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DEEDS    9'?m3f Salvation: good deeds have no effect on sin

(scene: judge's bench or podium)

JUDGE -- (enters wearing black robe, crosses to bench, pounds
gavel) This court will come to order. Our next case is the state
versus Barbara Johnson. Are the attorneys for both parties
present?

PROSECUTOR -- (enters carrying file folder, crosses speaking)
The charge is willful destruction of public property, Your Honor.
(opens file folder, drops on bench)

DEFENDANT -- (enters opposite carrying box full of papers,
crosses speaking) Ah, hi, I'm Barbara Johnson and I will be
representing myself in this matter, Your Honor. (puts down box)

JUDGE -- You realize that if you can't afford an attorney, one
could be appointed for you by the state, Ms Johnson?

DEFENDANT -- I quite understand, Your Honor. I just prefer to
represent myself.

JUDGE -- Then, you are aware of the old saying, "Anyone who
represents himself in court has a fool for a lawyer"?

DEFENDANT -- Yes, I've heard that saying, Your Honor. But I have
what I think is a very convincing defense.

JUDGE -- Very well. (reads) I see you've decided to wave a jury
trial.

DEFENDANT -- Yes, Your Honor. I trust you.

JUDGE -- Your confidence is overwhelming. Let's hear the
evidence. Call your first witness, counselor.

PROSECUTOR -- (turns shouts) The state calls....

DEFENDANT -- Ah. I'm prepared to save the state a great deal of
time and money, Your Honor.

JUDGE -- You what?

DEFENDANT -- The defense will stipulate to the charges as filed.

JUDGE -- (points to file) But you pleaded "not guilty".

DEFENDANT -- That's right.

JUDGE -- But by stipulating to the charges as filed, you admit
that you... (reads) "Threw a brick through the window of the
department of motor vehicles."

DEFENDANT -- After I stood in three different lines, the clerk
at the third window told me that my paperwork wasn't complete.
She told me I'd have to come back another day and stand in line
again.

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. A reason for breaking the law is not an
excuse for breaking the law.

JUDGE -- Objection sustained.

DEFENDANT -- Oh, ah, that's not my defense, Your Honor. I take
full responsibility for losing my cool and breaking the window.

JUDGE -- You do?
PROSECUTOR -- She does?

DEFENDANT -- Yes.

PROSECUTOR -- In that case, the prosecution rests, I guess.

JUDGE -- Then I guess we're ready for defense arguments.

DEFENDANT -- Good. I have a whole box full of arguments, Your
Honor. (points) You see, I had the trial delayed for three
months, so I could collect all of these letters.

JUDGE -- Letters. Letters from whom?

DEFENDANT -- (picks up letter) Well, let's start with this one.
(reads) "To whom it may concern. I am a little old lady, whose
husband died recently. And I had noone to mow my lawn. Your
defendant, Barbara Johnson has mowed my lawn every week for the
last month. (lays letter on bench)

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. I fail to see how mowing a lawn...

DEFENDANT -- Four times. I mowed her lawn four times during the
month. (points to letter) She didn't make that clear in her
letter.

PROSECUTOR -- Regardless, I fail to see how mowing a lawn ANY
number of times is connected to breaking a window.

DEFENDANT -- If the court will allow me to read a few more
letters, the connection will become crystal clear, Your Honor.

JUDGE -- Ms Johnson, I have other cases pending. I'm not going
to let you take up the court's time reading a whole box full of
letters.

DEFENDANT -- Please, Your Honor, let me read a few more. It will
only take a moment.

JUDGE -- Very well, I'll let you have some latitude here. But
I'd better see a connection here soon.

DEFENDANT -- Yes, Your Honor. (picks up letter, reads) "To whom
it may concern. During the past two months, your defendant,
Barbara Johnson, has volunteered 43 hours at our orphanage,
reading to the younger children and playing..."

PROSECUTOR -- Objection, same grounds.

DEFENDANT -- (lays letter on bench) Your Honor, if you'll just
let me read one more letter. (picks up letter, reads) "To whom
it may concern. During the past two months, your defendant,
Barbara Johnson, has single-handedly picked up all the road-side
trash along third street from second avenue to sixth avenue...."
(lays letter on bench)

PROSECUTOR -- Objection, same grounds.

DEFENDANT -- Wait. I'm not done yet. (reads) "Ms Johnson
repeated this trash pickup three times during the month of...."
(lays letter on bench)

PROSECUTOR -- ...if it will help to move things along, Your
Honor, the state will stipulate that the box is full of
testimonial letters equal to or greater than those she's already
read.

DEFENDANT -- Thank you. I did a total of 814 good deeds since
I... since the incident in question.

PROSECUTOR -- Very good. The state will stipulate to each and
every one. Now, may I renew my objection?

JUDGE -- Is there a point to all of these letters, Ms Johnson?

DEFENDANT -- Well, I would have thought the impact would be
obvious by now, Your Honor.

JUDGE -- I must be dense. Explain it to me.

DEFENDANT -- Well, since I... Since the incident in question, I
have done good deeds far exceeding the value of the damage done
to public property.

JUDGE -- And that's your defense?

DEFENDANT -- Yes. I thought I did a pretty good job.

JUDGE -- Well, you were wrong, Ms Johnson. I'm sorry you didn't
consult a lawyer. You seem to have a misconception of what
justice is all about.

DEFENDANT -- I... I don't understand.

JUDGE -- Your problem is, you're comparing apples with oranges.
You're confusing FEELING guilty with BEING guilty. Perhaps doing
good deeds will help you to FEEL less guilty. But good deeds do
nothing to reduce the seriousness of the crime. In the eyes of
the law, your 814 good deeds may as well have been 814 filthy
rags.

DEFENDANT -- But... All my work!

JUDGE -- I'm sorry. (raises gavel) I hereby sentence the defendant
to...

DEFENDANT -- Wait.

JUDGE -- Yes?

DEFENDANT -- I have no choice but to haul out my big guns.

JUDGE -- Your big guns?

DEFENDANT -- (lifts a handful of papers from the box, lays them
in front of Judge singly as she describes each one) Here are
three certificates of baptism.

PROSECUTOR -- Baptism?!
JUDGE -- Baptism?!

DEFENDANT -- In one baptism I was sprinkled by a priest who has
ties to the Pope. In the second baptism I was immersed by a
pastor who pronounced the word "God" with two syllables. In the
third, just to be on the safe side, I was immersed by a pastor
who speaks in tongues.

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. Same grounds.

DEFENDANT -- Wait. This paper certifies that on my second
baptism, I remained immersed for two minutes and twelve seconds.
That's a personal best for me.

JUDGE -- Objection sustained. Ms Johnson, baptism is required as
a ritual of the church, but even in the church it does nothing
to remove your guilt under the law.

DEFENDANT -- Alright, in that case, I have a certificate showing
that I confessed ALL my sins, including breaking the window.

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. Same grounds.

DEFENDANT -- But I confessed to a priest, (offers one page for
each person mentioned) a rabbi and a protestant minister!

JUDGE -- Objection sustained. Ms Johnson, confession is good for
the soul. The Bible says that it even brings healing. But it has
no value in removing your guilt under the law.

DEFENDANT -- Alright, in that case, I have a certificate showing
that I have received communion every morning for six weeks.

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. Same grounds.

JUDGE -- Objection sustained. Ms Johnson, I'm sure that spending
so much time in church makes you a better person. But, communion
has no value in removing your guilt under the law.

DEFENDANT -- Alright, in that case, I have the coup de grace.

JUDGE -- The coup de grace?

DEFENDANT -- A certificate that says that I have received the
sacriment of extreme unction.

PROSECUTOR -- Objection. (pause) Wait a minute. Extreme unction?
What's that?

DEFENDANT -- I have no idea. All I know is that it took me five
shampooings to wash the olive oil out of my hair.

JUDGE -- The sacriment of extreme unction is performed on
terminally ill and injured people. I'm not sure about it's
origin, but it's not even in the Bible. And it certainly has no
effect in removing guilt under the law.

DEFENDANT -- Oh. I thought I had you. There must be something I
can do to remove my guilt.

JUDGE -- Yes, I suppose you can get a higher authority to
commute your sentence or pardon you altogether. But until then,
you are stuck with your guilt. I hereby sentence you to three
days in jail. (pounds gavel) This court is adjourned. (pounds
gavel, exits)

DEFENDANT -- Wait! (picks up box, follows) Tell me about this
higher authority. How do I get a pardon? Your Honor?

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