Guilty or Not Guilty

Hiliary Chukwu

© Copyright 2021 Hilary Chukwu

Photo of a judge's gavel.

There was nothing left. The doctors have tried all they could, they have exhausted their medical options and nothing seemed to work. The boy would not still come around. Dr. Smith walked out of the theatre and the look on his face said it all: all hope was lost! He was the most senior surgeon in the clinic, so if he could not handle it, then that’s it. There was no need asking him how Jire was doing, but his helpless mother had to ask anyway; even if just for the very sake of doing so. She approached Dr. Smith.

How is he Dr?” Her eyes were wet with tears. The doctor held her by the shoulder and looked her straight in the eyes.

I have to be frank with you ma’am, we haven’t made much progress. We will keep doing what we can. But…he needs prayers at this time” he said and then walked away briskly, leaving the woman devastated.

Jire has been in coma for many weeks now. His first relapse was about 9 weeks ago when he suddenly slumped while playing with his peers in the primary school field near their house. The other children had run away in fear. They thought Jire had passed. It took the intervention of an elderly woman who was passing by at the time to rescue him. The woman had seen Jire slump and had thought it was just another child doing what children do: being naughty. But then she noticed the boy jerk a few times before he went lifeless. That was when she raised alarm and some grown up boys ran in to help. They scooped Jire off to the nearby clinic where he was eventually stabilized. Further investigations ensued and Jire was eventually diagnosed with tumour in left hemisphere of his brain. The news broke his parents into many small pieces. Jire was their only son. They were a struggling couple; the man was a teacher while his wife fried bean cake (akara) in front of their compound. She would open for business as early as 5:30AM in order to meet up with the morning rush hours. Her customers were mainly school children and workers who would stop by to buy her akara for breakfast. She would normally close each day before mid-day.

Jire’s condition had swept their resources clean in no time. They have nothing left aside prayers and mere hopes. Jire would go in and out of coma every now and then until that last relapse, which has kept him in the clinic until a glimpse of hope came in the form of the Rotary Club International who visited the clinic on their routine quarterly philanthropic drive. They took interest in Jire’s case after learning about his parents’ precarious situation. They quickly mobilized to fly him out to India for proper treatment.

It was nothing short of a miracle for Jire’s parents. Now they have a good reason to believe that God truly exist. Jire’s mother would not stop praying for, and thanking the Rotarians.

The next week saw Jire in an Indian hospital land in the company of his mother. The doctors went to work immediately. Jire’s mother was hoping for another miracle: If only the diagnosis would be different; if only there could be something else wrong with her son which might be lighter to bear. But that did not happen. The diagnosis turned out the very same: Jire truly had a tumour in his brain. The good thing was they are now in an Indian facility with better equipment and expertise to deal with the situation. The bad news however, was when the doctor announced that the tumour had reached an advanced stage and might be difficult to remove without causing a permanent damage to Jire’s brain. According to him, it would have been much easier if they brought him much earlier.

We will do our best ma,am. But, I’m afraid it’s a 50-50” he had told Jire’s mother. She was not sure what the doctor meant by “a 50-50”.

Ok, I’ll explain it this way ma’am: There are 3 possibilities here. The first is, he could survive and be just fine. The second is, he could survive but with a serious…rather a permanent damage in his brain. And lastly…he could pass” he concluded, baring it all for the poor woman.

Jire’s precarious situation gave his parents no real options. They had to accent to the surgery no matter the outcome. It was always going to be better to try to save their only son than just watching him suffer and die.

The surgery was performed and Jire made it out of the theatre alive. But his parents are now unsure if he would have been better off dead. As forewarned, Jire’s came off the theatre with some serious damage in his brain. He speech was impaired, he also suffered fainting fits and could barely sustain a discussion beyond 1 or 2 minutes. This was more than his mother could bear. She watched her dear son turn to something she could not recognize right before her eyes. Her husband would call every now and then to get some update on his boy. But now, his wife didn’t know how to explain to him how it had all turned out.

The Indian doctor who performed the surgery came in the next morning wearing a different smile. He had some good news. Yes, Jire could be normal again!

But…how is that possible doctor” the confused mother queried. The doctor went on to explain that a patient was flown in from Australia with severe gunshot wounds in his chest. The bullets had damaged some of his essential organs and there was nothing much they could do to revive him.

So how is that a good news? What has the poor boy got to do with my Jire’s condition?”

His brain is still intact” the doctor explained. “His parents have also agreed to donate his brain to your son” Jire’s mother was quiet. She could not understand anything anymore. How can someone’s brain be donated to her son? Who does that! Is it even medically possible?

Yes ma’am. It is very possible, and we have limited time to make it happen. That’s if you sanction it. What other option did she have really? She gave her permission before even telling her husband about the development.

Jire woke up from his post-surgery coma 16 hours after the brain transplant. He made steady progress and his mother was happy. The next few weeks saw mother and son flying back home against all odds. It would take the next few months for Jire to recover fully. And that was when things got really nasty.

He was no longer the Jire that everyone knew in the neighborhood. Jire had changed: His personality, mannerism, confidence and all! He was not the cool, calm and collected sweet boy anymore. He has become tough, rough and heartless. He did not seem to recognize anyone around him; not even his parents. He would disrespect his parents and would bully his peers. His parents became more devastated. Perhaps they should not have allowed that transplant which has now swapped their dear Jire with this other person they did not recognize.

Jire got even worse. He started doing drugs too. He would smoke all sorts of substances and would come home drunk and high most nights. His parents became increasingly scared of him. His mother tried severally to sit him down and speak some sense into him with the love of a mother. She would never give up on her beloved son. But the more she tried to save Jire from himself, the more Jire roped himself deeper into his own mess.

Jire was 19 when he was first accuse of raping a girl. Although he refused to confess to the crime, it became the beginning of uglier things to come his parents’ way. More rape cases were reported against him and he was becoming an embarrassment to his parents. Still they refused to give up on their son. They hired a professional counselor for him but that did not help a lot. Jire frustrated the young lady into quitting after just 3 sessions. His parents resorted to watching and praying for him.

The worst happened when Jires was arrested by the Police. He had attempted a robbery that went wrong. Apparently he had gone heavy on cracks that evening and went all by himself to block commuters by the Nkamiang Junction, wielding a cutlass and a jack-knife, yelling orders at his victims who readily recognized him as Jire. He didn’t even bother to cover his face. He had commanded them all to lie face down and they had obeyed. He then went ransacking their luggage and pockets until one of the victims made a brave move. He jumped on Jire from behind, snatching the cutlass from him and wrestling him to the ground. Jire managed to roll him over and as they struggled with each other, Jire stabbed him by the left ribs and the man gave a piercing cry. That was the queue for the rest of the commuters to attack massively. They pinned Jire down and almost lynched him to death before the Police arrived. The man had bled to death unfortunately. The Police took Jire away.

It took a few weeks before his case came up for hearing. His parents could not hire an attorney because they could not afford one, but someone took pity and volunteered for them.

Jire pleaded not guilty when his charges were read to him, and the case was set rolling. The prosecution council had produced several witnesses; including the robbery and rape victims who testified against Jire. There were also lots of evidences against him; including the cutlass he used for the crime all produced as exhibits against him. His attorney argued that Jire might have committed the crime he was being accused of, but not as himself. The entire court was thrown into turmoil. Even the judge had no clue. The defense council proceeded

Many of you in this province surely know Jire from cradle. We all knew his story. Don’t we? Jire was a cool calm and somewhat even timid boy. Does no one care to know why he turned out this way? Why is nobody asking the right questions here…”

The prosecution council moved to object to Jire’s lawyer’s line of argument. He accused the defense council of misleading the court by derailing from the core issue; which according to him, was the rape, robbery and murder charges against Jire. All the while Jire had said nothing. He sat quietly in the dock as though he was oblivious of what went on in the court. The judge dismissed the defense council’s objections and the prosecution council continued. He meticulously narrated Jire’s story, how he took ill, diagnosed of brain tumour, taken to India for treatment which eventually ended in a brain transplant.

Your Honour I want to say categorically that my client here is not guilty of these charges and my reason is simple. We all know that our actions and inactions ultimately emanate from the brain; at least basic biology tells us so. The brain in the head of the young man here is certainly not his. He was given another’s brain just so he could live not only for himself but for his poor parents too. You can agree with me that this sense organ put in him has been responsible for his actions and inactions since returning from that surgery. To that extent your honour, I will like to state that my client here is not guilty of any of these crimes. If anything, the original owner of the brain in him should be receiving those charges. I rest”.

A few other arguments and counter arguments went on for another hour between the 2 attorneys before the judge called for a recession. He would be passing his final judgement when the court regroups in a few hours.

Jire sat there, apparently less concerned about the court proceedings. His parents approached their defense council to engage him in a close conversation. They wanted to know what their chances really was.

It’s all in the hands of the judge now. I have done the much I can do for him” he said. Jire’s mother took a deep breath and muttered a silent prayer just before the judge walked back into the court. As soon as he cleared his throat to begin his pronouncements, Jire’s mother went down on both knees, her heart skipped a few beats and she was sweating all over.

The judge began by reading out the facts of the case, highlighting the strong points of both councils. The judge noted that the brain transplant translates to Jire having a dual personality. Referring to Jire’s attorney’s analogy, it was more like a car whose engine got bad and replaced with a new engine. If the car got into a crash and damaged things, it was the driver of the car who would be held responsible, not the car.

Jire’s mother gave up at this point.

 “It’s all over” she thought. “My son is gone!” She stood up and started pacing around in the court as tears ran down her cheeks.

This case however, is a bit different because it involves humans and not cars. A life was taken.” There was a deafening silence in the courtroom. Even the judge went mute for a while, probably trying to make up his mind on what would be the best judgement. He has a reputation for passing unbiased judgements based on the facts presented and devoid of sentiments. It doesn’t matter if the victim of his pronouncement was his family member.

Hillary Chukwu holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Theatre and Media Studies from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (2005) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (2012). He also has a Master of Arts (M.A) Degree in Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) (2020) from the University of Calabar. He previously worked as a Media Producer, Presenter, Writer and Director with sundry Broadcast and Print Media outfits in Nigeria.

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