In recent years, the Banner Graphic staff has increasingly found the Putnam County Courts a welcoming place.
Good relationships with judges Matt Headley and Denny Bridges and Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter have made it so. The staff members at the Circuit Court, Superior Court and Prosecutor's Office are more than willing to cooperate and do whatever they can to make our jobs easier.
With that said, the courtroom is never a place one should get too comfortable.
It's no place to accidentally fall asleep.
It's no place to mess around on one's mobile phone.
It's certainly no place to call the judge "bud" as one local man notoriously did a year or so ago.
It is a place where humor is acceptable, in the right context. Bookwalter occasionally uses a touch of irony in arguments. At times, sarcasm seems to be the main rhetorical device employed by veteran Deputy Prosecutor Jim Hanner.
Even the two judges are given to a witty quip now an then, when faced with a particularly unruly, rude or lazy defendant.
But there's are certain lines that most lawyers, attorneys and other courtroom regulars know not to cross. One of those lines is not joking in a murder case.
One Massachusetts defense attorney has less of a sense of decorum.
During the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, attorney James Sultan was questioning a state trooper and asked if he had ever received "training in football deflation devices."
Needless to say, Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh was mad, telling Sultan they were conducting serious business and jokes were not going to be tolerated.
So, good luck with your defense, Hernandez. I'm sure you'll do no jail time at all with this clown in your corner.
Heck, when a case is serious enough, I won't even make funny references only vaguely related to the proceedings.
For example, two or three years ago I was in the Circuit Courtroom for an initial hearing. I don't remember the particulars, but this wasn't traffic court.
These were serious proceedings about a serious offenses. No joking from Bookwalter, from Headley and certainly not from the reporter in the peanut gallery.
But wouldn't you know, something funny happened to me in court that day. But I've waited to tell the story.
It was a perp-parade kind of day so I was asked by one of the security officers to move to the seats off to the side, those usually reserved for the accused. It was busy enough that they had them on the back row and me off to the side.
No problem at all.
At least no problem until Judge Headley entered the courtroom.
You may be seated.
That was the left pocket of my pants, catching on the armrest and blowing out the side of my dress pants. OK. Looks like I won't be heading straight back to the office.
An hour or so passes, Judge Headley makes his way through the various hearings of the day. Court is adjourned.
Judge Headley exits and I sit back down to finish my notes when...
That was the right pocket, blowing out the other side of my pants.
Embarrassed as I was, no one in my vicinity had noticed. I made my way to my car and back home. I was ready to tell the story in the office and then write a blog about it.
The only problem was, this was a serious matter. Writing the blog that day or even that week would make it painfully obvious when it happened, even if I made no reference to the case.
Instead, I thought better of it, saved the joke for another day.
That day was today.
Maybe Mr. Sultan should have saved his Ballghazi joke for another venue as well.