Sunday, November 9, 2008


‘That is all a lie! Outwardly it’s true, but inwardly it’s a lie!’ shouted Dmitri Fyodorovich, trembling all over with rage.
-- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“Let me stop you right there, Mr. District Attorney. You’ve said quite enough about this man. As a matter of fact, you’ve said quite a bit about a lot of things, and frankly, I’m tired of listening to you. So now, I’m going to talk. And don’t interrupt me, because I’ve got something to say.

“Now, I’ve sat up here, high above the people for a long time…More years than I care to remember. An endless parade of humanity passes in front of me like a giant river; and sometimes, it’s hard to remember that each person is an individual, and deserves individual attention. And that’s because so many of the people who pass in front of me are—in the words of some of the more uncouth members of our courtroom clientel--they ain’t worth crossing the street to piss on if they were on fire.

“Sit down! Both of you lawyers. It’s my turn to talk now. Like I was telling you, if you think you have a jaded view of humanity, just try looking at humanity from up here. It is nothing less than amazing—amazing and terrible. But that’s my job: to judge. That’s what I do, day in day out, week in week out, year in, year out: judge people. When you’ve done it as long as I have, you get to be pretty good.

“My job is like panning for gold. No, it’s more like mining for diamonds. It’s my job to sort through tons and tons of plain garbage, through the very worst that our society has to offer, just hoping to find that diamond. Only it’s easier to find diamonds than to find what I’m looking for. It has to be. It certainly couldn’t be any harder. I imagine lots of people, when they first start mining for diamonds, they get discouraged. They don’t find anything, because a diamond on the outside looks just like any other worthless junk rock. So everyone misses it. Everyone, except for the miner—the one person who knows what’s inside that rock—the one person who can judge the difference between worthless rocks and diamonds. This Defendant we have here today, without doubt, he is one of the Diamonds.

“What did I tell you Mr. District Attorney? Do not interrupt me again! I said not another word. No! Alright, Mr. Bailiff…would you be kind enough to take this District Attorney over to the courtroom holding cell for me? Maybe he’ll learn to keep his mouth closed a little better when he’s in a room with the door shut. He prides himself in putting so many people behind bars, well, he just put one more in: his own fool self. And don’t think I don’t see you trying not to smile about that, Mr. Bailiff deputy sheriff. I tried not to smile too, but I just gave up. Well, that’s enough about him, that Mr. District Attorney. Let’s talk some more about this diamond I found here.

“It would be easy to just dismiss this Defendant as just another ‘bad guy.’ A lot of people have tried to do just that, and at first glance, it would seem understandable. Look at this indictment: ‘Count I – Murder by Abuse; Count II – Felony Murder; Count III – Non-Aggravated Murder; Count IV -- Manslaughter I; Count V – Criminally Negligent Homicide’…then there’s at least another half a dozen counts of aggravated assaults in the first degree, then a whole laundry list of drug charges and misdemeanor assaults, and then we finish up with another two pages of resisting arrests, disorderly conducts, and refusals to obey a police officer – if you’ll excuse the expression, just the kind of chickenshit charges that District Attorneys throw at people, just to make people look worse than they really are. You don’t have anything to say about that, huh Mr. District Attorney? Good. I’m glad. And believe me, you’re glad that I’m glad. Otherwise, you’d really be telling all your little friends how well you know our jail – both inside and out.

“But a Diamond, you can’t tell a Diamond how it looks on the outside. And this…this indictment….this is just the outside. We have to look at the inside. My father told me once that you can’t know someone, and I mean really know somebody, until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins. So let’s all just do some walking right here, right now. Look at this man’s life…what he has been through; what he has to put up with…then you’ll begin to see what I see. You will be able to see that diamond inside of all that ugliness.

“This man works at a job down at the Plant, the kind of job that no one should have to work. But he needs that job. Now, this has got to be an example of Divine Providence, because I just happen to know the Defendant’s foreman personally—and I can tell you he really is one of the biggest A-holes to walk God’s green earth. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have this foreman lord over you, boss you around, make up ridiculous tasks, just to force you to do them. And you have to take it, because that’s the only job you’ve got.

“So, this man here, our Diamond, he takes it, and takes it, and takes it…until finally, he’s free, if only for a little while, because his shift is finally over. Then he heads home, for his sanctuary--at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. When he gets home, does he get the hero’s welcome he deserves? No. He’s got a selfish, screeching harpy lashing into him as soon as he walks in the door. She needs more money for the kids. She needs more money for food. She needs more money for the bills. She needs more money for the apartment. Who the hell knows what she really needs more money for, but whatever it is, she thinks she needs it. But what she really means is she wants more money for her own self, because that’s all she can think of: her own damn self. This man can’t even sit his ass down, and have a beer before she’s all over him. She doesn’t, not for a second, appreciate what he has to go through to get his money—all she cares about is getting more of his money. No one deserves to be treated like that. But that’s what happens to this man. For almost a year, he lives like this. And what’s more, that’s not all what this man lives with.

“What can you do to protect yourself, when you’ve got all the pain in the world? I’m not excusing this behavior, mind you, I’m just saying I can understand it. The Defendant turned to the only solace he could find; he had to. He used drugs for the simple relief that they offered him. But drugs, while they ease one pain, they also come back and kick you with a whole ‘nother set of pain. I know you don’t know this, Mr. District Attorney, because you’ve had everything in life handed to you on a platter. You never had to struggle for anything, been denied anything, you’ve never been left wanting for nothing. So you can’t understand the hell that drugs put people though. All you can do is sit there, and blame people. Act like you are somehow better than them—all because you were born on third base, and now pretend like you hit a triple. Listen: addiction is a disease. Understand? A dis-EASE. The opposite of “ease.” And that’s science talking. You can’t control a dis-EASE, and it hurts worse than you could ever imagine. So just try for a minute and imagine the physical pain this man’s addictions pushed on him, then add the stresses of his job, and the pressures of his family. I’m telling you, no one could possibly live like that, and not explode.

“But this man took all that pressure, and took it for as long as he could. He lasted longer than anyone else, because he is made of the hardest substance in the world. But even the hardest substance in the world can only take so much. Again, I am not justifying this man’s behavior. I am only saying that I can appreciate it, because I cannot possibly imagine the daily hell that life had put this man through.

“Now, and only now, can we look at this indictment, and what happened on that day last week.

“Unfortunately, that day ended all too much like every other day that this Defendant had to face. Only worse. Per usual, that foreman rode him all day, and then had the nerve to still write him up for nothing. Big surprise there. After work, his co-workers, they all headed to the strip bar. But this man promised his wife he’d be home that evening. So he didn’t go. Even though if anyone deserved a night of truly fine dancing and prancing, it was him. Instead, he goes home, and straight into the jaws of a shrew. So while his head is cracking from the drugs, and he’s probably just lost his job--meaning he’s going to lose everything--he’s still trying to do the right thing, and explain everything to his wife. His wife; the one person who is supposed to be beside him, supporting him, be on his side; but all this so-called wife can do is screech at him about why he’s always fucking up. It’s now, at this moment, that the baby starts crying. I mean really crying.

“Of course the baby’s crying. That crack of a wife never, and I do mean never, did a damn thing anyway. Here’s the baby screaming about a damn dirty diaper or something, but instead of dealing with the baby like the bitch is supposed to, she just screams at this man louder, just to make sure he can hear her bitching him out over the baby’s screams. And forget about her getting him his dinner, like she’s supposed to be doing.

“Who could live like that? No one. Who deserves to live like that? Again, no one. The Defendant, he’s like living in the worst torture chamber in the world ever, his life is that bad.

“Again, I am not condoning this man’s behavior. I don’t need to: he’s already taking steps to make amends himself. I am saying though, that before you get back up on your high horse, Mr. District Attorney, just be sure that if you weren’t in the same situation, you wouldn’t do the exact same thing. That’s right, I am talking about kicking a six month old baby.

“Reading this indictment, you’d think this man killed half of a grade school and beat up the other half. He did no such thing. But the insane amount of pressure he was under—pressure that would have killed anyone else--bore down on him, and made him snap….snap to the point he took several steps to build up some momentum, pulled his foot back, and kicked a little baby square in the chest hard, sending the child through the air, hitting the far wall. And there is no denying that this child later died from those injuries.

“But if you were listening to the Defendant today, I mean really listening to him, this man who says that he’s found peace with Jesus, you’d know he’s speaking the truth. I get hundreds of people coming through this court almost every day, all claiming that they’re sorry. That they’re now with Jesus. That Jesus has forgiven them. That they pray to God every day. But I can see right through them; just a bunch of goddamned hypocrites and liars, that’s all they all are. Ignoring God and His message all their miserable lives, right up until the minute they get into trouble. That’s when they suddenly remember our Lord. Just like those people who waited until they were treading water before telling Noah how they knew Noah was right all along, so please open up that door on the ark. Uh huh. Biblical hypocrites, that’s what they are. I spot them all a mile away. So I know what I’m talking about when I tell you that this man is not one of them. That this man is different. That this man truly is that Pearl of Great Price.

“No matter how bad a person you are, Mr. Defendant sir, you cannot possible be worse than the murderer and thief who was on the cross next to Jesus. And when that thieving murder repented with his last breaths, our precious Lord and Savior said to him “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” I can’t send you to Paradise—as you know, that’s between you and Jesus. But what I can do, is take you down from the cross where you do not deserve to be crucified on, just like that murderer hanging next to Jesus. Mr. Defendant, I am right now dismissing this case, letting you find the help you need, because I know that I will not see you back here.

“Goddamn it! Sit down and shut up all of you, and I mean it! All of you shut up and stop talking. I’m not done here. Listen, all you people who don’t like what I’m doing here, I want you to remember the words of our Lord: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Okay now, everybody who is perfect, go ahead and tell me all about the mistake I’m making here. Well? A minute ago all you people had a lot to say, but suddenly now I don’t seem to be hearing anybody talking. Imagine that. And for all you people not saying anything, but looking at me all hard eyed and mean – honestly, what do you use your Bibles for? Pressing leaves? I’m assuming all you self-righteous people even go to church. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here (something, let me just say, that none of you are even willing to give me and this Diamond). So, were you just staring out the window when your pastor was trying to teach you the lesson of the shepherd who had a flock of sheep, and what that shepherd did when one of the sheep was lost? He left his flock, and searched and searched until he found the lost lamb. Well, that’s what I’m doing here – I’m finding one of our lost sheep, and bringing him back into the fold. So why are you all mad? Because he got lost so far? Is that it? Why isn’t that more reason to celebrate, to be joyful, that this man came back to us from so far away?

“All of you people, see into your own hearts, and just look at what’s there. The Defendant, this man here, he has been though hell itself, has repented. He has renounced his evil ways. Our mission is successful, and what do you want to do about it? You want me—and God--to punish this man anyway; punish him for nothing. Here’s something I want all of you to think about tonight, when you’re in bed, just before your head hits that pillow. I want you to think hard on this, what your reasons are here today. Think on what it means to not just talk like a Christian; I mean to really in your heart live a Christian life; a life of forgiveness. And I am talking especially to you, Mr. Mighty District Attorney. I hope for your sake, you were listening. Otherwise, you’re going to have some awfully hard questions to answer in your next life. But that’s between you and Jesus.

“And you, Mr. Public Defender. You were trying to keep the Defendant from telling me his story, keep him from explaining. You even went so far as to tell him that I ‘wouldn’t understand.’ It is bad enough that you insult my intelligence, but must you also insult my humanity, and publicly deny my compassion as well? You are supposed to be ‘defending’ the public. I have never seen a bigger Public ‘Pretender’ in all my years on the bench. Exactly how many other people, just as innocent as this man here, have you let be sent away, all because you were too afraid to just do your job? Don’t answer that. I just want to give you something to think about. At home, in your own bed, you just think about all those other people who are sleeping in jail beds, their lives ruined because of your unwillingness to really help the people who God has placed in your hands.

“Now, I know, and I fully expect that I am going to receive a great deal of grief about what I’m doing here. People are so quick to make judgments, and just not willing to look at the whole story. But that’s why I’m the Judge, not all you other people. When I’m afraid to stand up, and do what’s right, well, that’s the day that I no longer deserve to be sitting up here on high.

“Well, I guess I’m done here. I’ve said my piece. Something I always wanted to say, but never had the right case, the right opportunity to say it. No thanks to Mr. District Attorney and Mr. Public Defender. They were both conspiring together to keep me from saying this, and to send an innocent man—a good man--to prison. I wish I could say I was surprised. But like I said earlier, I’m a diamond miner here. Every day, I wade through the worst of humanity’s trash. But when I find one of these rare Diamonds, that’s when I know that what I do is really all worthwhile.

“Let me just step down here and shake your hand, Mr. Defendant sir. It’s not every day I get to meet a real live Bible hero, a real Prodigal Son, who has gone so far away, but has now come back. I thank the good Lord that he sent you into my courtroom. I’m honored to meet you here today sir. I really am.”


“Are you out of your mind?”
“You can’t tell the Judge that”
“Yes I can. I know this Judge. He’ll understand.”
“Understand what? That you were justified in kicking a baby to death?”
“No! No, I’m not saying that at all. You don’t understand.”
“Then explain it to me. What are you going to tell the Judge?”
“I’ll just tell him. I know he’ll know what I mean.”
“How can you know what this Judge knows?”
“I see in his eyes. He knows. He’ll understand”
“Listen. I’ve been in front of this Judge hundreds of times, and this is the first time you’ve ever seen him. So believe me when I tell you that this Judge a) doesn’t know anything and b) doesn’t understand anything.”
“See what I mean? There you are, first running me down, then running down the Judge. You’re not on my side. You’re just a…a Public Pretender!”
“Yeah, I know. That one just keeps getting funnier and funnier. Look, you’ve got at least four murder counts in your indictment, one of which is potentially a capital crime. That means the district attorney won’t rule out seeking the death penalty. Realistically, at best you’re looking at a natural life sentence, just maybe with a possibility of parole after serving twenty-five years—but only if everything goes perfect and you’re luckier than I can ever imagine. Look at me---I’m telling you, that’s your best-case scenario; anything else that could happen is worse. And I am talking about you wearing that big diaper, riding the gurney into the little room with one big window, after spending the next ten to fifteen years double bunked on death row. So this really isn’t the time or the place to screw around. Today’s court appearance is just to say ‘not guilty,’ and get another court date. That’s it, that’s all, nothing else. The Judge is not going to listen to your life story, and then decide to dismiss your case because…I don’t know…the baby had it coming.”
“Goddamn it! That’s not what I saying at all; ‘the baby had it coming’ bullshit. You know what? You just don’t listen. That’s your problem. You’ve never listened to what I’ve said, and you never will listen to me. You don’t listen to nobody. And you know what else? You’re fired, you worthless fuck. Get off of my case. I’m going out there and talking to that Judge by myself. I don’t care you don’t believe me, but that Judge, he’ll believe me. If he just listens, he’ll understand what really happened. Then it’s all going to be okay. No thanks to you or that damn smart mouth District Attorney.”
“Ok. Look. I’m sorry. Ok? I just got excited. You’re right. I apologize. Look: I’m not saying you’re wrong. Maybe after we both look at the evidence some more, maybe practice your allocution a few times so you can be comfortable with what exactly you want to say to the judge, then we can do what you want. Does that make sense to you?”
“’We’ my ass. This is me, my case, my life. It has nothing to do with you. If I listen to you, then I go down, you gonna do the time for me? Bullshit.”
“You’re right, you’re right. It’s your case. Your call. But today is just not the day to make that call. All we’re going to do today is set another court date. The end. Five minutes max. We’re at the start of a long process. Let’s just get through this morning, and then we can explore your options.”
“All I’m trying to do is explain to the Judge, and you won’t let me. You act like that’s the worst idea ever.”
“It’s certainly the worst idea I’ve heard in a long time.”
“Yeah well fuck you then. I’m going to do what I have to do. You’ll see. I have faith. I believe in Jesus, and He knows what’s in my heart. God knows what I’m going to tell the judge. Then you’ll see what happens. All I have to do is tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, like you’re supposed to. Then everything will be fine.”

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