GUILTY!

On Friday, June 12, this very year, I went with my lawyer friend, Festus Akinlolu, to the Federal High Court, Akure, just to observe proceedings and learn more, but I never planned for the life-changing experience I got.
Festus led me to a courtroom where the next case was that of a man who strangled to death, a man and his wife; leaving alive their only daughter. I guess he was a sentimental criminal.
I could see the small girl among the court audience; she was playing with a plastic toy elephant. Her ponytails bouncing right and left on her fragile head. I looked on and wondered what the future holds for this little orphan but she was unperturbed. The girl laughed as she played with her toy and then, our eyes met.
I winked at her, smiling in pity as I did so. And though I was a stranger, she smiled back and even waved at me.
As I tried waving back, my heart sank and my teary eyes looked at her as she continued her play.
My sad thoughts were rudely interrupted by the noisy entry of the accused.
He was a large man with thick black unkempt beards littering his jaw. His large head was covered with scanty hair and as I looked into his hard face, I caught a smile escape from the corner of his mouth as he walked in. Despite the prods of the Security personnel around him, he walked slowly, nay, majestically to the bench just behind the dock.
I know I have said over and over again I never get angry, but at that moment, looking from the girl, who has now stopped her play, to the accused, I had to hold on the to the edge of my seat, just so I won’t burst forward. What I felt in my heart against that man was more than anger; it was pure red hot wrath. And the calmness around him fuelled my wrath the more.
‘COOOUUURT!’ The announcement of the court clerk as the judge walked in did well to drag me out of my murderous thoughts.
The judge was a huge fat woman. Her flowing gown crawled behind her as she took her seat. She looked around the courtroom and when satisfied there was decorum, put on her glasses and asked for the case to be presented.
A lot of lawcourt rituals took place and then, the accused was led into the dock. Standing there, he was asked by the judge,
‘Do you plead guilty or not guilty to the charges laid down?’
The court was silent now.
I looked towards the girl and I saw she had resumed playing with her toy, not the least bothered.
With his husk voice and a terrible baritone, the accused answered;
‘Not Guilty!’
I heard it loud and clear and was still shaking my head in anger when the judge asked him to repeat his plea.
‘I plead not guilty, my lord!’ He said again confidently and then the unbelievable happened.
In the silence of the courtroom and with the gaze of the judge fixed on us all, this man laughed. I mean, the accused chuckled audibly.
And then, all hell broke loose.
A man sitting beside the girl whose parents were murdered stood up sharply and shouted in deep anger and pain.
‘You killed my sister and you are laughing about it! You think you can go scot free?!’
The Clerk hit the gavel on his table to restore decorum but it was to no avail. Other members of the family also stood up and asked for the accused head.
I was still sitting, trying to hold back my own anger and respect the judge but then I saw what the accused was doing. I had to look twice to believe my eyes.
He was looking over his shoulder and smiling at his counsel.
I couldn’t understand what was going on until I heard Festus whisper the accused name to my ears. It was then everything became obvious to me. I have heard of the man.
He was a very notorious man in the city. Almost everyone living with the city knew of him. He had a gang of thugs that he contracts out to politicians during elections. And he is now even friends with the Police Force.
It was then I understood what was going on, he had destroyed all evidence and he was so sure no one will be able to nail him with the law. With this knowledge, I felt a greater wave of anger course through my veins.
I stood up too and shouted alongside the family members, damning all consequences.
The court was now in ruckus; a large portion of the audience was on its feet, shouting and some women were already crying.
‘He is guilty! He should be killed too!’, I heard between sobs.
The clerk had a filled day trying to take control of the proceedings. Even the security men couldn’t intervene. Some of them held the dead wife’s brother from dashing into the dock where the murderous accused was held.
We were still in this rage, madness and anger when I heard it.
The ever so sweet voice of that girl. I knew she was saying something so I paused in my rage and looked at her again, trying to listen.
Out of the midst of shouting relatives, she was wriggling and trying to be heard.
I heard her voice again, and so did her uncle who had now stopped struggling with the Security.
And when he stopped, so many others stopped and followed his gaze until they saw the tiny little girl.
She was now in the space, walkway between the two columns of seats.
With tears dropping from her eyes, she held on to her Elephant toy and cried again.
Then she said it the third time.
‘Let me see him’.
The court was silent now. I mean a deafening silence fell on the courtroom.
And then this girl said it again,
‘Let me see the man’.
My hands started shaking as my heart broke from the little girl’s soft and broken voice, laden with a pain I never could describe.
With her little feet, she walked to the accused and asked,
‘Where is my mommy?’, she was now crying softly.
‘Where is my daddy?’
‘Did you kill my mommy and daddy?’
Everyone in the court, including the clerk, just looked on in wonder, most of us weeping. And right then, I knew absolutely nothing more shocking will I ever witness.
‘I saw you that day when you came to our house.’ the girl continued between her painful sobs.
‘Where is my mommy? I want to see my daddy!’, she was almost wailing, each word breaking through my sorrowful heart.
Her cry rang out within the room. And even the bravado of the accused was shattered.
He dropped on his knees now and held the girl’s soft hands.
‘I am sorry’, he whispered with the most broken voice I ever heard. It was a low voice but it was still so loud.
My nostrils were already blocked from tears by this time. I just wiped my eyes as my anger turned to pity. I brought out my handkerchief and wiped some tears away from my eyes. Whether I was standing or sitting, I can’t even remember now. All I know is that I cried. Who wouldn’t?
A murderer who killed and maimed. A child whose entire family were wiped away. Both holding hands in front of the judge. and both of them were in tears.
The girl stopped her wails and wiped her eyes with the back of her hands. After some seconds, she found her voice.
‘I forgive you sir’, she said, searching his face.
At that moment, I caught a glimmer of tears fall on the judge’s cheek, the sorrow liquid gathering on her eyes and blocking her vision. With shaky hands, she removed the glasses and wiped her eyes too.
‘We were told in children church that we should forgive those who make us cry or sad if they are sorry’. The girl continued in her solemn voice.
Turning to the judge, with her toy still in her hands, this girl pleaded.
‘I forgive him sir; please let him go.’
The court went dead silent as the tiny voice said those words.
The Murderer, whose look was now of a weary man, looked down on the little girl feet, ashamed to look at her face, and I saw something changed in his eyes.
He dropped his head and said,
‘I am sorry child; I am sorry.’
He then stood upright, shook his head, looked to the judge and cried out,
‘I am guilty my lord’.
I, and every single person present in the court, looked with tears in our eyes as the girl put her tiny arms around the murderer’s legs.
‘It is alright’, with a sorrowful smile, she said.
‘It is alright sir’.
‘Please don’t cry’.
.
.
.
.
Although the story above is purely 100 percent fiction, it goes a long way to illustrate the love of God toward us all; and that no matter our sins, he is ready to cleanse and forgive us if only we ask. God loves you too. Give your life to him.
– #VJW, ©2015.

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