The reactions in the courtroom were not instantaneous. A moment of shock first. Then the reactions.
The victim's family, laughing and hugging. For them, justice had been served, and while it would not undo the crime, at least the family had some closure.
The suspect slumped forward in his seat, weeping into his hands bitterly. A look of sad shock was etched on his face. He waved his lawyer away, and held his hands out to the bailiff to be shackled by the cold handcuffs.
I stood in the jury booth, taking it all in. I had been the final vote. Had I made the right decision? A guilty verdict was to be "beyond a reasonable doubt." I had my doubts. But were they reasonable? I didn't know.
The suspect glanced my way, anger on his face, as though this were all my fault. And I suppose, in a way it was.
What if I just sent an innocent man to prison? The minimum sentence for the man's crime was twenty-five years in prison. He would have three children who may never know the joy of living with their father. Was it better for them to live with their father, or was it better for them to grow up without his influence, but wondering what had happened? Which was worse, a bad father or an absent one? I didn't know.
The fact that kept nagging at me was that the DNA evidence was inconclusive. I reassured myself with the fact that everything else fit, and that many others in my situation had no DNA evidence. And it didn't prove his innocence. If only the DNA had proven he had done it. Then I'd feel better.
And if he was innocent, not only was I tearing apart a family, but the real murder was running free; free to strike again, perhaps without anyone knowing his past or his potential. Maybe somewhere someone was laughing at the situation, praising his flawless performance in pulling off the "perfect crime."
I looked up again and saw the victim's family. The mother looked my way and offered a smile. A silent "thanks" for my role in bringing their family closure. I only hoped this would help ease there minds, and that they didn't have the doubts I had.
I walked to my car, knowing I'd live with the decision for the rest of my life. I hoped the right man was going behind bars tonight, and that this was truly over. But I'd still wonder.
I turned on the ignition.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow,
The words spilled from the radio directly to my heart. Yes. Grace. The Lord had granted me grace, and I hoped the suspect would find it too. Maybe he would find God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And perhaps that would be the best outcome of all.
******* Jesus Paid it All Words by Elvina M. Hall, Public Domain
To read the "opposite" of this story, read the "Bitter and Sweet" writing challenge entry entitled "Grace and Mercy"
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