The Education of a Juror

The Woman Who Bailed Out a Drug Defendant Tells Her Story

Why did you post bail for Baker? After the trial, I called his lawyer and said, "When he gets out, I'll help him find a job." [Then] I said, "By the way, how much is bail?" He said, "About $30,000." Then I got a call from him a few days later and he said, "Bail is only $2500, but they're getting ready to increase it." To me, $2500 is not a tiny bit of money, but it's definitely doable. That's what I spent on two weeks of vacation. I thought it was a little like reparations. There's been so much injustice that it's like putting one little brick toward building a healthy society.

How did you pay the bail? The lawyer told me to go to [Criminal Court at] 100 Centre Street, but he didn't know what room. Calvin was in a hearing. I didn't even know about bail bondsmen, so I just walked up there with the $2500 cash.

When I was in the [courthouse] lobby, they told me to go to 125 White Street. There is a room there where you post bail. I waited two hours. Then they said Calvin had already been sent back to Rikers, so come back at 9 p.m. or tomorrow morning. Then I went back to 100 Centre Street. I said I want to post bail, and they said you can do it here.

Paula Thomson: from juror to activist
photo: Michael Sofronski
Paula Thomson: from juror to activist

I found out later that Calvin got out at 4 a.m. the next morning. He was out for 10 days. On the 16th, he was yanked back in for an early hearing and put back in jail.

After you bailed out Baker, the judge raised his bail to $10,000. Then two anti-drug law activists paid his new bail, though the judge refused to free him. What happened to your money? I was told it takes six to eight weeks to get it back, and the city keeps 3 percent of that [if the defendant is convicted]. I guess they have another incentive to have high bails.

Have you seen Baker since the trial? After Calvin was back in jail, I had told the lawyer that I wanted Calvin to feel free to call me. I got a call from Calvin and I arranged to go the next visiting day. Everyone in the public should have a trip to Rikers. It's an education.

How did your jail visit go? We had a nice meeting. He is very polite. He always calls me "Miss Thomson." He kept saying, "Thank you, thank you." He thanked me very much for my involvement. I said it was easy for me to do. I had plenty of advantages in life. Why shouldn't I pass them on? I got Calvin's permission to help him find additional legal representation. I'm interviewing lawyers.

I've been to Rikers to see Calvin three times. I brought some grapes the first time. Little did I know, I couldn't even walk in with jewelry. I bought him two poetry books, too. They were signed. There was a poetry festival right after the trial. I know Robert Bly a little bit so he signed one book, and one was signed by an Eritrean poet. I don't know if Calvin read them. But one said, "Free Calvin," and the other said, "Good luck on your case."

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