The judge looks at the homeless man accused of sleeping next to an office building in downtown Washington.
It was an early Saturday afternoon in April at the D.C. Supreme Court, and Alfred Postell, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, stood before Judge Thomas Motley.
Postell’s hair is medium length and gray in color. His belly spilled out of his pants. A messy beard hangs down the sides of his jaw.
“You have the right to remain silent,” a deputy secretary told Postell, according to transcripts of the charge. “Anything you say, other than your attorney, can be used against you.”
“I am a lawyer,” Postell replied.
Motley ignored this seemingly odd assertion, weighing whether Postell, charged with illegal entry, posed a risk to the flight.
“I have to go back,” Postell protested, offering a complicated explanation: “I passed the Bar exam at the Catholic University, admitted to the Constitution Hall. I was sworn in as attorney at Constitution Hall in 1979; graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979.”
That caught Motley’s attention. He also graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979.
“Mr. Postell, me too,” said Motley. “I miss you.”
This homeless man – who packed his belongings in white plastic bags, frequented the intersection of 17th and I NW and sometimes slept at church – studied law with the Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and former Wisconsin senator, Russ Feingold. They all graduated from Harvard in 1979.
Motley, who declined to be interviewed for this story, paused for a moment before concluding, “But I have no choice in this matter.”
He orders his old schoolmate back to the D.C. prison. until the charges against him are settled.
In a city of thousands of homeless people, Postell may be the most academically outstanding school in the District. Degrees, awards and certificates piled up in the closet at his mother’s apartment, burying artifacts of a lost life. He holds three degrees: one in accounting, one in economics and one in law.