NND3: Wednesday Morning in Centre Street

The classified, complicated and overlooked constructs of the prostitution network in New York City , came into the limelight when two young Hispanic prostitutes were accused of killing John Lauchbach back in 2012.

The story made headlines, in the Daily Mail, DNA Info, Huffington Post, Gothamist, NY Post to name a few, but seemed to welcome only a handful of on lookers for testimonies on the morning of Wednesday, October 14th on the 11th floor, part 61 of 100 Center street. The hearing was not publicized nor did it seem to aggregate any particular attention in the busy hallways of the gloomy building.

However as 3 students from the Columbia Journalism School, two other writers with notepads, and three on-lookers sat idly waiting for the court to begin, the tension seemed to be radiating from both sides of the prosecution.

A petite judge with bouncy blonde hair and crutches made her way on the bench, and started reading a newspaper has two large metal carts rolled in with what could obviously be understood as case evidence. One held three carton boxes, with what looked like antiques, while the other beared piles and piles of paperwork, and images.

“So that statement is a mystery, no one has ever seen it” vocalized a suited woman in the front row of seating to two other suited men clinging to yellow folders. We would later understand that she was referring the only statement made by one of the accuses at the time of his arrest, which has since been made inadmissible in court.

From the far left of the room a door opens up, as two police officers walk two chained figures into the room. Both sit at the opposite side of the suited woman who can now be noted as Lanita Hobbs, lead prosecutor. One is sporting a white-checkered button up, while the other might at first glance carry all the attributes associated with iconographies of a ‘woman’, as a high bun, white leather jacket, and fitted jeans. We would later appropriately name these two individuals as Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos- Martinez Herrera.

The judge instructs the jury to enter, and 15 people file into the room some sipping their morning coffee while others carry a serious gaze.

From a door in the passageway of the onlooker benches, a man with fitted pants, light blue shirt, black zip- up jacket, and manicured Mohawk is accompanied by a police officer and walks swiftly up to the judge bench.

He raises his hand and swears to tell only the truth, he would be the witness.

Hiram Lopez, 33 year old, living in Kings County, originally from New Jersey, recovering heroin user, prostitute; would soon take up more than two hours of his time recounting the most intimate details of his life in front of a room of strangers, in an effort to testify to his departed lover’s truths.

After covering the basis of having not graduated from high school, but gotten his GED, road through being HIV positive, choosing to leave his house as part of an ultimatum with his parents who reject his sexuality, he soon places the audience in the shoes of a homeless 14 year old gay Hispanic prostitute in New York city. He recounts his tale of using prostitution as a means of survival and not before long as a breeder of a heroin addiction, which would lead him to more than 16 years of consecutive substance abuse.

The details of timing before long become a peculiar point, which both the defense and prosecution seem, settled on confusing Lopez on. He however stands firm and before the long the audience too seems to be able to recount the tale for themselves. He first met Lauchbach when he was 15; the victim approached him in a café, after what Lopez explains as innate eye contact. They talked briefly until Lauchbach ran off, Lopez explains, “he had to go get his parrot baptized at the church, animals get blessed too”, he handed him $40 and his phone number.

Before long the pair engaged in a sexual relationship, which would last three weeks. After learning his real age Lauchbach broke it off, and the two lost touch. Through those years, Lopez battled his addiction in addition to situations with the law such as being convicted twice in one day for robbery from both Rite Aid, and Duane Reade.

As the prosecutor continues:

“How did you become reacquantianted with Mr. Lauchbach?”

Lopez: “ We went from a relationship of employer- employee, friend to friend, and eventually mentor to son”.

The discussion continued on to the logistics around the living arrangements between the pair and the three apartments in Lauchbach’s possession.

After what seemed like hours of repetition on the part of Mr. Lopez’s questioning surrounding the two suspects and the murder started to come to light.

“ I mean, yeah, he liked Latin hustlers.”

The interrogation progressed with back and fourths between the exact details of the relationships and encounters Lopez had with the two defendants, from number of phone calls, to minutes face to face. Constant “Objection!” and “Sustained” flooded amid sentences.

Before long, the dialect seems to be purely juristically confusing both the audiences and witness.

“Try to remember, don’t make it up” the judge instructs Lopez as he constantly scratched his head and rubbed his eyes from the invasive interrogation style. He proclaims “I’m sorry” and “this is horrible”, finally after being asked about his finding out of Lauchbach’s death, he breaks into tears and proclaims “I’m super uncomfortable right now”- judge breaks for ten minutes.

What follows are a set of files, and images which the prosecutor has identified as evidence found in the position of the defendants. An almost painful sight unfolds as the audience watches Lopez suffer through reliving the memories of each image, and recounting each story he might have shared with his deceased lover and particular artifacts.

“ Do I really have to point everything out?”

The defendants constantly shout for objections and before long the expansive list of evidence subsides. The defending lawyers come up and interrogate Lopez. However this time, rather than being informational, it is uncomfortably confrontational. Rather than attempting to procure new information, the lawyer steps on every single mishap, and flaw experienced through the entirety of his life. The most banal of details seem to be extrapolated as though in an effort to degrade his statements in the view of the jury.

Upon the third pressing interrogation on his juvenile robbery history, Lopez out lashes, “You’re a fucking heroin addict, so you’re dedicated to getting away to get a needle in your arm”. The judge doesn’t back down, and Lopez continues “Anger fuels me, so you’re doing good”.

The testimony ends with a feeling of anxiety and discomfort for the witness, who truthful or not seemed to be the only one intended on bringing authentic justice to the diseased.