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"Am I being detained?" I asked. This really got him going.
"No, but you're interfering with our meeting."
"No I'm not."
Laughlin looked at the court clerk. "Who is he with?" he asked, jerking his thumb at me.
"He's with the media," said the clerk. Two Oberlin College students sitting behind me started laughing. Laughlin muttered something and turned away.
My interaction to the sergeant must have scored me points with the defense attorney, Watson, because after the hearing he and I had lengthy conversation.
"When (Sgt. Laughlin) was asking for your ID, I was thinking, 'Where is he going with this?'" said Watson. I just laughed and told him I felt safe with a civil liberties attorney close by.
I asked him his opinion on secret compartment law, and he said it's a disaster waiting to happen.
"It is unduly burdensome, opens up people to harassment from law enforcement, and gives officers the right to damage property when searching for such a compartment," he said. “There are all kinds of conceivable things, which aren’t illegal, that people might want to conceal while transporting.”
He and I talked about the facts laid out above, as well as the larger issue at hand: the right to privacy. Even ignoring the fact that the secret compartment law itself is a terrible policy, Watson said troopers shouldn't have had reason to enforce it anyway.
"This is a Fourth Amendment issue all the way," he said. "We're hoping that the jury will see that the officers didn't even have probable cause to search my client in the first place."
We exchanged phone numbers and shook hands before joking one more time about my incident with the trooper.
"C'mon, you of all people should know that democracy doesn't exist in the courtroom," I said.
"Yep, we live in a police state," he replied gravely.
Sadly, at least in Ohio, it appears as if Watson is correct.