Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Have to go to a line-up at Men’s Central Jail the other night. They got a big room set up for this. It’s actually a theater in the jail. An Equity Waiver house of about 100 seats. Its got an elevated stage and a glass partition running through the stage like a curtain. This separates the “actors” (the six inmates, all black, all short hair, all about 5’8”) from the “audience” (the cops, the attorney [me], and the witness for whom this entire production has been set up.)
I wonder how they get these actors. Do they request volunteers? Somehow I doubt it – who would volunteer for the chance to be identified in a lineup for some crime you may not know anything about? Of course all the actors are in jail for something. Maybe they do volunteer out of boredom. Nah.
The room is all very 40’s. There’s the photographer for the Sheriff’s Dept. with the huge camera to document; there’s a set of Flash Gordon dials, round & circular, on a side wall to manage the lights inside the actors side of the partition. When the lights are turned on inside the partition you can see the actors very clearly but they cannot see into the audience. (at least that’s what the “Emcee”– a plainclothes Deputy Sheriff repeatedly tells the witness, a black man wearing a baseball cap.) “They can’t see you, they can’t hear you.” I believe the sound proofing claim cause the photographer had to shout to the Deputy inside to acknowledge that he was done shooting the scene.
The Emcee comes over to me and asks me if I know which one of the six guys is my client. I said “no”. I’d seen my client twice before, briefly, in court. But I wouldn’t be able to pick him out. The Emcee holds up two fingers. It takes me a second to realize he’s giving me the number my guy’s wearing on the front of his jailhouse blues in the lineup. “Oh” I nod that I understand.
They really put those actors through their paces. They got to stand forward, turn around, walk to each side of the stage, sit down, look sideways, turn themselves completely around, turn to one side and then to the other. It’s a whole production. Its amazing how good they are. They respond to the Emcee’s barked instructions like they had rehearsed this show for weeks.
Finally they ask the wit to pick the guy. He shakes his head and throws his hands up. He doesn’t pick anybody. The actors leave the stage through a back exit. And then the audience goes home.


Brian Nation said...

One day in the mid-sixties, maybe the first time I was in Vancouver I'm walking down Davie Street and a cop approaches me. I'm used to this. I look like a vagrant and they're gonna ask for ID. But no. A nice looking cop says pardon me, can I ask you something? We need some guys, about your age and height, bearded, to be in a lineup. Pays twenty-five dollars.

I thought for half a second and said, well, no, I don't think so. What if I'm picked?

You don't need to worry because you're not a suspect.

Not yet, I thought, going on my way.


i'd have taken the $25 & had the opportunity of being on stage.

Sarah T. said...

"An Equity Waiver house of about 100 seats."
Aaaaaah...this is great stuff. Hilarious.