Here's Terence Murphy, for example, with his family before some Irish celebration, maybe a St. Patrick's Day parade. Everyone's all smiles, full of good will. One of the Murphy men wears a piper's kilt and holds a bagpipe like he's going to bust into a rendition of "Danny Boy."
At some point after this picture was snapped Terence Murphy, 37, was busted for possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 15 years to life in a New York state prison. It was Terence Murphy's first arrest. He was a stockbroker caught by undercover narcotics cops, and the draconian Rockefeller drug laws mandated his sentence.
Leaning against the rail to the left of the picture of Murphy is a photo of a smiling Lawrence Harris, hugging and playing with his children on a street somewhere. Harris is now 30 years old and serving 62 years to life in Greenhaven. He had no priors and his arrest for the sale of a controlled substance was his first ever. Nonetheless, Harris will be lucky to get out of prison before his toddlers enter middle age.
Then there's a solo snapshot of Louis Espejo, 26. Same charge as Harris?and, again like Harris, he had no prior arrests. Espejo was sentenced to 18 years to life, and sits in Greenhaven as you read this.
There are dozens more of these posters out there in front of the Brooklyn courthouse, and one's sadder than the next. It's a first-time offenders' Hall of Shame.
The William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice is responsible for displaying these posters. It's part of the group's ongoing Rockefeller Drug Law Vigil. Every week between three and five men come out into the plaza, set up the posters, elicit signatures for petitions and hand out leaflets and news clippings arguing the injustice of the insane Rockefeller laws, which have been in effect since Gov. Nelson Rockefeller enacted them in 1973.
A man named Randy Credico leads the vigil. He's a Kunstler Fund staffer, and the sort of guy you'd imagine would be active in an organization named after the late radical lawyer. Credico's got the blazing eyes of a true believer and the energy of a ferret as he hollers and sticks fliers into the hands of passersby.
"Read all about it!" Credico calls in his best news-hawker voice.
"Undercover narcotic cops in New York City target minorities because they're all white, young and still live in the basement of their parents' home in Long Island," Credico told me.
I stopped Credico right there and asked him if he was aware that approximately 65 percent of NYPD cops live in the five boroughs. Credico nodded his head.
"Well, I say that because I think it's true about these undercover narcs. Plus, I like to piss the cops off as they come down the courthouse steps. They deserve it, as they really pull some dirty tricks to get their arrests. I had one Vietnam vet tell me how some narc spent an hour with him pleading to get him some drugs. He produced a forged prison record to show he was a criminal. When the vet was worn down and got him the drugs, then the arrest came."
Credico loves to bait the assistant district attorneys who walk by. He squints at the courthouse stairs. One young man stops and opens his briefcase.
"That's one!" Credico yells with excitement. "That one there! That's an ADA! Look! They're like cookie-cutter models of each other. They all have the same suit and the same haircut. And they're all arrogant. I had one stop by the photos and say, 'Hey, I put that one away.'"
His eyes shine as he turns to me and says, "Excuse me a second while I give him my speech."
I watched him move out into the middle of the plaza and boom: "The assistant district attorneys of Brooklyn who prosecute drug cases are nothing more than hack lawyers who can't find work in the private sector! Most of them graduated in the bottom 30 percent of their class and could find no other work!"
The stunned ADA walked up to Credico. "Hey! Hey! I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class at NYU Law School. Top 10 percent! How do you like that?"
"Then your mother and father wasted the money they spent on your education," Credico answered without missing a beat. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
There's no way the ADA was going to win this one, so he just walked away.
"You work in a court that is nothing more than a modern-day slave auction," Credico yelled after him. "No one believes your witnesses. No one."