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A condemned man has a say
Published on 5 Feb. 2010 12:56 AM IST
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A prisoner was brought to the courtroom and at the bar, the judge asked him if he had anything to say why sentence of death shall not be passed upon him. A solemn hush fell over the crowded room and every person waited in almost breathless expectation for the answer to the judge’s question. The judge waited in dignified silence. Not a whisper was heard anywhere and the situation had become painfully oppressive, when the prisoner suddenly arose to his feet and in a low but firm and distinct voice said: “I have! Your honour, you have asked me a question, and I now ask, as the last favour on earth, that you will not interrupt my answers until I am through. I stand here before this bar convicted of the willful murder of my wife. Truthful witnesses have testified that I fired the fatal shot that killed my wife I had sworn to love, cherish and to protect. While I have no remembrance of committing the fearful deeds, I have no right to condemn the verdict of the twelve good men who have acted as jury in the case, for their verdict is in accordance with the evidence. But I wish to show that I am not alone responsible for the murder of my wife”. This startling statement created a tremendous sensation. The judge leaned over the desk, the lawyers wheeled around and faced the prisoner, the jurors looked at one another in amazement. The prisoner again in the same firm but distinct voice repeated: “Your honour, I am not the only one the guilty of the murder of my wife. The judge, the lawyers, the jury, the witnesses including the pastor of the church are also guilty before the Almighty God and will have to stand with me before the judgement throne, where we shall all be judged by God righteously. If it had not been for the saloons of my town for which you have voted for reopening and legalized it, I never would have become a drunkard, my wife never would have been murdered, I would not have been a sober man, an industrious workman, a tender father, and a loving husband. But today my home is destroyed, my wife murdered, and my children ruined and today I am to be hanged by the strong arm of the state. God knows I tried to reform but as long as the open saloon was in my pathway, my weak, diseased will power could not control my agonizing appetite for liquor. For one year, out town was without a saloon, for one year my wife and children were happy and our little home a paradise. I was one of those who signed demonstrations against reopening the saloons in our town”. One half of this jury, the prosecuting attorney on this case, and the judge on the bench all voted for saloons. By their votes and influences, the saloons were reopened and they made me what I am now. These impassioned words of the prisoner fell like coals of fire upon the hearts of those present and many of the spectators and some of the lawyers were moved to tears. The judge made a motion as if to stop further speech when the speaker hastily said, “No! No! Do not close my lips; I am nearly through. The saloons you have legalized and protected in our town made me a drunkard and a murderer and I am taken before the bar of justice for execution and hasten my soul into eternity. I shall appear before the bar, the judgment bar of God-and there you who legalized the traffic will have to appear with me. Think you that the Great Judge will hold me the poor, helpless victim of your traffic alone responsible for the murder of my wife? No, I in my drunken frenzied irresponsible condition have murdered one, but you have deliberately voted for the saloons, which have murdered thousands, and you are equally guilty with me before God and man for the murder of my wife. Your honour, I am done. I am now ready to receive my sentence and be led forth to the place of execution. You will close by asking them to have mercy on my soul. I will close by asking God to open your blind eyes to your individual responsibility, so that you will cease to give your support to this dreadful traffic”. An extract contributed by: S. Longkok Jamir. S.I Police Station I Mokokchung.

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