The man hunched on his chair. He looked back to the attendees from the corner of his eye trying to figure out what the hundreds of sights read on his forehead. Culprit, murder… monster, he thought. But there was no tag on his forehead, only creases and frown that were record of his anguish. And there was no need of a tag, the flamboyant orange uniform and the shining handcuffs were mark enough.
A bell rang and everybody stood in the courtroom. People said it was for receiving the Judge, but he was no fool. It was because of him. It was a stigma, like lepers. To tout the wrongdoings of wicked people and can be secluded. Because evil is a disease and is contagious. But morbidity weighed more than fear for those cramming the hall. People love to point fingers more than anything, and all fingers of the jury were on him.
The district attorney called the main witness. The crowd broke open and an emaciated woman walked to the dais amidst a cacophony of gossips until the pounding of judge’s hammer brought back the silence.
“Do you recognize this man?” The DA asked the witness.
“Yes,” the woman answered without looking the accused, but even with the gesture indifference, he grinned briefly, a total event considering he was deprived from his smile and freedom simultaneously.
“Do you believe that this man,” the DA walked to the table and pointed the accused almost at his face like he wanted to eliminate any possibility of error. “Is responsible of this heinous crime that cost the lives of a bunch and wounded hundreds?”
“Indeed, I believe he is responsible of a crime,” the woman remained silent for a few seconds with her eyes lost on the mahogany floor. “A crime of love,” she finally resolved.
The courtroom erupted in gibberish. “Silence,” ordered the Judge hammering the table.
“Are you suggesting it was a crime of passion?” The DA waived his hand asking the woman to elaborate her answer.
“It was lack of love.” She explained. “He did it to please his brother, the mastermind behind this crime. Ingenuity, loneliness and lack of self-esteem were this man true sins. But that doesn’t diminish his responsibility.”
“So you declare him guilty?”
“Yes I do.” The courtroom broke in a roar and the Judge tried to calm the tumult.
The DA came to the woman and whispered. “Are you conscious that life imprisonment is the mildest sentence?” She nodded. “Ok, please continue.”
“Yes, he is guilty,” the woman reassured with determining voice. “He needs to pay for what he did.”
Hearing the words of the woman the appalled accused became the shell of a man. Without blinking, without breathing, his face absent of expression, in a word, petrified. His soul abandoned his body and escaped to a different place. But by the look in his eyes it was not a pleasant place, it was a purgatory or even worse, hell.
“But I have a request for the jury and the judge,” the woman said and the entire hall went silent. “If he is declared guilty and imprisoned for life I beg you to lock me along, because I’m the true culprit of this crime. I abandoned him when he needed me most. It was the absence of my love that prevented him to understand the meaning of compassion, forgiveness and kindness.” The woman broke in tears. “And if you decide to claim his life… you should take mine along because no mother deserves to bury her son.”
M. Ch. Landa