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Owen Smith

Owen Smith received his undergraduate degree in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, with an emphasis on Public Discourse and New Media. He has familial ties to the criminal justice system and approaches writing about this system with the aim of understanding it, critiquing it, and, perhaps, reforming it. When he isn’t down at the Criminal Courts Building or writing about being there, he enjoys being at home, tending to his garden or listening to records. He grew up in Los Angeles and lives there now, and remains constantly curious about the minutiae peculiar to the city.


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Special Docket

“I should just come to work with some alcohol,” the bailiff says, “I really should.” I am the only person left in the gallery and she’s looking right at me, but she is mostly thinking out loud, hoping that one of the other court staffers will commiserate. The judicial assistant picks up the cue: “When I worked downtown, all the old sheriffs came to work with booze in these little flasks,” she reminisces. The court staff today are chatty and candid, though I come to realize that the turn to humor is mainly to offset the stress of the...

An Appeal for Commutation

Massaging his wrists after having his handcuffs removed, Cedrick Deion Broussard stacks and organizes the slim pile of papers that he brought from holding with him: his SB 1437 petition to have the judge commute his murder conviction. Broussard does not have an attorney present, but he's accompanied by a private investigator who listens quietly by his side. "I’m not going to re-try the case," Judge Curtis B. Rappe repeatedly asserts, "even if one of the witnesses says, 'Yes, I actually lied,' I’m not going to re-try the case." Broussard does not seem fazed by this response; he likely expected...