Judge Lyman Worth loved the platform. He fancied himself an intellectual of sorts. Normally, he spoke with a cornpone Southern accent, with many digressions and a lot of barnyard humor. There were frequent references to old goats, fleas on spotted hogs, and hound dogs barking up empty trees. Like Old Abe Lincoln, he wore the country image like a suit. But what he really wanted was for people to take him seriously, after all he was a judge and judges are supposed to be taken seriously. So often he would go off into long explications about obscure historical matters.
One time during a late-night closed hearing which involved a dispute among Ulich’s lawyers, Worth, who was called upon to settle the dispute, launched into a long historical lecture to reinforce his point. Judge Worth said, “During the Renaissance, priests started to leave the cloistered life of the monastery, so they could take Christian charity out to the unwashed, offering their knowledge and skills to the common people without charge or thought of gain. To take up this philanthropic calling was known as ‘professing.’ The four great ‘professions’ were the ministry, teaching, medicine, and the law. In the latter case, professing lawyer-priests charged no fee; but if a client had money and wished to make a contribution, he could place a coin or two in the small purse that was sewn onto the lawyer-priest’s robe. Thus was started the tradition of wearing a symbolic pocket on the legal robe, to remind lawyers of their selfless duty to the client.” With a dramatic gesture, Worth grabbed the little black pocket on his robe, held it up for Ulich’s lawyers to see, and proceeded to admonish them about their obligations to their client, telling them he would fire every last one of them if there was any more squabbling.
Anyway, you never knew what you would get with Judge Worth. All in the courtroom were silent, wondering whether they were going to hear about the time Worth’s granny shot a polecat out from underneath the outhouse, or whether they were going to get the Renaissance. It was the Renaissance-with a quote from Thomas Hobbes, an explanation of the Social Contract, and a reference to the evolution of the human thumb: “Those persons who founded this nation traced their advancement up the long staircase of human history by the distance their ancestors had ascended from a state of nature in the North American wilderness where life was ‘nasty, brutish, and short.’ They surrendered some individual liberties to government for the purpose of substituting laws and courts for private justice and the ancient practice of blood feuds. Yet the desire for revenge has never been and it may never be totally eradicated from human nature.”
During his long career on the bench, Worth has often been confronted by the desire from victims for retribution. He understood their wish for revenge. “I personally pronounced the death sentence twice. I, therefore, understand and empathize with your desire for the person who inflicted so much pain and suffering to be held accountable.” But sometimes the government had to deal with criminals and reactionary terrorists. “Although there are some who like to tout the abstract notion that we will never negotiate with terrorists, foreign or domestic, who among responsible leaders would allow an opportunity to save innocent lives when all that was offered in return was four life sentences.”
In this case, the government had to trade a plea bargain for Ulich’s 200 pounds of hidden dynamite. After all, what “if some Boy Scout had stumbled upon Mr. Smirnoff’s hidden cache?” As Sally Bates, the prosecutor, had repeatedly emphasized in recent interviews, “A Boy Scout setting up a tent on that steep, thicket-covered hillside where Ulich’s dynamite was unearthed, could have driven a tent stake into the buried explosives and thereby rendered a good part of North Carolina into a wasteland.” It’s well known that Boy Scouts camp in thickets and prefer sleeping at a steep angle. And even though it normally requires a primary explosive, such as a blasting cap, to trigger a dynamite charge, the massive, horrendous shock of a Boy Scout-driven tent stake could have set it off. Sure, it could have happened.
Judge Worth then turned to address Ulich: “Mr. Smirnoff, I also want to speak a few words to you. It’s obvious to me, that from the times we have been in court together and by the statements that you have released to the media, that you are an intelligent person-perhaps very intelligent. That is what made you so dangerous. Unlike the killers I confronted in state court, you did not act from fear, for personal gain, for personal survival, as a result of a mental disease or defect, or in the heat of passion. Instead, you carefully crafted your crimes. Even now, you have exhibited no remorse. You posture yourself a superior being. I simply would remind you that among the creatures that inhabit this small planet; humans are endowed with the reason and ability to speak intelligently. We are also given thumbs that oppose the other digits of our hand. Those three gifts have allowed us to rise above the other species and to craft tools, languages, mathematical equations, and many other inventions that have lifted us from the muck and mire of bestiality, to the edges of the infant. All too often these gifts are misused, however.”
Yes, it was the robe again. He pulled that little black pocket out for Ulich to see, as if to chastise a wayward child: “You may recall that during one of our hearings, I spoke to the defense counsel about the robe I wore that night, an English barrister’s robe, and about why I wear it to pay homage to the origins of our profession. Origins that required selfless service to the sick, the poor, the ignorant….True professionals extend their hands to the least among us: comforting the distressed, lifting burdens, healing hurts, imparting knowledge, and righting wrongs. Given your intelligence you could have done the same.” Unlike those pocket-wearing priests, Ulich had chosen the Dark Side of the Force. Judge Worth continued, “You allowed yourself to be overcome by bigotry and intolerance. You allowed yourself to become like those Nazis who attempted to eradicate an entire race of people because of their religious views, or their mental deficiencies, or their perceived moral shortcomings. You allowed yourself to be no different in principle from those men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four young people in the process. In the name of faith, you hate. For the professed purpose of saving human life, you have killed. Those are riddles I cannot resolve.”
Ulich was once a promising young Jedi, who became poisoned by hate. Instead of dedicating himself to tolerance and progress, Ulich chose intolerance and reaction. He could have fought against homophobia, for instance. Or he could have worked toward a world where every eight-year-old girl would know how to strap a condom on a cucumber. Perhaps he could have been fighting the good fight against Global Warming, or fighting to save the snail darter and the Thanksgiving turkey. Ulich could have even become a teacher or professor. He could have taught young people about the evils of Christianity, Western Civilization, and Capitalism. Maybe, just maybe, he could have joined the elite corps in the media, where he would be currently following around the imperialistic U.S. Troops in Iraq and documenting their many abuses inflicted on the noble Iraqi freedom fighters. And perhaps if he were lucky, he could have reached the inner sanctum of social activism and become an abortionist, and offered his liberating services to women in the war against patriarchy. But he chose none of these lofty endeavors; he threw his life away by defending something as insignificant as a damned fetus. How sad!
Unfortunately, Ulich was not listening to Judge Worth’s wise words. Ulich thought the judge’s comments were, “The typical, inconsistent nonsense that goes down so well with the herd. It was a slightly more intellectualized version of the same pabulum put out by the pop-culture. Worth picked out the appropriate imagery from the liberal mythology, pasted it together on legal paper, and then threw it out there.”
While Judge Worth was speaking to him, Ulich had noticed, to the left-rear of where the judge was sitting, there was a legal seal containing the classical depiction of “Justice.” This statue contained symbolism from the old days, when it was thought that the purpose of the courts was simply to decide questions of law. Now, of course, the primary purpose of the courts is to act as a tool for progressive social justice. “Justice,” as most people remember, depicts a blindfolded woman. In one of her hands is a pair of scales and in the other she wields a sword. The blindfold is symbolic of the idea that she will not look with bias upon one side or the other; she will listen impartially to both sides of the dispute. The scales represent the weighing of each side’s argument before the law. And the sword is a symbol for the enforcement of the verdict, the just vengeance against the side that is found wanting in the scales of “Justice.”
“Here is this judge,” thought Ulich, “giving a speech that directly contradicts what that statue represents, everything he is supposed to represent. The judge’s purpose is to pass judgment on questions of the law. He sits at the heart of the justice system. All laws govern human behavior; govern it with force-if necessary-with deadly force. Every sentence that a judge hands down is an act of force, retribution, the vengeance of society against law breakers. From time immemorial, one of the chief purposes of the law is to protect human life, or to punish and avenge the taking of human life. This idea has been central to all law codes, everywhere. As Judge Worth just admitted, he has personally pronounced the death sentence twice. Worth is the chief actor in a system of laws-however corrupted and perverted in its present form-that still claims to kill for the ‘professed purpose of saving human life.’ Deadly force is sometimes justified to save life. That is what his law books say. This is a ‘riddle’ that even a fool can resolve. The only real question is under what circumstance is it justified to take life.”
Ulich continued with his reactionary train of thought: “The judge could have said that under the circumstances force was not justified, that the law does not consider abortion to be murder, and therefore, I was not justified in using force to stop it. He could have said that using force, although morally understandable, is counter-productive toward ending abortion-on-demand. He could have said that sometimes states engage in morally reprehensible behavior, even murder, but to preserve social order and prevent anarchy it is best to work within the system when fighting injustice. He could have said any one of these things and retained a remnant of consistency, however twisted and immoral. But he cannot sit on that bench in front of that statue and say, ‘For the professed purpose of saving human life, you have killed. That is a riddle I cannot resolve.’ Because if it is in fact a ‘riddle’ that he cannot resolve, then he has no business sitting on that bench, with or without a Renaissance pocket.”
“In any event,” said the judge, “this case is concluded and I remand you to the custody of the United States Marshal.”
The marshals moved toward Ulich. He stood up and walked slowly out the door, with his leg chains rattling over the smooth red carpet.
Outside the courthouse the Brave New World was still turning. The notables, dignitaries, and the victims gathered on the courthouse steps to perform in media interviews. At one end of the steps the prosecutors delivered up their sound bites for the evening news, or tried to anyway. Doug Stones was fuming about Ulich’s Allocution. Sputtering and spitting, he could not string together a complete sentence. Just one word or a phrase managed to come out-“hatred,” “intolerance,” “something Hitler would say.” Sally Bates had never witnessed anything quite like it. Harking back to Ulrich’s theme about abortion being barbaric and its protector’s barbarians, Sally struggled to say, “He’s, he’s the barbarism.”
At the other end, the Ryan’s were standing next to a planter looking depressed. They were disappointed about not getting their corpse. “What went on in there?” a reporter asked.
“He was preaching-that’s all,” said Emily.
Nobody seemed to know which way was up. They needed to be put back on track; they needed the media to give them “closure.” The media did not disappoint them. Milling through the crowd was the Right Reverend Pinto. Pinto was one of the prominent pro-life voices in Farmington, one of the key organizers of the pickets that stand outside Farmington’s abortion clinics on a daily basis. He and his associates were regulars at Big Women. Coming from the other direction, through the throng, was Diane Stergis, the hatchet-faced owner of Big Women. Pinto and Diane met in the center of the steps and exchanged greetings like old friends. Photographers started to take pictures of the curious scene, and a film crew, with a reporter in tow, quickly approached the pro-life leader and the hatchet-faced abortionist. Without any prompting, Pinto said, “I’ve come here to show solidarity with the victims… This was a horrible thing, you see. The person that did this does not represent the pro-life cause.” Stergis shook her head in solemn agreement. And as they both shook hands, they smiled for the camera. That was the front-page picture in the next day’s paper, a beautiful picture from a Brave New World.
[The satire is an accurate description of events that took place at Eric Rudolph's sentencing in Birmingham Alabama on July 18, 2005. The quotes are taken from the court transcript. Only the names have been changed.]