Thursday, March 26, 2009

An exaggerated sense of self-importance

I had to take care of a matter in a justice of the peace court downtown the other day and was surprised to see a metal detector inside the lobby. Luckily I had my court badge and was able to walk on by, but I was struck by the exaggerated sense of importance surrounding a court that handled traffic tickets, small claims cases and marriage licenses.

The City of Houston Municipal Courthouse also has a metal detector, as does the municipal court in Bellaire. I find it amusing that traffic courts feel the need to install these devices and inconvenience the citizens who are forced to appear and "contribute" to the local government.

It's even more amusing when you consider that most JP courts in Harris County don't feel the need to install metal detectors and the county courthouses away from Houston (Fayette County and Jackson County, for example) don't use them.

Of course installing the devices makes the bailiffs, the prosecutors and the judges feel more important, I suppose.

But the need to feel important is no excuse for what happened to Houston Texan Ryan Moats and his wife on March 18 in Dallas.

After receiving a call from the hospital that his mother-in-law was dying, Mr. Moats and his wife headed to the hospital to be at her bedside when she died. As they neared a redlight near the hospital, Mr. Moats turned on his hazard lights and went through the intersection. A Dallas police officer, Robert Powell, saw him and followed him into the hospital parking lot where he initiated a traffic stop. Despite Ms. Moats protests that her mother was dying, the officer told her to stay in the car. She refused and ran into the hospital. The officer then held Mr. Moats, at gunpoint, in the parking lot for at least fifteen minutes - even threatening to take him to jail.

By the time Mr. Moats was allowed to leave the parking lot, his mother-in-law was dead.

The ticket has since been dismised and Officer Powell was reassigned.
  • See additional coverage (including in-car video) from KHOU-TV.

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