Prosecutor Demands Willie Nelson Sing in Court As Condition For A Plea on Pot Possession

If the simple pot possession case against Willy Nelson is any measure, West Texas justice appears based on some fundamental differences from the rest of the country. While such minor charges are generally handled by mail, Hudspeth County’s judge Becky Dean-Walker has demanded that the star appear before her in her courtroom. Now, County Attorney Kit Bramblett is joining in on the fun with Nelson by offering a plea only if Nelson sings “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” for the court. I hate to be a cold blanket, but find this neither funny nor tolerable for a legal system. Both the judge and the prosecutor appear to be intoxicated by celebrity crime.

It is hard to believe that this story is true, but it is widely being reported. The combination of forcing an appearance on a minor charge and the demand to perform undermines the integrity of both the court system and the legal profession. It appears Hudspeth is the Texas variation of Chutzpah.

In the article below, Bramblett is quoted as saying “I’m gonna let him plead, pay a small fine and he’s gotta sing ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ with his guitar right there in the courtroom.” He is further quoted saying “You bet you’re ass I ain’t gonna be mean to Willie Nelson.” Nice. For her part, Dean-Walker is insisting on seeing the celebrity in West Texas on a simple pot possession claim. Obviously, she will magnify the unprofessional appearance in the case if she were to accept a plea involving the performance for the pleasure of the prosecutor. This is an extension of the growing trend in abuse, improvised justice in the United States. For a prior column, click here. Nelson is not some dancing bear for the prosecutor to toy with — anymore than the other citizens abused by humiliating sentences.

If these facts are correct as widely reported, there should be an investigation by the bar of both the role of the prosecutor and the court. Dean-Walker can still redeem herself by treating Nelson like other defendants and sanctioning the prosecutor if he did in fact demand this condition for a settlement.

I am a big country music fan and I have always felt a twinge of guilty about liking Beer For My Horses, which seems to glorify hangings. (It hasn’t stopped me from putting it on my Ipod). This case seems to bear out his view of Texas justice:

Grandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that

I have no problem if a prosecutor asks a singer to come to town and sing as a gesture but to combine this desire with a formal demand in a settlement shows incredibly poor judgment. I like Nelson’s music, but no prosecutor or judge should turn the legal system into performance art.

Source: Daily Mail

Jonathan Turley

38 thoughts on “Prosecutor Demands Willie Nelson Sing in Court As Condition For A Plea on Pot Possession”

  1. pete
    1, March 29, 2011 at 12:18 am

    2 1/2?


    sarcasm … as in “2 1/2 rappers have been given a lighter sentence in west texas.” ie 0

  2. I agree with Mike. Former Judge Edward Nottingham tried to humiliate me by forcing me to confess to being a vexatious litigant even though I had a perfectly valid claim of First Amendment Retaliation which he simply refused to hear, probably because (I think) my defendants were paying for his prostitutes.

    When people were in the public stocks, other people used to do terrible things to them but they couldn’t defend themselves. That is similar to being told that one cannot represent themselves in court. The Steamboat Pilot assistant editor told me that their lawyer said they could publish anything they wanted about me and there was nothing they could do about it (because Nottingham issued a NO PRO SE order and also fixed it so I couldn’t get a lawyer). That’s like putting someone in the stocks and letting the public pinch, hit, etc.–what they used to do to people in the stocks.

  3. The court’s proposed “sentence” is today’s equivalent of placing the accused in the public stocks. It is a form of gratuitous humiliation that does not speak well of either the judge or the prosecutor.

  4. pete
    1, March 28, 2011 at 8:40 pm
    i do wonder how many rappers have been given a lighter sentence in west texas.


    2 1/2

  5. LK
    i do wonder how many rappers have been given a lighter sentence in west texas.

  6. C’mon people, you’re forgetting Texas history here. In 1925 the great Leadbelly was released from prison after writing and performing a song for the then-governor, Pat Neff.

    Leadbelly may or mat not have been released from Angola prison in Louisiana after writing Good Night Irene and submitting it along with his petition.

    And as a representative of the Conflated Metaphor Society, I would like to remind you, professor, that one can be a “wet blanket” or take a “cold shower” but one is not referred to as a cold blanket.

    Thank you 🙂

  7. Lottakatz,

    I think you also have to ask “how much does Willie Nelson make per performance?” This is like saying “So, you make world class watches? Well I’ll let you plea bargain if you give me a watch.”

  8. What would a poor Caucasian or young person of color get in a Texas for a bust of the same weight? Just wondern’ if this is over or under sentencing.

  9. DigitalDave
    1, March 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    “Personally I don’t care for Country music, but I know a little something about Willie Nelson…

    This man is a giant in his profession. Easily the equal of the Beatles or Elvis, it is difficult to even grasp the scope of his accomplishments and talent.

    I still can’t get over “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.”

    You have spoken the truth, Willie Nelson is one of the greatest musical talents of the last 60 years. It is about time people start recognizing your observation.

  10. Bob,Esq.,

    “It was twelve o’clock before I realized I was havin’ … no fun.”

    Been there ….

    “Hi mom ….” lol

    Great clip … thanks.

  11. And Blouise pulls out the Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel clip; awesome.

    Personally I’d love to hear that Willie segued into this ditty by John Prine:

  12. Gyges
    1, March 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    It’s one of just about every professional musician’s pet peeves. I view it as a combination of having the status of musician raised from just a craftsman to that of an artist and the propaganda many artists put out that their “art” comes directly from some muse other than themselves. If that’s the case, then our ability really is a gift from God. Understanding the inspiration is only a tiny bit of the equation in most instances never seems to get discussed.

    I do charity work. Church gigs aren’t it.


    The muse thing plays a role … especially with composers, but one has to have a hell of a lot of training to effectively channel inspiration. However, I know what you’re saying … we come across a great many posers in our trade. (I like to think of myself as nothing more than an itinerant bard going from town to town spreading the gossip through music … then I would be singing for my supper!)

    Ah, but we have come so far from those days and now it takes years of training to make a performance look effortless.

    Yep, I do the charity thing … but only when I decide to do it!

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