A Real Time Scarface
As a law abiding citizen on the up-and-up, I was called to my first jury duty assignment during the mid-sixties, which involved a case about a Philly drug dealer with a handle of “Sawtooth” Charlie. This was my first time to knowingly see a bona-fide drug dealer in person; at least that’s what we had to determine from the evidence presented by the District Attorney (DA). Charlie was a prelude to the many cocaine traffickers that were about to make substantial inroads into the city for decades to come. An attorney from the DA’s office embarrassed Charlie by describing how his teeth became chipped and broken due to excessive cocaine use.
During the court proceedings it was revealed that Charlie was a Haitian who had been indicted and was on the verge of being deported. A narcotics agent—probably DEA—testified how cocaine was often smuggled out of Colombia into Haiti, and then shipped from Haiti on bulk cargo freighters directly to Miami.
Years later I learned that the bulk of this drug trafficking began with the influx of Cuban citizens to South Florida after the Castro Revolution in the early 1960′s. From then on the Haitians, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans also became involved. It would be approximately two decades later during a viewing of the movie Scarface, that I realized what the factual history of the movie was based on.
From these testimonies, I concluded that this guy needed to be put away. The way I saw it, he was ruining lives and making money from those in destitution.
Suddenly there was an abrupt recess called by the judge when one of the DA’s witnesses suddenly changed his testimony. Later in the jury room, we surmised that he was threatened by members of Charlie’s crew, who were present in the courtroom and projecting leering stares at him. The rest of the trial was so quick there wasn’t time for jury tampering.
I had little to offer, since I had already made up my mind. I was confused by the notorious Philadelphia lawyers, and their “objections, objection sustained, and overruled etc.” After about four hours of deliberations we decided unanimously to pronounce him guilty—a verdict I hadn’t disputed. Since I was the only young brother on the jury, Charlie stared at me as we returned to the court room. I don’t know if he was attempting to read the verdict from the countenance on my face, or if he was threatening me.
In fact, later in life, I was also charged for a similar offense. As I noted this occurrence during the time of this writing, I had reflected on how easily I flipped over to the dark-side, despite my Christian convictions and my displeasure with dope dealers in my earlier years.