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Courthouse Moments: capturing the human drama of justice in Durham

A local courthouse is a cauldron of human drama. 

The Durham County Courthouse is no exception, as every day thousands of people — judges and prosecutors, victims and defendants, clerks and court reporters, relatives and witnesses — pour through the doors of the boxy, gray complex to play their role in the life-changing events that unfold there. 

In recent weeks, reporters at The 9th Street Journal have chronicled these events in a collection of stories we call Courthouse Moments: A young man, furious that his case is repeatedly postponed, shouts about burning “this…building down.” A Guatemalan immigrant wins custody of his son. A man struggles to avoid being evicted from the home he loves. A cousin of George Floyd shows up to contest a traffic ticket.

Those are just a few examples of these short, colorful pieces, which take an intimate look at the courthouse’s day-to-day grind, mainly through the lens of ordinary people. The stories will deepen your understanding of Durham’s legal system, but more important, they’ll stir something inside you. 

There’s anger and humor, confusion and insight, joy and anguish — everything you might expect in a place like the courthouse. They aren’t meant to be the last word, just snapshots. But we hope their impact lingers.

-STEPHEN BUCKLEY, Co-Editor, The 9th Street Journal

At top: the Durham County Courthouse.