Tim Kontje

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Rose Colored Glasses in the Litter Box and Other Admissible Evidence

Editorial Advisory: This story contains details of rape, sexual assault, and homicide. I try to imagine myself a juror assessing the facts and the arguments in this trial. The facts: On August 30th, 1980, 36 year-old Stephanie Sommers was found dead in an apparent homicide. A rug mounted on the back wall of her apartment’s living room hung at an angle as if it had been knocked loose. A Virginia Slims cigarette butt lay just inside the entryway. A pair of rose-tinted glasses rested in a litter box. Panties were strewn...

When Toilet Water Is the Only Relief

Kourtney, a fourteen-year-old inmate at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, didn’t want to go to bed. It was after 9 p.m. on July 1, 2018, and she was refusing orders from the detention service officers, or DSOs, to return to her room. Instead, Kourtney barricaded herself in a bathroom stall. After multiple warnings, supervisor LaCour Harrison ordered his subordinate, Karnesha Marshall, to use her pepper spray, also known as oleoresin capsicum or OC spray. Marshall sprayed Kourtney in the face, and the DSOs carried her back to her room as she screamed in pain. Once she was inside,...

The Moment when a Trial Has No Judge

If Hollywood is to be believed, a courtroom is a dramatic place. It’s where Jack Nicholson roars at Tom Cruise that he can’t handle the truth, and where Henry Fonda and eleven other men get angry. In reality, though, even the most gruesome trials are subject to mundane delays and bureaucratic inefficiencies that might be shunned by a screenwriter but nevertheless can be strangely compelling in their own right. On August 2, 2019, a fellow Crime Story reporter and I attend one such trial. Jesus Calla, wearing a blue suit with slicked back hair,...