Once, there were three men on death row. They were guilty of murdering an eight-year-old girl by the name of Katarina Cheyne. There was no doubt of their guilt. They knew it, the judge knew it, the jury knew it; and so the judge ordered their deaths.
A week before the execution however, the news reported that the governor had mysteriously oﬀered one of the men a conditional pardon. The state would release him into the governor’s personal custody, and he would undertake an intensive rehabilitation program. What’s more, he was to live in the governor’s house for the duration of the rehabilitation.
Naturally, there was a public outcry. How could he do this? Had he no concern for the family of the victim? Did not the dead girl’s blood cry out for justice? What had this man done to deserve a pardon? Speculation was rife, and all kinds of experts gave their theories and opinions, until the governor’s oﬃce announced that the governor would make a statement.
The press gathered in masses to hear what the governor would say. He stood at the podium and looked out at the assembled crowd. He took a deep breath. He spoke slowly and with obvious eﬀort: ‘Katarina Cheyne was my daughter.… Thank you for coming.’
There was an explosion of noise as all the reporters shouted questions at the governor. But they shouted in vain, as the governor had already retreated behind the thick velvet curtains.
This statement did nothing to quell the speculation. National broadcasters ran special reports. Journalists in their hundreds sought an interview with the governor. His oﬃce denied all requests. The police erected barriers around the governor’s house and posted a permanent guard. Were they there to keep people away, or were they watching the governor? Many speculated that the governor had secretly murdered the man with his own hands. Nobody saw the man, and the governor refused to discuss the matter with anyone.
Eventually, the fuss died down. The odd investigative journalist still tried to sneak into the governor’s house, but generally the public lost interest. That was, until a new piece of information became known. The governor had formally adopted the man and he now stood ﬁrst in line to inherit the governor’s extensive fortune. Still the governor would grant no interviews.
Some time passed, and quietly, without a fuss, the man took up a position in the governor’s staﬀ. Some disgruntled co-workers leaked information to the press, but by that time, the story was Old News. Compared to the condemned man being adopted, it hardly rated.
But the most amusing incident to come out of the whole aﬀair came when another man was on trial for a similar murder. This man pleaded guilty, and tried to argue that because the governor had previously pardoned someone for murder, this created a legal precedent. Therefore, he argued, he was also entitled to a pardon.
Rumour has it that some members of the jury thought they’d been set up—like one of those practical jokes where somebody pulls a curtain aside to reveal the hidden camera. In the end, the judge actually ended up quoting the prosecution when delivering his verdict: ‘Indeed, “it is a sad indictment on a society when an act of pure mercy, oﬀered by someone above reproach, is claimed as a right by the profoundly guilty.”’ Obviously, the man was facing the death penalty, so he had nothing to lose; but still, pretty ridiculous, don’t you think?