I went home, put out a newspaper, and came back at noon to meet with Buster pre-hearing.
He's way thinner, maybe 15, 20 pounds, says he hasn't been eating, he throws up the food. I asked him about kosher meals. He said he asked for them but they didn't believe him, so I should call the jail and try to convince somebody that he's actually Jewish.
What was the skirmish about? He was walking down a hallway when an Arab inmate attacked him and kicked him in the stomach. He backed away, refused to fight, but the guy kept hitting him, he was just protecting himself, going What the fuck? when the guards broke it up and took them both away. According to witnesses, it was entirely the other guy's fault, and the only reason he attacked Buster was because he was a Jew. So beware about asking for those kosher meals. Word might get out.
I broke the bad news that there was little chance he was getting out today, that this was a hearing to set a date for his trial, NOT to reconsider bail, which could only be reconsidered once they got the psychological evaluation, which wasn't done yet. He said he was now on meds, four pills a day called "boost" bars that he says are some form of non-addictive Xanax, plus a new one for the list, Zyprexa, which, according to their website, "helps manage symptoms of schizophrenia and the manic phase of bipolar disorder." Hopefully it will give him the ability to make a judge happy.
I warned him about the feds being involved and the bullshit plea agreement he was probably going to be offered. I made him repeat after me. I'm innocent. I want a trial by jury. Call their bluff. Their case is bullshit.
In the middle of our meeting, a guard came to get him for the hearing. I said goodbye, I love you, I'll see you on Wednesday, and they led him off.
I went downstairs, crossed the street to the courthouse, went to the top floor, and entered the courtroom just as they called out "Michael Dare" and he was led in, taking exactly as much time to get there as it took me. His attorney asked for a continuance and got it. Next hearing, May 17. And Buster was led away again.
His attorney came out and we talked. Since he's on meds, all they need is the psychological evaluation and they can request a separate hearing concerning reduction of bail, which can happen any time between now and the 17th. Meanwhile I still get to see him twice a week for a couple hours unless they don't let me.
On the bus, the phone rang. It was someone from the jail asking me about Buster's kosher meals. I had a flashback to our days of living the kosher life in Steven Finger's backyard in Palm Desert. Hey, I can pull this off without lying. Yeah, our house was kosher, two sets of dishes, we had Seder every Friday, separated milchig and fleishig, if he's throwing up his meals, he should definitely go back to the diet he's used to. It worked. I convinced the kitchen at the King County Jail that Buster's Jewish so starting today he's getting kosher meals and attacked by Arabs.
Report on the quality of the gefilte fish in jail is forthcoming.