Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Modern Day Hero Judge Julia Hayes

In the hustle and bustle of life often great deeds go unmentioned, particularly at the courthouse. It is uplifting and inspiring to hear and share stories of heroic deeds that all too often go unnoticed and deserve mention. Two Fridays ago on March 2, 2012 I popped into Dallas County Criminal Court no.2 to say Hi to the judge & report on the status of an upcoming trial when I witnessed her in the middle of busting a plea. A skinny 17 year old African American high school kid in his orange jail jumpersuit handcuffed behind his back was addressing the judge from behind the counsel table. With her quick wit, she quickly sized up the kid and asked him when he was going to graduate. He meekly stated “in the summer.” She asked him what his criminal trespass case was. He replied that he got caught playing basketball after allowed hours and was warned before not to play past dark (per the apt rules). She asked why he had a theft charge. He explained that he took the school drum home (the one assigned to him in band) to practice that night and was going to bring it back the next day and never had a chance to explain that to anyone at the school. She asked him who lived at home with him (a single mom) and wanted to know what level of supervision there was (practically none). His court appointed lawyer had already had him sign the plea papers for credit for time served (he had been in jail for 2 weeks with no money to bond out) which would have been a quick fix but a lifetime of job rejection due to a theft conviction (crime of moral turpitude) on his permanent record. She busted the plea and gave him deferred probations as the kid had no record and told him if he straightened up he would have both cases dismissed and a chance at having a fair shot at life. Serious emotion overwhelmed me as I witnessed her kindness and compassion and quick intelligence render justice to a situation that otherwise would have ruined the young kid’s life forever. Young people make mistakes. Their frontal lobes are not fully developed until they are 21. Young kids make stupid decisions, that’s why Tarrant County has a dismissal DPP program for kids under 21 that commit similar offenses. Although it appeared no one in the school, or even his mom cared, Julia stepped in and gave the kid a chance. That kid will probably spend the rest of his life thinking about how she addressed him, cared and placed confidence and hope in him. Judge Julia Hayes is a modern day hero. Dallas County is blessed to have such a smart, great judge who truly makes the world a better place.

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