GUILTY AS CHARGED
A play in two acts.
Act 1: The city court
Clerk: Order! Order in court! The court is in session. His honorable, Justice Y. Justice presiding.
Justice: Mr. Court clerk. What case do we have before us today? (Under his breath, “I am getting too old for these early morning cases.”)
Clerk: Case number HCT/KY/1828214. The plaintiff versus the defendant. The first defendant is charged before this honorable court with causing willful, grievous, undue, undeserved and avoidable emotional and physical injury to the plaintive on the 25th day of April. The case further alleges that on the date so noted, the defendant shot an arrow and wounded the plaintiff while out hunting on land owned by the plaintive. Both parties being neighbors by reason of nearness of abode. The case further alleges that the defendant attempted to justify his actions. That the defendant showed no remorse for his actions and did not at any time following said incidence, contact the plaintive to offer any apology or assistance.
Judge: (To defendant). How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?
Defendant: Not guilty by reason of incapacitation?
Judge: That is a new one. Do you care to shed more light? And why are you not ably represented by a lawyer – either in your employ or one chosen by this honorable court?
Defendant: Your honorable, on your second question. I chose to defend myself because I believe as one of the parties involved in this case, I know the surrounding issues, both causal and resultant, very well. And if I say so myself, I have read up on one or two points of law with reasonable precedence to the case with which I am charged. As to your first question, I am incapacitated, because on the day of said incidence, I had unfortunately broken my eye-glasses and was therefore out minus them, and in addition, I am partially deaf in the opposite ear.
Judge: Who let this farce into my court? My good man, how come you went shooting when you could not see? And who gave a deaf man a permit to hunt within distance of habited dwellings?
Judge: I have the greatest inclination to throw the book at you without …
Defendant : (Cuts in). By the way, your honorable, I like your name. “Y. Justice” Indeed! Why Justice!
Judge: Are you inebriated by any chance?
Defendant: No your honorable. If anything, I am having a sugar deficiency as I haven’t eaten a good meal since I was locked up by the law.
Judge: So do you still plead guilty or not?
Defendant: Not guilty my Lord by reason of incapacitation.
Judge: Let the records so show.
Judge: Would my honorable colleague representing the plaintiff please proceed?
Lawyer: My Lord, due to the “personal” nature of the matter, my client wishes to say one or two things at the start with respect to the events on the said day.
The plaintive is duly sworn in under oath.
Judge: Please proceed.
Plaintiff: Thank you my Lord. I have been neighbors with the defendant for about a year. In general, I have found him friendly and good company. We agree on many things. In general, I keep to myself as much as possible, but he was friendly enough when he moved in to the next door property, and he seemed personable enough at the time. Indeed I have had him over at my place a few times with no incidence. To the matter at hand, on the said day, I saw him with a bow and arrow in the morning. I was not going to say anything, but after seeing him trip over a couple of times, I was concerned and accosted him. Wanting to know what the matter was. He duly informed me that he was going hunting. From the way and direction in which he looked while talking to me, I was of the opinion that he could not see properly, so I asked what the problem was, if any, with his eye sight. He kept insisting that he could see very well, and as we now know, he was blind as a bat (excuse me) without his glasses. I pressed him and even offered to accompany him, but he brushed me off, and told me to mind my own business, which in itself was quite a shock. An hour or so must have passed, and I was working in my garden when all of a sudden I felt an enormous pain in my leg, and what do I find on looking down? An arrow! I almost fainted. I made it indoors and called the emergency services who fortunately responded quickly enough otherwise I might have been shot a second time, because as he later said, he thought he had missed the stag and it was getting away, so he ran after me with the intention of getting closer to fire another shot. I would have let matters rest had he attempted to offer an apology after the incidence; but instead, he ignored me and went about his business as if nothing had happened. Therefore, I sort recourse in the law in order to prevent the possibility of a similar event in the future.
Judge: Thank you lady, you may step down.
Judge: (to the defendant) How do you respond?
Defendant: Thank you my Lord. In response, I shall start by telling a tale of my own. After all, there are two sides to every story. On the said day, I had woken up with an unreasonable and unholy craving for venison. And since during my previous forays into the nearby fields, I had caught wind of several prime stags in the past, I thought it would be a good idea to bring out the old trusty bow and arrow and see if I still had what it takes. I used to be a competitive archer.
Judge: When did you last hunt before that day?
Defendant: To tell the truth, I can’t truly recall. But that should not detract from a good story. As I was saying, the only thing on my mind on that day was venison. Unfortunately, in getting out of bed in a hurry, I knocked my glasses off the bed-side table unto the floor and subsequently stepped on it. After raining curses on all the animal gods trying to prevent me from a good meal, I set out that day in an unfriendly frame of mind. I met my gracious neighbor seated over there (pointing at the court’s bailiff who was standing well away from where the plaintive was seated). The conversation went much as she has narrated, but I did not mean to be rude to her. After all, I have spent many a cold winter’s evening by her fireplace since I moved in next door, with a warm blanket on my knees and a mug of fresh hot coffee in my hand. I admit I should have owned up to the fact that I could not see clearly – note my Lord, clearly, not – not at all. But it was a thing of pride and obviously embarrassing so instead I was gruff and rude – eh – bordering on obnoxious.
I thought I set out away from the immediate area. And I felt I must have gone a fair distance into the fields. I did not know I had returned to the general area of the houses when I spotted what I thought was a stag in some low bushes in front of a rock (actually it turned out to be her house). I immediately took aim and let one loose. As I have said before, I am deaf in one ear, and the noise I heard afterwards sounded to me like a wounded animal trying to get away, so I gave chase. The only thought was of ensuring I had venison for breakfast that day. It was after I collided with the little fountain statue in front of her house that I realized I was not in the forest any longer. I was in this bewildered state when the paramedics came and it wasn’t long before the law enforcement officers came and I was arrested.
Judge: I am amazed at your behavior. Your excuse is your cravings for meat? Do you know that despite your unjustifiable action, you could still have avoided being here today before this court, if you had taken steps as any reasonable person would do to appease the plaintive afterwards? Do you have anything to say for yourself?
Defendant: No your honor. Since the matter was an accident. I did not believe the plaintive will bring me to court. In fact, I attempted to establish contact a month or so later, but unfortunately, I had the bow and arrow with me again (as I was going hunting again but this time with my new glasses) and she would not let me in, talk less of listening to me. In fact, she threatened to call the police.
Judge: You mean you went hunting again? After the damage you caused the previous time? Hope you didn’t shoot any other human being? Or should I be looking forward to seeing you again as the defendant in another endangerment civil suit?
Defendant: No, your honor.
Judge: From what you have said, I do not see any merit in prolonging this case longer than is necessary. What does the plaintive seek by way of compensation or damages?
Lawyer: My Lord, my client seeks the following. A. An injunction against the defendant that he shall not purposefully come within 200 feet or arrow-travelling distance of my client. B. That as he is a danger to the public, he shall be compelled to move house forthwith with his new residence wherever that may be, not less than 100 miles from the current above of my client. C. That he shall not attempt to contact my client at any time. D. My client of course reserves the right to be civil to him upon any chance meeting in public.
Judge: Thank you. Is that all? No monetary damages sought? No prison terms? I find the requests pretty lenient and I find myself seriously considering a stiffer sentence given how much worse this matter may have turned out, and the unnecessary danger the defendant constituted to himself and the general public on said occasion. In addition, I find his attempts to offer a plausible explanation in defense of his actions irresponsible to say the least. Before I pass my judgment, does the defendant have anything to say for himself?
Defendant: My Lord, having sat here listening to my neighbor, apologies, the plaintive. I have come to terms with the distress I caused her due to my un-thoughtful actions. Not to talk of the physical pain of having an arrow sticking out of her leg and requiring a hospital admission to extricate the said arrow. Indeed I have to agree that my attempts at justifying my actions were obnoxious, calculated at getting off with no sentence or liability, and a cause of further pain and distress to my gracious and very beautiful neighbor. Excuse me your honor – very beautiful plaintive. In truth, I am a man very much inexperienced in the ways of the world, and had high hopes of “something” developing in between myself and said plaintive in future. All of which I realize now I have put in great jeopardy. For all her friendship and accommodation, all I have offered in return is pain and distress. I therefore place myself at the mercy of this honorable court, ready and willing to bear whatever sentence my Lord deems fit for my crimes, but at the same time requesting that my Lord temper justice with mercy.
Judge: Having noted your change of attitude, would you like to amend your initial plea?
Defendant: Yes my Lord
Defendant: Guilty as charged on all counts.
Judge: Much better. We shall now proceed ….
Defendant : (cuts in). One more thing my Lord.
Defendant: As I said earlier, I shall accept whatever punishment this esteemed court sees fit to administer, but might I request through the services of my honorable colleague representing the plaintive, that her justified demands be adjusted a little to exclude the request that I forsake all contacts with his client, and the request that I move abode be excluded as well? And further, that his client would forgive, and if not forget, allow my despondent self a second chance to prove that the said occurrence is but an unfortunate inexcusable chance behavior on my part? That having said the above, I shall be willing to do anything his client deems fit to redeem my esteem and estimation in her eyes, and if possible return to the times before said unfortunate event, when we shared several happy meals in companionship, and the distant possibility of something … eh … more intimate?
Judge: That is a lot to ask for. You have practically asked that the plaintive throw away her whole case against you. Not only that, the offence you are being charged with includes an element of danger against the public of which I have no doubt the public prosecutor is going to take up once this civil case is over. Having said that, I shall give the plaintive a chance to respond before delivering my judgment.
Lawyer confers with client. Plaintive glances over several times at the defendant during the cause of the discussion in low tones. Several shakes of the head. The defendant looks even more despondent.
Lawyer: (clears throat). Your honorable, my Lord. Plaintive requests an adjournment (if the defendant has no objections) so as to further consider the matter due to the change in circumstances.
My Lord, let it be duly noted in the records that A. The decision to bring this case before this honorable court was not taken lightly by my client. It was a result of the unfeeling, callous, rude and unreasonable behavior of the defendant after the said incidence. That B. My client reserves the right to request that the court consider her previous demands with a view to enforcing them should she at a later date, length of validity to be decided by this court, after due deliberation, decide to enforce her public rights to a safe dwelling environment, unencumbered by weapon-totting neighbors; her inalienable right to live a life of comfort and peace as guaranteed by the laws of the land, with no fear of emotional or physical injury being visited upon her person.
Judge: Thank you my esteemed colleague. Let the records so show. This court session is hereby adjourned.
Judge bangs gavel on desk.
Clerk: All rise, while his honorable Justice Y. Justice exits the court.
Fade to black while Lawyer confers with plaintive and bailiff moves towards defendant.
*********************** END ***********************
Maybe it’s appropriate that I wrote it during a period I could not “think”, since the issue on which the play is loosely based also happened at a period I wasn’t thinking clearly.
Having said that, I hope the reader will get a chuckle or two from it. Though it’s no laughing matter for me personally.
I should have sent it to Lawyer Deji (my cousin) to take a gander at it before putting it up, so corrections on points of law as it applies to such a scenario as depicted above are still welcome.
I suspect a few people will ask “where is the second act?”
I don’t expect it would ever be written unless of course I get hit with one of those “unthinking” periods (hopefully not!) or something happens to make me want to write it.