Carlos

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I've been around the block a few times. Seen most of what this crazy world can throw your way. But, I swear, this case was like no other I've ever witnessed.

Carlos was there in black and white, caught on the police video planting the bomb which exploded shortly after, abruptly ending the time on earth of three innocent souls. True, he walked briefly 'out of shot' as he turned the corner, but he was apprehended half way down the adjacent street by officers from two police cars called to the scene.

Just prior to his arrest, Carlos was strolling along and, although he was very surprised to be arrested, he offered no resistance.

Later, at the station, he protested his innocence. He refused the opportunity to instruct legal counsel and indicated that he would conduct his own defence. The police noted his full name, address and occupation which was - total surprise - Astrophysicist. He was undertaking advanced research at MIT, having been seconded from an observatory on Gran Canaria.

Nothing in his background suggested terrorist leanings. He had been an exemplary Student, Ph.D. Researcher, Junior, then Senior Professor in Madrid and Principal Astronomer on Gran Canaria before finally being headhunted by MIT owing to his outstanding grasp of quantum mechanics. It was hoped that, with his help, science would finally arrive at an understanding of the 'Theory of Everything'.

Came the day of the trial, Prosecution Counsel paraded incontrovertible evidence before the Jury which was notably diverse with representatives of different sexes, ethnicities and religious beliefs occupying the panel. Finally, there was a fully-fledged Maths genius from Harvard just in case things needed interpretation. It was not certain which defence Carlos would run but best to be prepared for everything.

The prosecution undertook to reveal the truth and to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Carlos was guilty. They outlined the evidence and declared it an open-and-shut case.

After a brief recess, Carlos began his defence. Though he spoke quietly, his demeanour riveted your attention. He apologised that everyone had been put to the trouble of determining the fate of a person such as himself who was, as he put it, of no consequence. His attitude was disarming, persuasive even. No ranting. No extremist agenda. Just a quiet, interesting man you might meet by chance over a drink.

He repeated the words of his accusers. They sought to reveal the truth and to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He then went on to say that he had spent a lifetime searching for truth and trying to overcome doubt.

"When I was a child", he said, "I remember reading about Galileo. He believed that the earth rotates around the sun. He was persecuted and forced to recant. We now know he was right and that it is possible for one man to be right while all his detractors think he is wrong. So I ask you all to admit it is possible that my accusers are wrong too.

When I was a young man, I watched a magician saw a woman in half and then put her back together again. He had to, otherwise he would have had no-one else to saw in half for his next performance. None of you really believes he did what he appeared to do. So you must admit that you cannot always believe your own eyes.

In my research, I have looked at stars, galaxies and nebulae which are as they were millions of years before the earth was created and even longer before men walked upon it. Some see these wonders as proof that God exists, others as showing that, given enough time and a big enough universe, anything can happen. So the same evidence can lead to quite different conclusions".

At this point, the Prosecuting Counsel stood up and protested in a voice laced with sarcasm, "Thank you Professor, for your meander through the realms of science and astronomy, but could you please now return to reality and get to the point. You are on trial here and need to establish your innocence".

"Reality", mused the Professor, "An interesting subject - but more of that later. For the moment, may I correct Prosecuting Counsel, I do not need to establish my innocence, it is his task to establish my guilt. My task is to raise reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors".

"Well get on with it then", grumbled the Prosecutor.

"We have established that one man can be right although many think his is wrong. We have also established that the evidence of one's eyes can deceive. Now I have to ask you to take a leap of faith. I hesitate to call it a quantum leap. In common speech this has come to represent an enormous change. Actually, it means the opposite; a change so small as to be infinitesimal. Am I guilty? Am I innocent? Faced with such problems, most assume:

There are only two possibilities: yes or no.

I do not believe this to be the case. My studies have led me to believe that we inhabit one of possibly an infinite number of universes which, at times, overlap. Usually, this does not affect our lives very much. For example, the atomic universe inside our chairs, houses and land do not affect our ability to sit in the chairs, live in the houses or farm the land, but few of us doubt that they exist. This has been the focus of scientific endeavour over the last hundred years.

Now, however, we are trying to match what happens to atoms with what happens to stars and my conclusion is that everything that can happen does happen somewhere, sometime. The person who is guilty of this crime is not me. It was an anomaly. I did not do this".

The judge summed up the law. The jury retired. At first just the mathematician dissented from the 'Guilty' verdict, but he then persuaded two others.

Carlos walked.

About the Author: 
Graduate in English & Philosophy. Instructor Lt. Cdr. Royal Navy, Private Practice with wife in Educational Psychology. Retired to beautiful Pembrokeshire seaside to write short stories.