Madrzykowski and Dillon agree that Marquez needs to be placed at The Bridge homeless shelter or Dallas LIFE as a last resort. "I think he needs a lot of guidance and a lot of help," Dillon says.

It's another Monday in veterans court and Judge Snipes is unhappy. He wants to know why his model participant, Melendez, was mistakenly arrested the previous week by "goons with hairy knuckles" in front of his neighbors.

(Melendez later tells the Observer that he was walking one of his three dogs early in the morning when someone called his name. Melendez opened his back gate to see who it was and found a Dallas police officer there with his gun drawn. Melendez spent a night in jail before a message was relayed to Snipes, who arranged for his release.)

Vietnam veteran Charles Clemons claims he was formally accepted into Dallas County's veterans court in May, but Judge Mike Snipes says his charge is "too serious," leaving Clemons to attend court sessions as an outsider.
Mark Graham
Vietnam veteran Charles Clemons claims he was formally accepted into Dallas County's veterans court in May, but Judge Mike Snipes says his charge is "too serious," leaving Clemons to attend court sessions as an outsider.
An Iraq veteran and first-term state district criminal court judge, Mike Snipes presides over one of Texas' first veterans courts that offers low-level offenders a clean criminal record after the completion of a six-month treatment program.
Mark Graham
An Iraq veteran and first-term state district criminal court judge, Mike Snipes presides over one of Texas' first veterans courts that offers low-level offenders a clean criminal record after the completion of a six-month treatment program.

McNeil tells Snipes that the warrant for Melendez's arrest was never served and mistakenly remained in the county's computer system, which led to his accidental arrest.

As this week's meeting wraps up, Snipes tells Dillon to take Marquez and Spears to The Bridge upon their release from jail after failing drug tests and notes that Melendez is scheduled to graduate "summa cum laude" in less than two months.

Shortly after the adjournment, Marquez appears in front of Snipes in a gray and white Dallas County jail uniform and handcuffs. The judge asks why he had to be segregated from the other inmates, and Marquez claims that he didn't have his medication and felt a "tingling" sensation.

"Making excuses is not the way out of this," Snipes says.

"Roger," replies Marquez, who stands erect.

"This is your last chance to do what I and the officers of my court tell you to do."

"Roger, Your Honor."

"You're going to The Bridge with Sergeant Dillon."

Marquez asks to address the court and the two go back and forth with Marquez attempting to make excuses and Snipes instructing him to "stop talking."

"Can I say one more thing?" pleads Marquez after the exchange.

"No. Stop talking. You're discharged, and you're going to The Bridge."

One week later on September 20, Marquez is back in the court, sitting next to Dillon and wearing a blue button-up shirt and pressed khaki slacks. Snipes is absent because of a speaking engagement, leaving probation officer Mark Jones to run the abbreviated meeting.

"I've heard more about you than anyone else in the last week," Jones says to Marquez, who is the only one to stand when addressed.

Marquez explains that The Bridge was over capacity, so he's staying instead at Dallas LIFE, which is "really nice." At first, he admits to dreading living there but now says, "I gotta do what I gotta do." He's applied for food stamps, has new medication and has his sights set on a security job, although he needs $180 for training.

Despite his significant turnaround, Madrzykowski reminds him: "You know you're hanging from your nails."

"Yes, sir."

After serving in Iraq from August 2008 to August '09, Marquez suffered from nightmares that often replayed the explosion of an IED (improvised explosive device) "like video clips." He lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the IED and was later diagnosed with PTSD. When he came back, Marquez lived with various friends who smoked pot, so he did too, along with drinking alcohol on a regular basis.

"I would drink until I passed out," he says. "That's how I fell asleep."

Marquez claims he was drunk the night he stole the car from the elderly man after his own car had broken down. "It was like when you blink and something happens and then you blink again and you don't remember how you ended up where you're at."

Now that he's reached his low point, Marquez says there's nowhere to go but up, and his long-term goal is using the GI Bill to get his degree in psychology. "Now that I know I can lose everything, I'm back on track."

On October 4, Marquez appears in court with Dillon by his side. Still living at Dallas LIFE, he's pushing Snipes to allow him to move to Arlington with his girlfriend: "I can do better on my own," he says, adding that he has a job lined up through a temporary agency sorting mail for the U.S. Post Office. Snipes tells him to spend another week at Dallas LIFE to prove himself.

"It's not about what I'm doing," Marquez says when asked what makes him believe he can stay away from drugs when he returns to living on his own. "It's what I'm doing inside of me."

Once again, Spears has tested positive on his UA.

"You know what's going to happen," Snipes tells him, as Spears hangs his head and awaits his trip back to jail.

Adame shows up 45 minutes late with his three young children.

"Quit letting them down," Snipes says. "You want to be thrown out of the program and prosecuted?"

Adame says he's receiving training to be a shop foreman, offering few details. After court's adjourned and Madrzykowski is asked what happened to Adame's training at the Army National Guard and where he'd be trained to be a shop foreman, he says, "That's where I'm confused." He expresses that concern to McNeil, who promptly asks, "What was he charged with again?"

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