Blind Justice Part II
Magnum P.I produced another, unaltered version of Beth's original tape. He had made the recording as a spare, just in case. 'May I see that?' the judge asked. 'Sure,' Magnum replied. The bailiff took the tape from Magnum's hand and gave it to the judge.
The judge played the tape through from beginning to end, and Beth's dad in the dock cried. He knew what was coming next. 'I will accept this as evidence. Jury, retire and consider your verdict.'
The jury filed into the jury retiring room, and the judge declared a 15 minute recess. Beth, the lawyers and Magnum walked out of the courtroom and went to buy lunch. I stayed behind, waiting to see if the jury would come back with a death sentence. It didn't take long. 15 minutes later, the courtroom was full. One by one the jury filed out of the retiring room and took their seats. 'Have you reached a unanimous verdict?' asked the judge. 'Yes,' the jury foreman replied.
'What is your verdict?'
'I find the defendant, Mr Bowman, guilty of murder, and sentence him to death in the manner required by law. Take him down. Court is dismissed.'
The only method of execution we have in Australia (where this case was tried) is hanging, and there had not been a death sentence passed down in Australia for 20 years. Only recently was the death penalty brought back for murder, treason, sexual assault and fraud.
Mr Bowman was moved into a condemned cell a week before his execution. He was allowed visitors, the first being his little girl Beth. You really have to feel sorry for her, her mum did not deserve to die. She sat and talked to him until visiting time was over, and said 'she would be back' probably for the execution.
'Her dad killed her mother, poor thing,' my assistant said to me over lunch.
'I know, read the newspapers. He's been condemned to die, so we might as well make a successful job of it I reckon. We'll adjust the rope after lunch, get the prison guard to get his height and weight down and we'll see what we can do.'
'Did you hear about the little girl's grandma? She says the girl received several death threats as well.'
The height and weight came back, and we successfully adjusted the rope ready for the execution. It was to be stretched with a sandbag for one night then left until execution morning.
5 days to go and Mr Bowman filed his first and only allowed appeal. It was later rejected. Visiting time came and went, no sign of Beth.
I walked into the lunchroom where my assistant was and standing next to him was little Beth.
'Hello,' I said.
Beth smiled, then sat down next to me. 'Is it true that my daddy will die for what he did to my mommy?'
'Yes, he certainly will.'
The next response I did not expect from a little girl: 'I'd like to help you.'
My jaw nearly hit the ground. A 5 year old wants to hang her father for killing her mum. Just goes to show how much she hated him.
'Deal,' I said.
So, basically, I taught Beth how to adjust the rope, put the noose over the head, tie the condemned's arms and legs and pull the safety catch on the lever that would open the trapdoor, then push the lever.
She learnt fast for a 5 year old, and I was quite surprised when at midnight on execution day, she arrived to help hang her dad. My assistant was awake when she arrived and we sat around the light of a hurricane lantern playing cards until 6am, which is when the prison opens to the public. Execution was at 9am, and the witnesses started filing in to the witness room at half past 8.
At 7am Beth was all ready to see her dad hang. We sat and played cards for almost 2 hours. Mr Bowman's time was up.
Beth, me, my assistant and two prison officers filed down the long corridor , lined up at the door of Mr Bowman's cell, and when the guarding officers unlocked the door, we walked straight in. I pushed Mr Bowman's arms behind his back, tied them with a strap, walked to the front and said 'Follow me.' The door to the execution chamber was opened, and my assistant followed Beth, who stood by the lever.
Mr Bowman was positioned on the centre of the trapdoor, then Beth walked over and tied his legs. I put the noose over his head, tightened it, put the hood on and before the hood went over his head I could see the tears flowing from his face, he was about to be hanged by his own kid. Beth walked back to the lever, and I stepped off the trapdoor. The two officers standing on planks held the ropes, my assistant stood off to the side. Silence prevailed, until I gave the nod. The safety pin hit the floor and a split second later the trapdoor opened, dropping Mr Bowman, killing him instantly.
We all filed out of the execution chamber. That was the end of Mr Bowman.