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Throwing the book softly

Long Story Short

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America is a nation too often divided — by race, religion, income, party affiliation. And the divide may be no more obvious anywhere than in our judicial system.

Many of us rarely or never see the inside of a courtroom, apart from in movies and TV shows. And then there's the cohort that seems to cycle through lower and local courts, where a different kind of drama transpires.

It was curiosity about the latter that led reporter Corey Hutchins into Colorado Springs Municipal Court on East Kiowa Street one day in December. He found a burgeoning cast of characters, as the number of criminal and traffic cases rose sharply last year.

You could say the stakes are smaller than in a John Grisham plot, but that's not necessarily true for the defendants.

While accused shoplifters have always turned up in city court, one judge observes that their alleged hauls seem to have changed lately, from gadgets and electronics to things like baby formula.

It's one thing to say thieves don't deserve mercy. It's another to say people who steal diapers should be dealt with harshly.

Yet there's some good news, too. The judges often are patient with defendants, no small feat in a burdened system. That's in part because it makes things run more smoothly, says a judge; still, it's a relief to see tolerance meted out with justice.

You'll find Hutchins' story starting here.

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