Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

When the heart and the mind intertwine

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Could I really blame him? Sitting there in the defendant’s chair, a mere 5’6, with shaggy brown hair swept across his adolescent face, was Aaron Raymond. The seventeen year old accused of first degree murder, a conviction for which the punishment in question was the death penalty. The courtroom fell silent as the honorable Judge Matthews motioned to the jury.

“For the crime committed on the 14th of January, 2007, I ask you to counter amongst yourselves whether the death penalty is permissible in this case.” Judge Matthews said. “You will be allowed the next three hours to come to a decision, and if, at that time, no decision is reached, court will be adjourned to a later date.” Our gazes fell on the shy boy sitting there in an orange, “Mason County” jumpsuit. His features were not even fully defined yet. Although he was accused of a heinous murder, I felt sorry for the kid. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted as the noise of the jury filing out of the room became abnormally loud. Although I too, was a part of the jury, I was permitted to sit in the audience as there was a sudden lack of seats available. I sat on the unwelcoming, peeling wooden seat, and wondered why, in a city as magnificent as this, the courtroom could be so spectacular, yet the chairs could be left untouched since 1824.

When the rest of the jury rose, I shuffled my feet across the tacky pea-soup colored carpet, into a tiny room they tried to pass off as the deliberation room.
The room was highlighted in bright pink, as if it were a Hollywood production. We all took our seats as the bailiff closed the door behind him. “I suppose we should get started, then.” One female said, unaware of the direction everyone’s eyes were in, which seemed inadvertently to be anywhere but where they should have been. “As if it were just that simple.” I said. “This is a huge decision, and we can’t just vote on it without straightening out all the facts, and taking out all the exceptions.” This earned me some very brutal looks from quite a few people. “Just what exceptions do you think we should excuse that man of?” Larry asked. I smiled apologetically. “We have a duty to fulfill, Mr. Taplan. As members of the jury, we are legally obligated to agree upon the outcome of that boy’s future.” My words were calm, structured. “There are certain factors that go in and out the mathematical equation of yes and no.” I explained. “Certain things are accounted for, and certain things are subtracted. Take, for instance, the defendant’s mental state.” When the group looked as if I lost them, I continued. “A few things listed under this category are as follows,” I placed my finger on the dusty page and found my conclusion. “Defendants capacity to appreciate what he was doing was illegal or wrong, was impaired. Defendant was under unusual or substantial duress. Defendant committed the crime under severe mental or emotional disturbance.” I placed check marks next to the ones I thought pertained to this case. “I ask you now, to take into consideration the facts presented, and the ones perceived.” I said. “Plug into the equation all variables necessary. With the end result, I would like your name under the appropriate column."

As people started reading and conversing about whether or not this kid deserved to die for what he’d done, I started contemplating everything I had heard about the case, prior to this. Nobody cared about the circumstances during a murder. All they wanted was justice, regardless of what the motive was. A select few were lucky enough to have overheard the situation. This kid had walked into his home the night of the murder and was presented with the pleasure of watching his mother’s boyfriend plunging a knife into her arm. Acting out of complete subconscious, the boy grabbed the only thing in his path-a baseball bat. He swung the bat at the man, knocking him unconscious. The boy did not stop, unfortunately for him. Again and again, the bat came down on the man’s unconscious body, and blow after bloody blow, his mother’s screaming was muffled by that of the boy’s. When the cops finally arrived, the man’s mutilated body spread in every direction. As it turns out, the mother had called for help. The police took her statement and she actually pressed charges on her son.

After going over these evident facts, I realized how hard it was going to be on my conscience to agree to the death penalty. There would be no graduation from college for this kid. No getting married. No having kids someday and watching them blossom into beautiful individuals. There would be no second chances. Could I live with that? There is a fine line between right and wrong, but what about a medium? If a person takes away another’s life, does taking away theirs necessarily compensate for that? As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to say that someone deserves to die for what they’ve done, rather than to take the responsibility of making it happen. I ran over the evidence once more in my mind. The bloody baseball bat, the blown up picture of the man’s distorted face, the mother’s testimony. I suddenly realized that this was going to be the hardest decision I would ever be forced to make. Aaron’s life was literally in my hands. One vote, that’s all I get. I paused for a moment, and looked around the room.

“After careful consideration, I have made many observations that some of you may agree with, and some of you may not.” I rose and walked to the whiteboard. I wrote down everything I had just thought about, adding personal comments, and questions I had yet to find the answers to. “I ask that you take all of this in, and make a decision. Please do what you truly believe is right, and remember that this decision may very well affect the rest of your life.” The room exploded with applause, and as I sat in my seat, I watched as 11 handwritten check marks fell under the “no” column. The final decision was up to me. Should this boy, a seventeen year old from Triton, WA, who grew up on a farm, like all the other boys in his town, be put to death as a result of the death of another? I walked back up to the board and became the twelfth and final juror to save the soul of the seventeen year old convict. When we read the verdict to the courtroom, the boy’s eyes swelled with tears. I knew in my heart we did the right thing. Sometimes, you have to look beyond what you see on the surface. You have to truly dig into your soul, and come out with a certain righteousness. You have to truly put all that you have into something you really don’t want to face.

“In the space between yes and no, there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you thought you could be and who you really are; it’s the legroom for the lies you’ll tell yourself in the future.”
-Jodi Picoult, “Change of heart”



Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback