Aware of the thirty pairs of eyes focused on me, my right hand trembled as I stood up and raised it, swearing "to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God."
Sitting down in the witness chair was a welcome relief for my shaking nerves, knocking knees and pounding heart. I had never been comfortable in the limelight or in front of people - and here I was in front of a Grand Jury.
Aside from the thirty jurists in the room, there was a bailiff, court reporter, two deputies and of course, His Honor...the Judge.
"Just tell us in your own words the events that took place on the afternoon of May 18th at Tutwiler State Prison." And then the Judge turned towards the Jurists, "if you have any questions during or after this Witness's testimony, you may raise your hand and ask questions on anything that you need clarified or repeated."
"Alright, Officer, you may proceed."
Clearing my throat...I began:
"It was a warm Spring day as I recall, and the inmates had not been allowed out on the yard for several days due to bad weather; so they were overjoyed when they saw that I was opening the yard door and proceeding to secure it for their use.
"Before we open the yard for inmates, we must walk the full length of the razor-wire fence in order to check for any contraband, such as drugs, weapons or paraphernalia that may have been thrown over, under or in the vicinity of the yard.
"After the area was secured, I walked back to the side door, unlocked it, and allowed the inmates to come out. I then had to walk to the Guard House which is back against the fence. Not having eyes in the back of my head, I would walk about three strides forward, turn and look behind me, walk another three or four strides, turn again, and continued this until I arrived at the Guard House.
"Two inmates apparently watched my departure process, counting my three to four strides forward, then the turn around; three or four more strides, then the turn around. One second later, after I had turned back around to walk forward, the two inmates raced around the corner of the building.
"My vision was impaired by the prison walls, and they were now in a blind spot where they could climb up the fence, place the blankets they were carrying over the razor wire on the top, and then escape down the other side of the fence...which they did.
"Peripheral vision is one thing, but with no visionary assets in the back of my head, I suppose I could have walked backwards all the way to the Guard House - but lucky for me, and decidedly unlucky for them, an inside "window peeper" saw them go over the fence and immediately envisioned "brownie points"...and contacted the Warden.
"The Warden met the two surprised escapees at the bottom of the hill, and although a little scratched up from their intimate contact with the razor-wire fence, they were none the less for wear, and got a free ride back to the prison."
The Grand Jury found both inmates guilty of "Attempting to Escape", which of course, adds a couple more years to their original sentences.
Later, when I was admonishing them for escaping from "My Work Site" and "On MY turf", causing ME all that unneessary red tape paper work, they apologized; but also added that they didn't realize I had such good vision.
They might have THOUGHT I had excellent vision, but only the Warden and I KNEW the real reason their Great Escape didn't pan out...and we'll never tell.
By the way, guess who got out of prison last week on an early parole? Her parole papers state "good conduct" as the reason; but I happen to believe it's due to her perfect 20/20 vision and a penchant for window peeping - only God knows for sure.
"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Pr.25:11 NIV
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