I struggled to scribble as much of the events my eyes could behold. My hand shook like the waist of a cultural troop dancer. The old village stadium was overcrowded. The village chief, his elders and their wives occupied the front row; all dressed in royal regalia like it was some feast we were celebrating. Well, yes, it was the New Yam Festival, but no one was here to see any tuber or masquerade. Everyone here came to send the wicked on a journey of no return. They were here to witness the public execution of a varsity miscreant who raped and gruesomely murdered a daughter of the soil. And yes, on a venerated festive day.
“May the Lord accept your soul. Amen,” the pot-bellied Priest said and banged his dusty Bible, the expression on his face suggesting the direct opposite of his prayers. It was obvious he wished the convict baked in hell. A hood was placed over the boy’s head, and the thick noose fastened to his neck.
Did he really do what he was convicted for? I thought. Was the Judge unduly pressurised by the village to pass a death penalty on him?
When the case was assigned to me by my Editor, I reluctantly accepted it. My last Crime Report on the country’s first use of electric chair left a sour taste in my mouth that I vowed never to cover death sentences again. I still remember the experience like it was yesterday. It was horrifying.
The first jolt of 1900 volts passed through the condemned prisoner’s body. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode tied to his legs. A large puff of greyish smoke and sparks poured out from under the hood that covered his face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing pervaded the room. Later, two doctors examined his body but declared he was not dead. He was administered another doze of electricity. His hood burst in flames, revealing a blackened face. Again the doctors examined him, but declared his heart was still racing. A third charge of electricity was passed through his body. The blackened skin exploded, revealing a bone of skull streaming with blood. The doctor checked the third time and pronounced him dead…
“Aww!!!” the cry of the crowd jolted me out of my thoughts and brought me back to the present. The boy had just been hanged. His head hung askew over of his neck. I could see his eyes had also popped out of their sockets. His tongue hung out as well.
Then a car sped into the arena, causing pandemonium in the crowd. A man ran out of the car, holding a court document in his hand. Ten minutes later, the word spread in the crowd. The court had just ordered a stay of execution. New evidence revealed the wrong person was prosecuted and convicted. The actual criminal – the boy’s twin, had turned himself in to the Police and confessed to the crime.
PS: I originally published this story on Naija Stories on November 2010.
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