December 20, 2015, a play, Lorilei – A Meditation On Loss, produced by Olomopolo Media, presented by Justice Project Pakistan, featuring Sania Saeed, followed by dinner, a silent one with occasional exchange of thoughts with my wife, subdued, gentle, measured statements, calm responses, agreements, disagreements, moving on to retiring for the night. I was going to sleep, or was I awakening?
The question asked in the very beginning, ‘Do you believe in capital punishment?’, set the tone for the evening. Discussions broke out, audience turned to each other, shared views, argued, with people sitting next to them being complete strangers in a lot of cases. The narration of Lorilei’s story by Sania Saeed was vivid, as if I were there, right there, saw it all happen in front of me. The captivating delivery, countenance, emotions pulled me into the story and made me a part of it. I could feel the helplessness, the anger, the pain, the vacillation, the solace, perhaps in that order.
Delving into history, the case revealed certain astonishing facts. Ricky Langley was tried three times. After being arrested for murder of 6 year old Jeremy Guillory, whose body was found in Langley’s closet, his first conviction for first degree murder and death sentence was overturned because of the way the jury foreman was picked.
Upon conclusion of second trial and conviction, the second degree murder was again overturned because the Judge had walked out of the courtroom during concluding arguments rendering the trial unfair. Third and final time, a life sentence was awarded prior to which Lorilei had heard Langley call for help. He may have called for years, he may have called many, Lorilei chose to respond.
The family was finally ready to start the healing process after 17 long years of an unfathomable ordeal. This story, however, is not just a story, it is a test, a test of faith, realization, resolve and unflinching believe.
Lorilei testified on Ricky’s behalf. I asked her whether she felt that the killer of her child had been mentally ill when he did it.
“I think that Ricky Langley has been crying out for help since the day he was born,” she said, turning to the jurors. “And for whatever reason, his family, society, the legal system has never listened to him. And as I sit on this chair, I can hear the death cries of my own child, Jeremy; but I can still hear Ricky Langley crying out for help.”
After 17 years, “I think the ultimate judgment to him would be given to him another time another place”, says Lorilei with eyes welled-up, as she battles to keep herself calm and composed.
Watching the play and going through the history of this case has left me with a lot of questions.
- Is one going through a rough childhood or any other incidents in life a justification for someone to turn into a cause pain?
- Should the troubled background of a criminal result in leniency? If at all, one who has been sexually abuse, for instance, and turns into an abuser later on in life, should be held accountable more as this person has experienced the worst of it and knows exactly the sort of physical or emotional pain such abuse can cause.
- Even if it is agreed that the mental illness or soundness of mind must be taken into account, is it not true that any single person committing any crime of any sort is not of sane mind, at least while the act is being committed? If the soundness had prevailed, the crime may not have been committed.
At the end of it all, the fact that human intelligence is limited, a life ordered to be ended based on human intelligence seems to be a transgression. At home front, there is hung jury on this point. And I am sure everyone who has watched the play is facing somewhat similar situation within the circle of family and friends.
“Lorilei” has been a success as it has certainly been able to create the atmosphere and given a reason to discuss. I feel the discussion may last long. There may not be quick answers, no rights, no wrongs, but there certainly may be a lot of questions. And that, in my humble opinion, is a good way forward.
In case of Ricky Langley, I feel divine intervention, death sentence twice overturned on technical grounds, saved as the heart of Lorilei Guillory fills with mercy, not to forgive, but to listen to the cries for help, 17 long years, perhaps it was meant to be a test case for the world. Who knows?
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates