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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)

TITLE: Guilty?
By Betty Farrow


It had been a difficult trial. Murder always is. Only this time Margaret was in the jury room with 11 other people about to decide the fate of a young man accused of kidnapping and killing a little boy. As the jurors discussed the testimony, Margaret prayed silently for direction. Never had she felt such a heavy burden of responsibility. “Oh Lord, let me discern the truth,” she prayed. “Don’t let me convict an innocent man or set free a guilty one.”

The young defendant, Benjamin, had cleaned up well. The prosecution showed pictures of an unkempt, disarrayed youth. His eyes in the picture were hard, cold, unnerving. Margaret had stared at his eyes in the courtroom. They had the look of fear and confusion.

She thought about the way he tenderly touched his mother just before the guard took him back to lock-up. She was sure if she could have seen his eyes then that she would have seen the love in them. She definitely saw it in his mother’s eyes. The short phrase she just barely heard could not be used in her determination of his guilt or innocence, but she couldn’t forget it either. “I’m sorry, mom,” he whispered. “What was he apologizing for,” Margaret wondered.

The jurors looked at the evidence piece by piece. Benjamin had no alibi. He had been out walking the streets, a habit he had gotten into following his discharge from the Marines. Whoever said war was hell sure knew what they were talking about. Benjamin could not stand to be cooped up since his return, less than a month before the murder. Most of the evidence was circumstantial. “Lord, use your sword of truth to cut through the wrong information,” Margaret prayed silently.

“Well I say he’s guilty,” one juror announced. “Let’s just take a vote and end this thing. I’d like to be home by 6:00 tonight and put this behind me.” “Yes, let’s take a vote,” several voices rang out. “Wait a minute,” another juror exclaimed. “There are still some pieces of the case that just don’t make sense. They leave a bad taste in my mouth,” he added.

Truthfully, Benjamin had walked to the cemetery that night as he had done so often during the past three weeks. One of his buddies was buried there; killed in Iraq just days before the two of them were to have come home. Benjamin had sat by the headstone and reflected on life, death, war, the future. Why hadn’t he talked to Joey about the Lord? Finally Benjamin had wandered over to his own dad’s grave… Scott Benjamin Masterson, 1949-1993. Beloved Husband and Father.

How many times Benjamin had wished he could talk things out with his dad. He hadn’t listened much the last few years of his dad’s life, but Benjamin had heard. The seed had been planted and God had used different experiences to water it. That night Benjamin had knelt and surrendered his life to God. “Where was God now?” Fresh doubts crowded his mind as he sat in that cell, wanting to believe, fearing the worst. He still didn’t know how those bloody shoes ended up in his trash can.

After discussing some key issues of the case, the jury asked for some of the evidence pictures to be brought in along with supper. They said they expected to be awhile. As Margaret looked at the pictures something did not smell right and she wasn’t thinking of the meal they had just eaten. Again she prayed, “rightly divide the truth, Lord. Give me eyes to see.” In her spirit she was convinced Benjamin did not commit this horrific crime but there had to be something concrete to convince everyone on the jury.

It was only a small piece of paper in one of the photographs but it was all the ammunition Margaret needed. “He’s not guilty,” and she showed the other members the evidence. The jury was polled. It was unanimous. Not guilty! The next day the Daily News broke the story of the arrest of an older brother who broke down and confessed to the crime.

Five years later Margaret’s daughter asked Margaret to the college chapel to meet the new young preacher. Imagine Margaret’s delight when the young man with such a compelling testimony was the same young man she had prayed so hard for during the trial.

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Verna Mull 08/20/10
What a great job of writing! It really pulls one into the story. Felt true compassion for the mother who, of course, loved one son as much as the other, but such relief to know that a young man did not have to serve a sentence for something he didn't do. Can't help but think of Jesus, who did just that.
Loren T. Lowery08/20/10
Very creative take on the subject; and definitely one to be used in such circumstances. You can definitely tell a good story. I think if you were to indent or make the section where the accused is telling/reflecting his side of the story in italics it would help the reader in the transition from and back to Margaret. I may have missed it, too, but what was the piece of paper in the picture that convinced everyone? Great job! Keep writing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/20/10
This is a great story. I liked the way the MC prayed for guidance.

You need to start a new paragraph for every new speaker, even if it's only a word or two.

You pulled me into the story. The dialog was believable and the ending nice, but I wish I knew what she saw in the photo that convinced everyone of his innocence.
Heather MacInnis08/22/10
Good story and well written. Nice work!