By Justin Peters
A couple of months ago, after writing a piece about an arsonist who unwisely wore a “Snitches Get Stitches” T-shirt to his sentencing hearing, I encouraged readers to send me their own stories about inappropriate courtroom attire. I published the first round of those stories in October. Now I’m back with another set of reader-submitted tales.
The judge has one nerve left, and your stupid shirt is getting on it. “My wife was a child abuse prosecutor in Baltimore. I once went to a sentencing in one of her cases. The very large woman who was being sentenced after pleading guilty to child abuse wore a T-shirt that read, ‘Sex Is a Misdemeanor. The More I Miss, the Meaner I Get.’ While her attorney tried to find another shirt, her size precluded him from doing so. The judge assured that the client would be missing for several years.”
Too late for that, pal. “When I was clerking 11 years ago for a district court judge, a defendant was brought in for an initial hearing who was high on meth and violent—eight lawmen (sheriffs and troopers and city officers) had been detailed to control him while he screamed and howled in the hallway in front of the courtroom. He was wearing the full cuffs and manacles and belt, but he looked like he was a hair away from breaking out of that. The shirt he wore said: ‘Don’t piss me off, I don’t need another f@#king felony conviction.’ ”
Never wear your “crime clothes” to court. “Former public defender here. Had a client show up for jury selection in the exact same clothes that he was identified in during the robbery. The defense was mistaken identity. The victim and one witness described jeans with gold patches on the rear and an oversized white T-shirt with FUBU on the front. His choice of dress for jury selection? The same threads. Jury convicted in 30 minutes.”
The Honorable Judge Ford Boy presiding. “I watched a proceeding where the defendant wore a T-shirt to court that said ‘Bite Me Ford Boy.’ I don’t know if he was aware that the judge he was appearing before had a mint 1965 Ford Mustang convertible that he loved. Luckily, the judge was a good sport.”
And yet he wore it anyway. “I work as a domestic violence advocate. When supporting a survivor at domestic violence court, there was a man pleading not guilty to DV wearing a T-shirt with a huge handgun across the chest. When he approached, the judge asked him if he thought that wearing the shirt was appropriate for court. The man said ‘No, I guess not.’ ”
A lesson for us all. “I am a prosecutor and one time a defendant came into court wearing a hoodie for a hearing with (I presume) his girlfriend by his side. This defendant had an outstanding bench warrant on another case, though, and when we called his case, the judge informed him that he was going to be taken into custody. The defendant had a surprised look on his face and hurriedly took off his sweatshirt, handed it to his girlfriend, and she quickly shuffled out of the courtroom.
“Since he knew he was going to be arrested and searched, he had to unload whatever drugs were in his pocket. But when he removed his sweatshirt, he revealed to the court (and the attorneys) a T-shirt that had a picture of a marijuana leaf on it that said ‘Pimps smoke blunts.’ The judge just shook his head in disgust and we all laughed. As always, the lesson is: Don’t take your drugs with you to court so you don’t have to reveal your hideously offensive T-shirt.”
(This article originally appeared on Slate.)