JULY 03 - JULY 09

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • Demographics
    • Defendants are disproportionately men of color: nearly 90% of defendants were male, and over 75% were Black or Latinx.
    • Nearly one third of defendants were under 25 years old.
    • The defense lawyers representing them, however, were almost 80% white, and the cases were determined by exclusively white judges. The prosecution was similarly over 90% white. In one case, a Watcher noted the prosecutor even had “trouble pronouncing the complainant and defense’s names.”  
    • Some younger defendants benefitted from opportunities to request conditions that resulted in minimal interference with jobs or internships. However, multiple cases involving younger defendants were arraigned in less than five minutes, leaving very little time for defendants to communicate these conditions to their defense attorneys.
  • Atmosphere of Courtroom
    • The environment of the courtroom and the speed at which the cases are decided (over 50% of the cases were decided in under 5 minutes) continue to create confusion for both Watchers and the accused/their families. In one case, a Watcher noted “the family had to ask public defenders who were talking in the front row to be quiet because she couldn’t hear.” In a drug case being observed, there was no discussion of the nature of the incident, such as whether it was possession and in what capacity or how the officer was involved.
    • Watchers are consistently unable to gather critical information about the cases, either due to the nature of the courtroom or the lack of discussion in the arguments. Often, the ADA’s name, the relevant penal law, or even the charges themselves were absent or mentioned so briefly Watchers could not record them, illustrating the minimal attention these cases are given by the courts.
    • The nature of the courtroom remains dehumanizing to defendants and limits their capacity to advocate for themselves. In a case requiring an ASL interpreter for the defendant, a Watcher wrote that it seemed “very cruel to handcuff someone who needs their hands to communicate.”
      • Information revealing defendants’ individual personal circumstances — for example, needs related to childcare or school commitments — came out in some cases, particularly when arraignments ran a bit longer (5 minutes or more). In cases that were arraigned in around 2 minutes, however, court watchers were left wondering what information the judge was lacking when considering bail, or what additional relevant details defense attorneys may have been able to glean from their defendants if allowed more time.
    • There is also considerable confusion in the charges themselves. At least three cases were incorrectly classified, and in one case, the charges did not even match the complainant’s statement. Watchers also observed disagreements about whether a case should be held in family court or whether a defendant is eligible for ACD.
  • Bail and fees
    • Surcharges were imposed even on poverty-driven crimes, such as shoplifting. At least one case of violation-level petit larceny for shoplifting included a $120 surcharge, a fee that seems counterproductive both for addressing the root cause of shoplifting and for preventing further alleged offenses. In another case, a defendant argued they were unable to pay a $75 surcharge and needed time to collect the money.
    • Bail was set in amounts from $200 to $25,000 with an average of $2,500. However, the prosecution continues to request extremely high bail, with an average of over $12,600. Judges ruled in favor of ADA’s recommendation of bail or RoR in 83% of observed cases, though the amount of bail was frequently reduced (to still sizable amounts).
    • In one case of an 18 year old boy pleading self-defense, the judge lowered bail from the $25,000 the prosecution requested to $2,000 so that the defendant would not have to go to Rikers Island, although $2,000 is still considerable.
    • Flight risk was only mentioned by prosecution in less than half of the arguments for bail and the most common argument for bail to be set was the current charge’s seriousness. Defense attorneys used arguments of community ties and school/work obligation in over half of all arguments for lower bail or RoR.
    • Inability to pay bail was mentioned only once by a defense attorney in their bail argument.

Reflection from a Watcher

Throughout my Court Watch shifts, the most consistent trend that I have noticed is a disregard for the confusion, frustration, and anxiety experienced by those who are waiting for their loved ones to be arraigned. People routinely wait for hours with very little information, and there seems to be a complete lack of empathy for how stressful that experience can be.

Last week, my shift started at 6:00p; it wasn’t until 7:30p that the judge returned to the courtroom and arraignments resumed, and it was never clear why there was such a long break or when the judge would return (and arraignments only resumed until 8:30p, when an hour long recess was called). During this long period of uncertainty, one of the court officers brusquely told a woman in the audience to put her phone away; this woman commented to her companion that at no point was this rule relayed to her and there were no signs stating this rule in the courtroom. Another woman approached the public defenders’ area multiple times to ask for updates on her son--she was sternly told by an officer not to approach. I have seen this situation play out several times before. Not only is there a lack of transparency in this process, but when people actively try to seek out information, they are scolded. Typically, one of the public defenders will then try to help whoever approached. In this case, after the second time this woman asked if her son’s paperwork had been processed, she was told that he was in the other courtroom. She then rushed out of the room, clearly exasperated.

In addition to the lack of transparency during these waiting periods, the arraignments themselves are difficult to follow. It is frequently hard to hear what the judge, ADA, and defense are saying, due to a lack of enunciation and amplification. The audience is ordered not to speak during arraignments, yet officers will have conversations with others in the audience, making it that much tougher to hear the proceedings. In addition, the amount of acronyms, law codes, and jargon add to the challenge of parsing what is happening. It is a frustrating experience for me, and I am only there to listen and record--I cannot imagine the stress felt by the defendants and their loved ones (not to mention the added confusion when a language barrier exists).

For those who work in the justice system, an arraignment is a familiar routine--mundane and uneventful. However, they need to understand the anxiety that comes with waiting for a loved one to be arraigned and how difficult it is for the average citizen to understand the entirety of the proceedings. There needs to be more transparency in the process, a willingness to share information, and empathy for those who are going through this experience.


JUNE 26 - JULY 2

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • ADAs continue to ask for consistently high bail, as high as 20k and 30k for misdemeanor charges. In one case the ADA requested 30k for a misdemeanor petit larceny charge as well as 10k for possession of stolen property, another misdemeanor charge. More examples include requesting:
    • 30k for possession of a controlled substance
    • 15k for a woman charged with assault in a domestic dispute
    • 10k for an individual accused of stealing an iPhone
    • A total of 10.5k for three separate charges of criminal contempt
  • Multiple cases were reported in which the prosecution distorted facts in order to justify requests for high bail
    • In one case, a 59-year-old woman with no priors was described as having a weapon in her possession during the time of an assault. The weapon was later revealed to be her cane. 10k bail was requested.
    • In an attempt to justify a request for 15k bail for a woman with no priors being charged with assault, the ADA made an unfounded claim that the woman was addicted to drugs. The accusation was vehemently denied by the defense and also revealed to be based on the statement of the cross complainant.
    • In another case, the ADA cited a possession of marijuana charge from 12 years ago to justify a request for 10k in bail. Although the Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs have officially committed to not prosecute marijuana possession, these charges are being used against defendants.
  • Drug addiction continued to play a prominent role in cases, highlighting the punitive approach pursued by prosecutors in such cases. These cases bring to question what societal issues are really being addressed within the courtroom. In one instance, a young man who had recently become addicted to heroin was offered jail time for stealing boxers and t-shirts from a pharmacy and for trespassing by being on the premise of a public housing complex where he did not live. The defense highlighted the small nature of his crimes as well as his recent enrollment in rehab to argue for an alternative sentence that would address these issues, while the ADA acknowledged none of these aspects.
  • Cases brought forth highlighted the blurred lines between what's considered a felony and misdemeanor. There were discrepancies between the ways in which the same charge was classified in different cases. While in some instances criminal possession of a controlled substance was considered a misdemeanor, in others the DA’s office charged it as a felony. Whether or not something is considered a felony or misdemeanor has implications for the outcome of the case, with non-felony charges seeing a higher rate of ROR's.
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Reflections from a Watcher

I have worked three Court Watch shifts so far, and in two of those shifts I have seen children sent to jail. The first was a 17-year-old accused of shooting a man in the hip in front of the public housing complex where he lived. The victim didn't pick the child's photo out of a lineup, but the kid was wearing the same color t-shirt as the shooter — red — and the undercover officers who were in the vicinity of the shooting seemed convinced that he had done it, even though he had no prior criminal record.

The second, during my most recent shift last Sunday, was a 16-year-old accused of tucking a firearm with an extended magazine into his waistband. The assistant DA claimed the gun was loaded, but they couldn't say how many bullets were in it. It was unclear to me how the police discovered the weapon in the first place.

Both of these kids were active high-school students. Both had family members present in court, willing to vouch for their character and do whatever they could to keep their children out of jail. Both, it probably doesn't need to be said, were boys of color. And both had bail set at $2,000 cash, $4,000 bond — very likely more than their families could afford.

About a week after my most recent Court Watch shift, I attended a march protesting the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border. I chanted, along with thousands of others, "Donald Trump, we're full of rage! No child in a cage!" It occurred to me for that all the outrage that has been expressed over the family separation policy in recent weeks, many people don't give much thought to the fact that America has been putting children in cages since long before Trump was elected, and that we still do, as a regular occurrence, right here in New York City. 

The boys I saw arraigned were sent to wait in cages while their parents scrambled to try to make bail. In the best-case scenario, the parents would have been able to pull together $2,000 after a few days, or put themselves at the mercy of a bail bondsman, and their son would have been released to fight the charges from a position of freedom. But even then, the child would have missed at least a few days of school. He would have been separated from his family without knowing when he would be able to see them again. And he would have been subjected to terrifying and degrading conditions that no human being, let alone a teenager, should have to experience. Even a few nights in jail are potentially enough to traumatize a child for the rest of his life.

I think about all the dumb things I did and said when I was 16 and 17, and how lucky I was not to live in a community victimized by overpolicing. I think about what a scandal it would have been if I or one of my middle-class, white peers had been sent to jail indefinitely for a crime that we had been accused of based solely on the testimony of an undercover cop. And I think about how the assistant district attorneys and judges I saw during my Court Watch sessions seemed totally comfortable sending these two children behind bars indefinitely, as though it was just another day at the office.


JUNE 19 - JUNE 25

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • Poverty continues to underlie many of the charges brought; often they involve property crimes, such as in one case, ‘stealing’ shampoo and other basic necessities. Entrenched social problems in NYCHA housing, where tenants can be stuck for years on end in the same building as each other, also seems to drive many of the complaints, and underline that systemic poverty is what brings these defendants into court. Other defendants are homeless or have been housed in shelters for years.
  • ADAs continue to request outrageously high bail, making the possibility of a lower bail or Release on Recognizance for defendants wholly dependent on and at the mercy of individual judges. This can result in very uneven and unjust outcomes. In one case, a defendant in a turnstile jumping case (an instance of a case that addresses no social harm) didn’t do 3 days of community service, leading to a judge believing he should go to prison for a year. The cases themselves are often around issues that cause little to minimal social harm, whereas the sentencing creates actual and deep harm to communities.
  • The pace of hearing cases went very slowly in several instances, leading to frustrations for waiting family who have already gone to the inconvenience of being in court at the stated time. Those waiting are treated with disregard despite the emotional nature of their situation.
  • One particularly high bail of $15,000 for a bicycle incident was rather suspicious. Someone ran their bike into a police officer but wasn’t initially charged with assault; yet despite not being reported as that at the beginning, that’s how it ended up being charged.
  • Immigration impacts was raised as a mitigating factor during arraignments; but it should be noted how dire are the consequences of exposing undocumented people to potential targeting by ICE, and that these can occur as soon as an arrest and fingerprinting take place. Mitigation at the arraignment is only one piece of the puzzle. This is especially troubling given that on one shift, many of the cases heard were for driving without a valid drivers license
  • Several arraignments concerned children as young as 16, 15 and even 14; yet there is no special process or consideration given, and if bail is set too high, these children could be held for an unspecified amount of time in Rikers.
  • The language of the courtroom is one only spoken by the professionals involved, not by the actual people whose fates are at stake. Says a court watcher:
    • “Looking around the courtroom, the shuffling of sheets of paperwork, a dizzying list of numbers and acronyms and legal jargon, upwards of 10-15 people--not including the judge--milling around at any given time, I’m struck by how disorienting it is as an observer. This doesn’t even take into account the arraignment itself, fast-paced, full of acronyms and jargon. I struggle to keep up, let alone make sense of the whole of what I’m hearing. If I’m the accused, there’s barely time to hear what the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) or judge is saying, let alone process what is happening. Add to that not speaking English -- a translator is provided but the entire process is already confusing and overwhelming.”

Reflections from a Watcher

Brooklyn Criminal Court
Night Court 6-9pm

Each time I court watch, I am struck by how the tone set by court police can go a long way in further dehumanizing the accused and their families. When an arraignment is under way, the main purpose of the present court police seems to be enforcing the rules and decorum of the court room. The rules I see most frequently enforced include no cell phone use, no talking on the benches, and for the accused, no turning around to look at family. These rules may seem simple enough  to follow and enforce, but in my time with court watch, I’ve seen how these simples rules do not account for the needs and understandable instincts of the accused and their families, and can be enforced in unnecessarily aggressive and adversarial ways.

For example, I usually court watch during the night shift, 6-9 PM in Brooklyn, and there are often families sitting on the benches next to me — mothers with young children who wait sometimes hours for their loved ones to appear before the judge. The room is nearly always over-air conditioned and the children get antsy and cold and distracted. Yet, their presence in the room will become crucial when their loved one’s defense points to them during the arraignment and says, “he has ties to the community. In fact, his family is here tonight.” Oftentimes while the adults in the families are waiting for this moment to come, they’re managing a difficult situation — they don’t know when their loved one will appear; the kids get tired and hungry; the stress of not knowing what will happen to the accused is of course enormous (I’ve seen families cry with relief at RORs); perhaps they’ve taken time off of work to attend the arraignment and they’re trying to negotiate how much longer they can stay at court, etc. It seems totally understandable to me, given these circumstances, when someone forgets to silence their cell phone, or takes it out to glance at it, or when someone starts to whisper encouraging things to a child, or to another adult, the two of them trying to figure out, for example, where the judge has disappeared to for the last half hour, or when their loved one will appear, or what the prosecutor is mumbling during the arraignment.

It also seems completely understandable when an accused forgets they’re supposed to be looking at the judge and glances back at their family. Last week, I witnessed a young transgender woman (who was misgendered by the defense, prosecutor and judge) look back with what appeared to be surprise and joy when the defense said “his mother is here in the courtroom to support him.” The young woman had tears in her eyes when she turned around instinctively to look for her mother on the benches.

In both this specific case of the young woman and in many instances of what I described before, when whole families await the arraignment of a loved one, I have seen court officers meet these small infractions of the court house rules with unneeded aggression. In the case of the young woman, a court officer immediately barked “TURN AROUND. FACE THE JUDGE.” He was 2 feet away from the young woman, and could have used a much different tone to indicate that he understood why she was turning around, but that she had to follow the rules. Instead, he was treating her as if she were already a criminal, and in this moment, was further breaking the law by turning around to glance at her mother. At another point last week, the judge disappeared for about an hour and a half, and during that time, one mother, with two small children and another woman who appeared to be her sister, began to become stressed. She had a limited amount of time she could stay at the courthouse and none of the officers would tell her where the judge went or for how long she would be away. At one point the woman took out her cell phone briefly to check something and spotting her from across the room, a court officer strode towards her, pointing and shouting “PUT THAT AWAY.” His demeanor was such that her kid hid his face in her armpit.

Court officers encounter people in times of acute stress. I have seen many of them navigate this reality thoughtfully and compassionately, giving people gentle reminders to put away their cell phones, or taking long moments to explain something to a family member on a bench. I have also seen them yell, use harsh language, and lose their tempers in a matter of seconds. In any case, their actions and demeanors are crucial to setting the tone of the court room, and it should be imperative that, if they do wield this huge responsibility, they use their authority to reduce the trauma of the situation for all involved, as much as possible.


JUNE 12 - JUNE 18

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • 78% of cases observed this week were under 5 minutes
    • In one such case, the defendant was charged with gun possession. Prosecution asked for $2500 cash bail. The defense argued that the defendant is employed, has young children to support, has never missed court, has a stable residence and disputes the CJA recommendation. The judge gives no explanation and sets bail at $5000 bond or $2500 cash. A life-altering decision that was made in just a few minutes.
  • Bail arguments most commonly used by the defense to argue for bail to not be set:
    • Ties to the community (56%)
    • Currently working/going to school (22%)
    • Strength/weakness of evidence (22%)
    • Inability to pay/indigent/unemployed (22%)
  • Bail arguments most commonly used by the prosecution to argue for bail to be set:
    • Flight risk (56%)
    • Prior arrests/convictions (56%)
    • Current charge (violence, resisted, serious) (44%)
  • Judges very rarely explain the factors they consider when deciding whether or not to set bail
    • There was only one case in which a judge provided reasoning for setting bail.
    • In one case the prosecution requested $2500 bail and the judge set bail at $5000 without providing any reasoning for the decision.
  • Judges stuck with the prosecutor’s plea recommendation/offer in 91% of cases observed.
  • Differences in case outcomes continue to persist, dependent on borough and judge
    • Take two assault in 3rd degree cases: one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, defense points out the weakness of evidence of the case and says that there was a witness present that said none of the alleged events happened. The accused also adamant that nothing happened. Prosecution requests $1500 cash bail and the judge sets $1000 bond/$500 cash bail even in the face of little evidence. On the same day in Manhattan on another assault in the 3rd degree case, prosecution requests $2500 bail and an order of protection due to “lengthy record” and prior FTAs. Defense argues client isn’t a flight risk, is working, and it’s been 14 years since any prior arrests. Judge RORs.
  • Court watchers noted striking differences in the treatment of defendants with private attorneys and those with public defenders.
    • In one case, a young white male had a private attorney. The private attorney spoke closely with the ADA while the ADA was on the phone with someone. The ADA then handed the phone to the defendant. They spoke and then offered ACD.
    • In another case, an 18 year old black male stood alone, handcuffed and surrounded by three officers while the judge, prosecutor and his public defender sidebarred out of earshot.
  • One watcher noted a gravity knife case where the DA stressed that their office isn’t prosecuting gravity knife cases in which the defendant is to their way to/from work and is in possession of a knife they need for work. The DAs office has the power to decide what charges to bring and whether to prosecute. So, if the Manhattan DA’s office is not prosecuting these types of cases, why was the accused subjected to the trauma of arrest and arraignment?


JUNE 05 - JUNE 11

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • Numerical markers of injustice from this week:
    • 75% of cases seen this week were under 5 minutes.
    • Over 90% of the accused were people of color.
    • The official charges are often only mentioned in passing. In both Brooklyn and Manhattan, 50% of watchers were unable to record the penal law that was being discussed.
    • Bail arguments most commonly employed by the prosecution:
      • Prior arrests / convictions (60%)
      • Severity of current charge (35%)
      • Strength / weakness of evidence (30%)
    • Bail arguments most commonly used by the defense:
      • Ties to community (65%)
      • Currently working / going to school (40%)
      • Strength / weakness of evidence (30%)
  • In all drug-related cases, most of which involved possession or tampering, an exorbitantly high bail was recommended by the prosecution at amounts of $10k, $15k, or even $25k. The prosecutor recommended a rehabilitation program only once.
  • Multiple cases of petit larceny (shoplifting; small theft) highlighted underlying issues of poverty, and brought to question the nature by which we deal with such infractions in a punitive matter.
    • Watchers described one case in which the defendant was charged with two counts of petit larceny, one for stealing four packages of soap and body wash, the other charge for stealing lip gloss. Prosecution asked for a one-year jail sentence. The judge sided with the defense and sentenced the accused to a jail alternative program. If the defendant fails to complete the program however, they will have to complete a 30-day jail sentence.
    • In another case, the prosecution requested 20k in bail for a defendant accused of stealing 1k worth of ice cream. The defense argued that this accusation was highly improbable. The judge still decided to set bail at 1k cash/ 1k bond.
    • One watcher detailed a case in which a man was accused of stealing toothpaste and pain medication. The ADA offered a 5-day/week mandated program with 15-day jail alternative. The defense pleaded for a 3-day/week mandate, arguing that his client was homeless and attempting to deal with his substance abuse issues, which would make it very difficult for him to attend this program with such frequency and such a sentence would likely set him up for failure. The judge sided with the prosecution, but exhibited some arbitrary form of empathy by lowering it to a 10-day jail alternative if the man fails to complete the program.
    • A defendant pleaded guilty to one charge of tampering with a Metrocard machine and another charge of attempting to use a bent Metrocard, and was sentenced to 7-months in jail.
  • Prosecutors continued to demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the cases they brought forth. Watchers noted ADA’s being especially confused when multiple dockets were involved, implying little or no to familiarity with the multiple accusations they were charging defendants with. Watchers detailed prosecutors not having paperwork in order, not being able to answer questions regarding the charges being brought forth, and at least two instances of having mistaken the defendant’s identity when citing their criminal backgrounds and bench warrants. One watcher wrote, “imagine your fate being decided by a bunch of people misreading your paperwork."
  • Court proceedings continue to be often difficult to hear and understand for watchers, demonstrating a lack of accountability to the public audience and perhaps lack of experience with having previously been watched by interested parties.  While in theory the court is open to the public, the inaudible and often rushed nature of the proceedings stands in conflict with the promise of transparency.
  • Prosecutors continued to frequently cite priors during the bail negotiations, failing to disclose how long ago they occurred and regardless of the nonviolent nature or general nature of previous crimes. One watcher detailed a case in which the defendant was deemed a flight risk for having missed court before. The defense explained that the defendant had missed her criminal court dates due to her conflicting family court dates, and that she was currently fighting to win her children back. The defense also cited that she had no criminal history and that she would not have the resources to pay bail. Regardless, the judge still granted bail at the number requested by the prosecutor.
  • Some cases highlighted how issues of mental health are being dealt with within the constraints of our (sometimes unintentionally) punitive system.
    • Watchers noted a case involving a black teenager who had just been arrested upon release from jail. Defense made a strong case for the judge to institute a mental hygiene rule (9.43) that would require the defendant to be immediately admitted for psychiatric evaluation. The defense cited a previous admittance into Bellevue mental health facility as well as statements from his foster mother that the teen had recently begun exhibiting some disturbing behavior and that he had previously been a star athlete and good student. His foster mother, a youth counselor who was present in the courtroom, was agreeing to comply with the defenses strategy and ready to take him to the hospital. Throughout the defenses insistence that a mental health issue could explain these infractions, the judge questioned the validity of these statements. The prosecution asked for 4k bail, the judge granted 3k.
  • One Watcher described instance of a particularly hostile judge who throughout the arraignments had been continuously sarcastic and chastising both the PD and ADA. One particular which incident stood out to the watcher began when the judge agreed to an order of protection without bail, but then quickly changed her mind when the public defender attempted to more fully illustrate the facts of the case and describe the client. The watcher observed in her reflection form that the actions of the PD seemed to irritate the judge, that she seemed bored and annoyed at having to hear details of the case; therefore, she decided to set bail at 5k/5k and did not allow for any response. The watcher stated that there “seemed no way to get around this judges whims and convince her to be more patient and understanding.”

Reflections from a Watcher

Manhattan Criminal Court, AR3
Wednesday June 6, 2018 6-9pm

Before volunteering for Court Watch, I would have thought that someone distinguished enough to claim the title of “the people” -  someone with the power to request bail or even jail time - would be competent. But elected New York City prosecutors never fail to underwhelm, and my Court Watch stint during the night of June 6 was a case in point.

Arraignments at Manhattan Criminal Court are difficult to follow - the rapid pace, low volume, and background noise don’t help - but it was easy to spot the prosecutor's disorganization. He charged one of the night’s first defendants with stealing four packages of soap and body wash from a pharmacy. He requested bail (I didn’t catch the amount), but when the public defender and judge balked given the trivial charges, he was unable to provide justification. The judge set a jail alternative.

“The people” then charged a defendant with stealing $1,000 of ice cream from Rite Aid. When the judge and public defender suggested that this was impossible - even, as the judge suggested, with an expensive brand like Haagen-Dazs - the prosecutor just mumbled something about his notes. It seemed clear that the prosecution dreamed up the $1,000 figure since it meets the threshold for grand larceny, a felony, but the prosecutor was again unable to justify bail. Still, the judge set $3,000 bail (if I heard correctly). If the defendant fails to pay - and he likely will not be able to - he will sit in jail until trial.

Sometimes the prosecutor couldn’t find his notes. When they turned up, he dispassionately read them aloud, unable to answer basic questions. While he had a heavy caseload, most arraignments were for relatively trivial crimes - like drugs and shoplifting - and almost all defendants were men of color.

This raises questions about Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s ostensibly “progressive” platform. Vance won re-election in November 2017, seeking to “end the criminal prosecution of thousands of low-level, nonviolent offenses annually,” with a focus on communities of color. But his office currently prosecutes so many low level, nonviolent offenses that prosecutors cannot even provide defendants with the dignity of knowing case specifics.