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Episode Eight: "Praying For The End"
My heart stood still in the midst of a courtroom that knew more about me than I did. I couldn’t love or hate. The numbness in my thoughts wanted to feel something, but all I could do was cry. Eventually the pieces fell back into place with no remorse or hate. The only lesson in this moment in time was that there was not going to be enough time to love my mother for all the lost and wasted years. I loved my stepmother but I had always felt something was missing. She had a mother’s love for me but I always felt pity from her at the same time.
I had always known Edna as a good neighbor and a nosey one at that. I felt different now. I would gather to say that I felt complete. Now I could face whatever was going to happen. I guess I looked at this as though Edna was a sign from God to show me He’d be there, no matter what. I knew my chances were slim but now I was ready for whatever life would hand me. I embraced Edna and I knew this was my mom. Hamlee didn’t let us carry on too long but we knew how complete both of us were with each other. It was a lot to think about while I slept that evening. Morning came and we had to get back to court.
Hamlee woke me up and told me that we had to meet the prosecutor at 8 a.m. I didn’t know what was going on. We met.
Prosecutor Johnson said, “Hamlee, we need to talk.”
Hamlee answered, “Okay, what’s on your mind?”
Johnson said, “I’m afraid your client doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The victim’s family wants the life penalty for Harry. The fingerprints and ownership of the gun nails your client whether it is circumstantial evidence or not. Personally and off the record, I don’t think he did it but there are too many strikes against him. His real mother didn’t help any while you were trying for temporary insanity. If your client takes a plea of guilty, I can probably get him off with manslaughter two. He’d serve no more than 15 years. If the court finds him guilty, he’ll do life.”
Hamlee said, “Let me talk it over with him and I’ll get back to you.”
Johnson said, “I’m sorry Harry, but this is the only thing I can do. You know your mother came to me and pleaded for your case last night in my office. I’m sorry for the both of you but I can only do so much and this is off the record. Good luck.”
The conversation took place in the diner across the street from the courthouse.
Harry asked, “Well what do you think Hamlee.”
Hamlee replied, “They’ve got your gun and prints. I’m leaving the choice up to you Harry. I’ve done all I know to do. I am going to be honest with you. They have been threatening my family and me since I started this case but I am willing to go to the hilt for you. The threats are my problem but I have a sure suspicion where they are coming from. Of course, no one knows anything in the police department anyhow. They want you bad, man, and they’ll do anything to get the job done. I don’t know whether it is safer for you in jail or out here.”
Harry answered, “Okay Hamlee, okay.”
Judge White said, “The defendant will please rise. The defendant has taken a plea of guilty of manslaughter in the second degree. As the judge of this trial, I sentence you Mr. Cooper to no less than 20 years in Janaka state prison. This sentence will be carried out immediately. This court is adjourned.”
Well, there it was. My life was turned upside down through no fault of my own. Was I born at the wrong time? Did I do something wrong to someone? No, none of the above was right. The stage was set and I was only a player in the play of life. Was my anger too deep? Other people hate and they live free. No, I didn’t understand anything anymore. I felt like a puppet on a string. Was God holding the string?
He said He’d be there all the time. He was the closest one to blame but I still reached out to Him again and again. Edna Davis was my very first visitor. She would visit me at least once a month and that included holidays. She was really there when I needed her. We had started a new life together and prison bars couldn’t keep us apart. I didn’t know why things happened the way they did, but Edna and I seemed as though we had never been apart. This treasure had been given to me through circumstances beyond my comprehension. I had no home and yet I felt my family was patiently waiting for my return like the prodigal son. Every time Edna left, she would always pray for me and tell me that everything was going to be all right.
As she would leave the visitors’ area she would say, “God loves you son.”
As the years went by my old Lutheran pastor visited every now and then. He was a friend but he couldn’t answer my question of, ‘why me?’ He sometimes looked at me as though he didn’t believe that I was even innocent. He often reminded me of the times we visited this very same prison under different circumstances of course. Every time he’d leave the visitor’s area he would say two things, “I’m sorry Harry. God loves you today.”
He always sounded as if he was apologizing for God. It wasn’t his fault. I’d been dealt these episodes in life but I also knew that somehow it would work out someday. I remembered the judge saying 25 years. How could that be possible for an innocent man? But it was. Prison life was exactly what it is, prison. It was the closest place to hell I had ever experienced. When I would start complaining of how unjust my whole situation was, I would often recall awakening to the screams of murders and rapes taking place in this hellhole I was living in.
Under the prison gang law of insanity it was my turn to prove my loyalty by killing a killer from another gang. He had killed a loved homosexual for an ounce of cocaine and a pack of cigarettes. The knife they handed me was to be used in this vengeance killing but I couldn’t get myself to do it. I was giving up and I didn’t care if the price for it was my own demise. Joe Lair took the knife from my hand and he did the deed for me. He made it look as if I had done it to satisfy the gang members that ordered the killing. Joe saved my life but he also took one. Time went on. The relief came later when they started separating gangs and shipping them off to different prisons.
I had gotten to the point of accepting my lot after so many years of hoping for a miracle. I accepted that this was all I was ever going to have. You can go to prison one way and be changed the next. I thought waiting for the end was my only consolation.
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