Tuesday, September 13, 2005

esmie chronicles: 9/13 court appearance

The court room was so packed for Esmie Tseng's hearing this morning that a clerk had to tell people they couldn't sit on one another's laps. It was a small place, just two benches for an audience, so a lot of folks had to wait outside. All during the proceedings people peeked through the narrow window on the door.

There were quite a few teenagers there, some dressed appropriately for court, others in T-shirts and shorts and flip flops. There were just as many adults, most of them white, though a few appeared to be of Asian descent.

Esmie's father attended. According to media reports, he hadn't showed up for the first proceeding. He was a thin man, with graying hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He carried a wooden cane and sat very straight in the front row.

At a few minutes after nine, Esmie was escorted into the room. Her hands were cuffed together in front of her, and she was frowning, until she noticed a friend of hers who was sitting near I was, and she smiled briefly.

There wasn't much on the agenda. Esmie's attorney, Robb Edmonds, merely wanted to get a continuance on the case so that more research could be done. The court had appointed an investigator to look into the matter, and so far more than 250 pages of evidence have been generated, Edmonds said.

The judge, Brenda M. Cameron, quickly agreed to his request. She scheduled the next hearing for Wednesday, October 13, at 9 a.m.

Then Edmonds asked the judge to ask Esmie some questions about his representation of her.

"Can you talk to your lawyer?" Judge Cameron asked.

Esmie appeared to be in tears. She answered by barely moving her head. The court officials told her she had to answer out loud.

"Yes, your honor," she replied, very softly.

Then Judge Cameron asked Esmie if she were "getting along with" her attorney.

Again, Esmie tried to gesture her answer, until finally saying, barely above a whisper, "No, your honor."

Judge Cameron appeared to find this information unsettling, and she informed Esmie that she "got very lucky" when she drew Edmonds as her counsel (Edmonds is part of a pool of private attorneys who represent defendents on a rotating basis). "You couldn't get anybody better."

Cameron warned: "If you want to hire another attorney, do it right now."

Cameron asked Esmie's father if he could talk to Edmonds.

"Yes," he replied. "Very well. I trust him."

He added, "My daughter is getting adverse advice from others. I don't like that."

Judge Cameron decided to not dismiss Edmonds from the case.

Esmie was escorted out of the room. Just before she reached the door she cried, "I want to stay here. No." But the court officials pushed her forward, through the back door of the court room. The door closed and everyone stayed where they were for a moment, not moving, not saying a word.

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