A famous local outlaw, back on the streets
COLUMBIA, Mo 7/17/14 (Op Ed) -- "Wow!" I thought.  "What's Malcolm D. Redmon doing outta the joint?"

The boyish-faced felon was talking with the fellas near the middle of a street wracked with recent gun violence.    

I waved.  They waved.  And I drove on, remembering the last time I read about Malcolm, he was on "home detention," accused -- then acquitted -- of tampering with his "home monitoring device."   Though it used to mean jail, these days "the joint" also means Home, Sweet Home.   

"He’s well-known to our police department," Columbia Police Sgt. Ken Hammond said of Redmon in 2007.   "When Malcolm’s in town, it’s not surprising that there’s shooting or crime involved because he’s a criminal."

Though Mr. Redmon has served his time to date -- repaid his "debt to society" -- he's up on another felony rap, this time for assault.   Arrested last September and indicted by a grand jury in December, he posted a $20,000 bond and awaits trial in late August, court records indicate.  

Sgt. Hammond said "criminal," and these headlines say why.  Malcolm is in the middle of them all:  

Three arrested after gunfire.

‘Don’t snitch’ values blamed for suspect’s dismissed case.

Police catch up with shooting suspect

Two arrested after recent shootings

Jury deliberating fate of man tied to Columbia shootings

Man receives home detention for assault

What the headlines don't explain is how one of Columbia's most famous outlaws remains a free man. 

In the middle of his latest court case, Mr. Redmon is a small cog in a vast machine.  "The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself," Charles Dickens wrote in his masterpiece Bleak House.   "There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings." 

The "narrow turnings" in Malcolm's latest felony charge started with an "arraignment," "counsel status hearing," "preliminary hearing," and "public defender determination," all last September.   Since then, the case docket reads like a Charles Dickens novel. 

The cast of characters -- each making an appearance at different times -- includes four Judges:  Larry Bryson (pictured), Kevin Crane, Jodie Asel, and Christine Carpenter

And The Defense Attorneys:

Derek Mcguire Roe
Mary Joe Smith

And The Prosecutors:

Cecily Daller
Roger Johnson
Cassandra Rogers
Tracy Gonzalez
Andrea Suzanne Hayes

And of course, the chapters. 

Chapter the Fourth:  Public Defender Determination Of Non-Indigency
Chapter the Fifth:   Appeal Of Non-Indigency Findings
Chapter the Sixth:  Defendant's Motion For Change Of Judge

And so it goes, punctuated by a sub-chapter that recurs over and over:  Hearing Rescheduled and Continued

Though the final chapter is yet to be written, if history is any guide it will be called Parole, Probation, "Suspended Execution of Sentence," or my favorite, "Home Detention."

So what hope for the law abiding?  Our taxes go up -- e.g., $9.6 million for the courthouse expansion; a property tax increase for more police -- while outlaws go free.  

To John and Jane Q. Public, the justice system is a maze that never ends.  Thankfully, Dickens offers solace:  Just think of the law as a marketing machine

"Viewed by this light, it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it.   Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble."

-- Mike Martin