The president of the Elysian Court of Cassation read out the final part of a verdict:
“And therefore the Court concludes that there is no ground to grant the claimant’s request for cassation of her conviction by the Federal Court of Appeal. Therefore the Court rejects the claimant’s request and hence the Court upholds the claimant’s conviction.”
When Heather heard these words, tears started to flow over her face. But the judges were not impressed by her tears. And while the judges had stood up in order to leave the court room, the young woman realized what the verdict meant with “upholds the claimant’s conviction”. Her conviction by the Federal Court of Appeal was now final, and Heather’s days were now over.
Two years earlier, Heather had become involved with a bar fight. And because of that the bar tender had evicted her from his bar. This had really angered the then twenty-three-year-old woman, so she went home, only to collect her riffle. Then she returned to the bar, where she fired a few shots. Three people were killed, two more were injured.
Both the Federal District Court and the Federal Court of Appeal found Heather guilty of premeditated murder of multiple persons, and both courts sentenced her to death by nitrogen asphyxiation. And now the Elysian Court of Cassation had rejected her request for cassation, she would die within twenty-eight to thirty-five days.
The twenty-five-year-old did not resist when the guards took her back to jail. Heather saw herself as nothing but living corpse. She had no idea how to deal with the last weeks of her life. Her mind was defeated, even the idea to take her own life couldn’t she produce. Heather did not even notice that she had been transferred to death row.
The next morning Heather woke up, and it was only then she fully realized where she was and was able to think clearly.
After breakfast the young woman was surprised when the guard informed her that she had a visitor. Heather did not expect anyone to visit, since she had lost the few friends she had when she was first sentenced to die. Her visitor turned out to be not a friend, but actually her arch nemesis, the very federal prosecutor who had demanded the death penalty against her.
“So are you happy now? Happy, that you have got me on death row?” The prosecutor looked at the condemned woman, and he said: “You deserve to die for your crimes. But no, I am not happy because you are sentenced to death.” “Liar!”
Heather had stood up, and she was now standing face-to-face with the prosecutor. “Sir, does it arouse you, that I will die because you have demanded the death penalty against me?” “No, it does not.” “Will you witness my execution?” “Yes, of course.” “I have only one request.”
Now it was the prosecutor who was surprised. “What is your request, Heather?” “I want that you will hold my hand when I am executed.” “Why?” “Just to feel your heart beat at the greatest moment of your life, which is my death.” “Do you accept your death?” “What choice do I have? My conviction is irrevocable, and besides we all will die sooner or later.”
The prosecutor turned himself around. “Yes, we’ll all die sooner or later. But most people prefer to die later rather than sooner. And you will die very soon.” “You are the reason of my early death.” The man turned himself again, and he looked at Heather’s face.
“You have deliberately taken the life of three people, knowing that you could be sentenced to death for that crime. Therefore you, and you alone, are the reason of your early demise.” Heather smiled, and said subsequently: “Would the courts have sentenced me to death, if you hadn’t sought the death penalty? You could have demanded a life sentence against me, rather than to seek my death. Hence you are responsible for my early death no less than myself.”
Heather saw that the federal attorney was clearly not convinced by her argument. She then turned the subject of the conversation.
“Why do you visit me?” The prosecutor did not answer immediately, instead he took a nicotine inhaler from his pocket. Only after he had taken a few pulls from his inhaler, he responded to Heather’s question.
“We have to determine what to do with your body after you’re executed.” The young woman was puzzled by this answer, and it took her a couple of moments for her to be able to say anything. “Isn’t that at the discretion of the federal government?” “Yes, it is. But because of that we need to decide upon that. The point is that with your death, you can make up for your crimes to some degree. Your organs might save up to seven lives, or medical students can dissect your body as part of their education.”
“I don’t care what the federal government does with my body. I wouldn’t mind if my skin would be used to bind a few books, or my body would end up as cat food. The only thing I care about is that I will die at age twenty-five.”
A short pause followed. The prosecutor took another few pulls from his nicotine inhaler, while the condemned woman took the opportunity to sit at her prison bed.
“Do you know when I will be executed?” Heather asked the federal prosecutor. “Not yet,” he answered, “the president has been informed about the irrevocability of your conviction. He has to order an executive order which will set the date of your execution. That’s what we are waiting for.” “How much time will it take before the president will issue that executive order?” “He has to talk with his judicial advisers, that would take about ten days.”
Heather played a little bit with her hands. “Why does the president to consult his judicial advisers? My sentence is final, can’t he does sign that executive order?” “That’s the way things work in this country, Heather.” “Those damned bureaucrats.”
The federal prosecutor looked at his watch. “I have to go, Heather.” “Can I get a kiss at my cheek?” The man was surprised, but he answered: “I don’t think that would be a good idea. Bye.”
Subsequently he gave a few knocks at the door, after when the guards opened the doors. He stepped outside, leaving Heather behind in her cell at death row.
Four days had been passed since Heather had arrived at death row. She had spent most of her time reading Bangsian fantasy novels. Her favorite was Bröderna Lejonhjärta, which she had read without interruptions. But reading offered her little comfort for the fact that her life would be ended in only a few weeks.
At a certain moment during fifth day at death row, a female guard entered Heather’s cell.
“Heather, the prison board wants to know what your wishes are for your last meal.” The condemned took a couple of moments to think about this question. The she said:
“I would like just a simple bowl of tomato soup.” “Okay, I will tell the board.” Thereafter the guard left Heather alone with her books.
The question about her last meal made Heather think about her last words. Would she make use of that final opportunity to say something to society? That same society which would kill her? For some time the condemned woman played with the idea of cursing Elysia. But after some more consideration she dropped that idea.
Maybe it would be better just to express regret, and apologize to the families and friends of her victims. But would it actually matter if she said anything at all? Heather asked herself. After all once she was dead nothing would affect her any longer. Whether the public would believe that her regret was sincere or not, it would not give her any benefit. She would even never know what the people would think of it.
Although the prosecutor had told her that it would take ten days until the president would set the date of her execution, such decision had yet to be made in Heather’s case. The condemned was wondering when she would be informed once the federal government had decided on an execution date. The only thing she knew for sure was that in twenty-four days she wouldn’t be among the living anymore.
Heather did not know whether she preferred to die either on day twenty-eight or thirty-five. Her life at death row was quite boring, and there was no book she really wanted to have read before she died. Seven extra days to live at death row were worth very little for Heather.
At some point the twenty-five-year-old considered instead of reading books, to write one herself. But what should she write about? The only thing she could come up with was her autobiography. She was afraid, however, that only psychologists would read her life story, and only as a research subject.
Heather also doubted whether she actually wanted to know when she would be executed. Maybe, she thought, it would be better is they would replace all air in her cell with pure nitrogen gas while she was asleep. But she knew that would not happen, because Elysian law required that people were executed while they were awake.
In fact the whole procedure surrounding capital punishment in Elysia, was governed by a very strict script and hence all executions were performed with the same ritual, as if it was an integral part of the Elysian State Liturgy.
First you had the Federal Court of Cassation up holding a death sentence. Then the condemned was put on death row for twenty-eight to thirty-five days. At the day of execution the person to die would be offered a last meal, roughly two hours before he or she would enter the execution chamber, where the inmate could make a final statement. And before six o’clock in th morning the condemned would be pronounced dead.
Heather was wondering why the government demanded criminals condemned to death should be aware that they were going to be executed, and to be conscious until the very end. Well to the moment the lack of oxygen would cause unconsciousness a few seconds before death.
This question occupied her for hours, until she felt asleep.
To be continued…