This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
“Based upon our consideration of the evidence and in accordance with the court’s instructions, after making all reasonable efforts, we, the jury, with regard to the listed capital counts, vote unanimously that Adam Potts shall be sentenced to death as to each count.”
Joshua Khrien woke up startled. He had the worst nightmare of his life. A sentence, he feared he might have to read that day in the courts.
He quickly knelt down to pray and surrenders the case to the Lord. In his 15 years as the Judge, he has carved a niche for himself as a man of integrity and justice, values deemed very scarce in today’s world even in institutions that take God’s place in the society.
Joshua Khrien is faced with the toughest challenge of his judicial life. The case of “the State of Indiana vs Adam Potts” is closer to his heart than anyone could imagine.
The accused in this case is his long lost twin brother, separated when they were barely 5 years old, and reunited in the most painful manner; in the precincts of a court house.
On the first day of trial, he immediately recognized the very unique challenge the accused in front of him possessed. Reminded him of someone who also had the same challenge of stutter and lisp, that of his twin brother, of whom he used to make fun of till they were 5.
Joshua’s curiosity in the details of the accused only multiplied with every passing second. Some voice within him kept telling him that this could be him. Joyous as it is to finally be reunited with someone he can call as family, after the tragic death of his wife and children in a car crash 5 years ago, is only short lived by the tragic circumstances of the reality in which they have reunited.
On day Four, during cross examinations, Joshua, the Judge, asks, “Mr. Potts, I see that you have a stutter and a lisp, quite an enterprising combination of King George VI and Winston Churchill. Did you consider yourself waging World War III?”
The entire court room burst into laughter, but the judge himself didn’t. He keenly observed the reaction of the accused. Adam Potts, as expected by Joshua is startled at the allegory, and sits straight and looks straight at the judge. He knew the intent of the question. Joshua has confirmation.
Tears rolled down the faces of both men. Neither could look at the other anymore.
Joshua hardly slept anymore. He arose from his knees only for the call on the door. The driver is ready with the car.
The very first case lined up for the day is that of his brother Adam Potts. He wished he hadn’t elected to study law. He wished he had not made the progression to this role. He never felt this shattered in his heart, compares only with the tragic car crash and death of his wife and kids.
Joshua has an added feeling of guilt he has been carrying ever since, of being the cause for his brother to run away from home when they were kids. A simple case of stolen Candy, that Joshua reported to his parents even when Adam pleaded with him to not do so. He felt the need to stand for truth, but didn’t foresee that his brother would run off, never to return, out of fear.
He is reminded again and again of the pleas made by Adam in the court, to be given a chance to be right, for once in his life.
All this was playing through his mind as he reached the court and sat on his seat of justice. In his heart of hearts, he wished the Jury would consider Adam’s plea and sentence him to a life-term, at the least as the crime in itself beckons nothing less than capital punishment.
The defence attorney requests to approach the Justice. He tells him that the accused would like to speak. Though it is against the order for an accused to speak before the judgement is delivered, curiosity has the best of him, and he permits Adam.
Adam only has two words to say, “I’m Sorry.”
Too many questions in Joshua’s mind.
The courtroom goes silent.
Just those two words! Did he mean, he was sorry for what he has done? Did he mean he was sorry for who he has become? Did he mean, he was sorry for the society he inflicted – albeit groomed by that very society. Is this what he owed the society for what it has inflicted on him all those years, as if it owed him all that? Will the society also apologize to him or his victims?
Tears roll down the faces of most of the relatives of the victims. Some with anger, some with agony, but most of all none with forgiveness. If there is one thing that united every soul in that courtroom, it was the overwhelming desire to punish the accused and deliver justice for the victims.
Joshua’s worst fear came true when the Jury handed over their decision. He has the authority to veto, but justice demands justice. He knows that failure to execute justice is to fail God himself.
He reads out the exact same lines he has dreamt. Adam Potts is sentenced to death by lethal injection. He has handed his own brother to the gallows.
Adam breaks down in the court, so does Joshua but couldn’t show it. A thousand pound wrecking ball has pierced through his heart. He retires to his chamber and calls it off for the rest of the day.
Adam Potts sends a note through the defence attorney, as his death wish. To be allowed to spend a day with his family. Joshua agrees. The defence attorney is confused. As far as he knows, Adam doesn’t have a family. A person born and raised on the streets, educated by the society, a person without a purpose for life, who has perpetrated this crime only as it seemed to give him a sense of purpose for his existence.
On the day of the visit, the jailor at the high security prison is sent a personal note to send the prisoner to the house of Joshua Khrien. He is surprised at the note, as it is considered dangerous to even come close to 10 meters of the prisoner. However, he is assured that there is no danger as he reads the last line: I’m the only family he’s got.
He understood the equation.
Joshua and Adam hug each other and cry inconsolably in each other’s arms. The one thing they both knew in their hearts was that neither of them had to be apologetic to the other for who they are. Adam is filled with remorse for what he has done, and Joshua knows it from the month long trial where he pleaded multiple times to be given an opportunity to seek forgiveness from the victims’ families. Joshua has pity for Adam’s plight but he knows that justice doesn’t pity anyone.
Joshua and Adam spend the day reminiscing their childhood memories. They both take each other through the memory lanes and share 50 years of their lives with each other.
Joshua shares his testimony and how God helped him cope with the loss of their parents, and the loss of his family. He’s been living alone ever since, spends time in prayer and devotions at the local Church.
As Adam recounted the events of his life on the streets over the years, tears roll down Joshua’s face. He is heartbroken. He knows that Justice fails to look at the deepest roots of evil. Adam is not so perturbed with the impending fate. He accepts it as he has found peace through this trial. He is reconciled with his long lost brother. His search for a sense of belongingness seems to have finally docked.
Joshua explains at length God’s plan of redemption, but Adam seems to have a little difficulty in grasping how it makes any difference to a man who would wake up to his death the next day. The idea of eternity is hard to grasp for a man tired with the society and awaiting rest.
Adam tells his brother, as they retire to bed, “I finally get to sleep after 50 years, knowing there is someone for me.” Joshua on the other hand, perplexed at the fate that awaits, only wishes with all his heart that Adam could only live on to be a better man, for once.
Adam sleeps peacefully for the first time in 50 years, wakes up into noon, only for the repeated buzz of the doorbell. He wonders if his brother left for work without waking him up.
The note from the jailer reads: “By Judicial order, Adam Khrien’s execution preponed and executed at 3:00 AM, as advised.”
He doesn’t understand. How could he be executed when he hadn’t returned to the prison the previous night?
Confused, he walks into his brother’s room to find that his black coat is intact, and that his prison clothes are missing. He scampers around the house confused and perplexed, finds a will which mentions that the entire family heritage is bequeathed to one named, Adam Khrien. He finds another handwritten note on the table, with only two words written on it, “Earn it”.
He breaks down at the table realizing that his brother has taken his place at the gallows, and has himself preponed the execution time.