“You can never beat the big one,” old Tom Fagen used to say. He was a grizzled, tough talking criminal defense attorney who was as sweet and easy inside as an Easter bunny. He was talking about murder — the charge. If you are guilty and tried, and if the jury acquits, it makes no difference. You can never beat “the big one.” An evil entity intervenes. The Prince of Demons shall we call him. He attacks with guilt. I have known those who beat “the big one” in court to at last be beaten by their own hand. Suicide it is called. I think it better called the revenge of “the big one.”
I have seen those who have beaten “the big one” end up being murdered by others. I have seen them die the slow self imposed death of piteous alcoholics or drug addicts. I have seen them die desolate, alone, often diseased when the body has given up because the mind could no longer deal with “the big one.”
I know that the psychopaths and sociopaths, those without a conscience, may still trot around, perhaps dying of old age, laughing that they beat “the big one,” perhaps even more than once. But those poor devils were beaten to begin with, their lives a waste and empty as a can. They never were in the race – not even the human race.
But what about the innocents who are charged with murder and acquitted? Once charged, the innocent can never fully recover — the terror of the trial, the helplessness of standing for judgment in such a place of horror as a courtroom where nothing grows, where no one believes you, where if you rise up and scream your innocence you are hauled away where you can scream only at gray walls, and if you sit passively by the judgers, the jury, the citizens, the court gawkers – they all know you are guilty or you would be screaming your innocence.
And you cannot escape the transforming power of fear. At night you awaken and the first thought that creeps into your mind like a poison worm is that you will be found guilty, that they will haul you off in an orange suit to some dark hole where you will rot the rest of your life, where you will never again see your loved ones, never be touched by a loving human hand, never again see the peaceful leaves of fall or the joyous spouts of spring. No greater punishment exists than one imposed on the innocent.
Or, yes, they may order the gurney and the dripping needle for you, the last meal, the media crowded around to watch you die, and the hateful death-penalty ghouls rejoicing in the hallways that one more of their species has been wiped from the face of the earth.
In this world in which all innocence has become the cynic’s delight, there is no innocence. On that rare occasion when the innocent may be acquitted there has been too much pain for too long. The torture of months, perhaps years of terror awaiting trial and then the horror of the trial itself – it is then that The Prince of Demons comes to occupy even the body of the innocent accused. The tortured body and mind have become emptied of life, empty as death. It’s as if you have been murdered by the malicious heat of the murder trial itself. As old Tom said, you can never escape “the big one.” No, never.