The First Stone
The First Stone
By Annette McDaniel
Judge Jason Fry was highly regarded in his community for administering wise decisions. Born in Wetherby, he returned home after law school graduation and speedily rose from attorney to judge. Lately though, he felt discouraged because it seemed that many lawyers cared more about large fees than justice. He often thought of retiring but the time didn’t seem right. He wished his beloved wife Mimi was still alive to advise him. Whenever he had faced a troublesome situation she had always told him, “Cover it with prayer, Jason. Cover it with prayer.”
Today he fretted about Monday’s trial. The accused, Michelle St. John, had loaded a shopping cart with groceries and left the store without paying. Her defense was that Rick Blackley, the market owner and her boss, had fired her without cause and refused to release her final paycheck. She simply took food in lieu of payment. Fry thought that a fine and restitution would be fair but Blackley, aware of the judges record of leniency, insisted on a jury trial. There were rumors of Blackley and inappropriate behavior but only proven facts mattered in court.
Fry was concerned that Michelle’s court appointed lawyer, Jay Hawkins would not exert himself much in presenting a defense, because it was pro bono and he would receive no compensation. Would Hawkins care that Michelle was sole breadwinner for her daughter and aging mother? Fry hoped so and he counseled the young man to be diligent in his search for the truth.
The prosecuting attorney Luis Garza, reminded the judge of himself at that age, all fire and fight and determined to win. Judge Fry prayed fervently that the prosecutor would realize that there were other considerations beyond guilt or innocence.
He had not always been so merciful but events early in his career changed him. He was prosecuting a young woman accused of solicitation. The defendant was young, pretty and had no job but she said she needed to put food on the table for her infant daughter. Fifty years ago that crime was dealt with harshly and he had all he needed to prove her guilt and make her child made a ward of the State. He had even boasted about his plan of action.
Just days before the trial, a manila envelope appeared on his desk. He opened it to find a framed plaque on which was written in swirling calligraphy,
“…and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justly,
to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8.”
With a troubled conscience, he shoved the gift into a desk drawer. The following day a heavy, little box sat in the middle of his desk. It contained a smooth granite stone. “Strange,” he murmured. Turning it over he found painted in bold black letters,
“ Let he that is without sin….
cast the first stone. John 8: 7.”
Convicted, he sank to his knees.
Since that day the plaque hung on his wall and the stone served as a paperweight. And each day without fail the judge knelt in his chambers and humbly petitioned a Higher Court for a just and merciful solution to every case.