Speculative Fiction

The following is part of the official transcript of the People v.s. William Devin Jones. Outside of offending passages, this is how it was transmitted via social media on the day of the trial in accordance to all laws including ADMT 1.6 of the First Amendment which states:

To protect the honor and sanctity of truth, debate, and speech, all communications, digital or otherwise, must be communicated in 280 characters or less. Language usage outside these bounds is the responsibility of the creator and subject to prosecution. 

“All Rise.”

Judge enters.

“The Honorable Judge Elaina Prescott presiding.”

“Thank you bailiff. All be seated. Bailiff re-announce the case.”

“Case number 13-24-956 People v.s. William Devin Jones.”

“Formal Charges.”

“William Devin Jones is charged with the federal crime of violating ADMT 1.6 of the first amendment. Additional charges of corruption, conspiracy, and murder 1 are attached in relation to the primary charge of the indictment.”

“Do either parties object to the charges as read? If not we shall allow the state to continue its cross-examination.” 

No objections.

“Bailiff re-swear in Mr. Jones.”

“Mr. William Devin Jones. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“I do.”

“Mr. Harris you may proceed.”

“Thank you, your honor. Mr. Jones do you refute the claim that you violated ADMT 1.6 to the first amendment? Did you violate that clause on July 4, 2057 at the barbeque bash at your neighbor, Marry Ellis’s home?”

“If you are asking did I have a conversation with Jeff, Marry’s husband, then yes, I did.”

“So you do not deny that the conversation between you and Jeff took place?”

“Of course not. You have paraded enough witnesses through this courtroom to establish that.”

“How would you characterize the conversation? Was it cordial?”

“Objection your honor, my client is not an expert and was a participant in the conversation. He is not an expert witness.”

“Which is why I asked how he would characterize it.”


“So Mr. Jones how would you characterize the conversation?”

Defendant pauses.

“I would say that we were having a spirited discussion about his beliefs and some disagreements we have between us.”

“Didn’t you say, your honor I ask permission to say this portion of Mr. Jones’ statement to the court, despite its length and violation ADMT 1.6.”

“Permission granted.”

“Thank you your honor. Mr. Jones according to witnesses you said: ‘You ignorant, bigoted, asshole why don’t you go back to the swamp you crawled out of and die. If that is what you really believe why don’t you just put on your damn hood already. I know who you are. You are a blight on this Earth and don’t deserve consideration. Hate deserves hate.’ I remind you that lying under oath is a crime and can be added to the charges.” 

“It was a heated conversation and only 282 characters. Also he is a bigoted asshole. ”

“Don’t you mean was?”

“I had nothing to do with that.”

“But your speech incited his murder. Your words, the hate in the words, inspired others to act. Did they not?”

“I never intended for them to act. Plus, I was just having a conversation, a disagreement with the man. I never met with Alex and Michele. We planned nothing together. I get it. I understand that they are young and impressionable, but at what point do they have to take responsibility for what they did?”

“Court reporter character count?”

“302 Mr. Harris.”

“Your honor I move that the witness’s testimony be stricken and be added as people’s evidence 26.”

“So ordered. The jury will disregard the previous statement from the defendant, and it will be added as people’s 26.”

“Your honor…”

“That is enough Mr. Jones. I suggest you quiet yourself and answer Mr. Harris’s questions before you make things worse for yourself.”

Mr. Jones stews and steams.

“So Mr. Jones, outside of your outburst that the jury just saw, how would you defend what happened at the barbeque?”

“I was having a conversation where I lost control.”

“I see. Just like you did a second ago.”

“You’re a bastard you know-“

Gavel strikes. Judge speaks.

“Mr. Jones calm down. Mr. Harris move on.”

“So you say that you did not conspire with Alex and Michele, the two thirteen year-olds who are serving five years each, for taking Jeff Ellis’s life. Did you really think two children that old would not be inspired by the words of their English teacher?”

“I thought we were outside at a barbeque. Not in this courtroom. Not sending a message to each other or trying to explain a complex idea. I thought maybe I was a person, outside, just talking.”

“Mr. Jones are you trying to claim that you are not aware that ADMT 1.6 is always applicable?”

“I am aware that it is a stupid addition to a very important amendment.”

“That did not answer my question. Mr. Jones, are you aware that ADMT 1.6 always applies to all speech? Anything that violates it can and will be used against you under the laws of our land?”

“Again, I am aware that it is a stupid addition to a very important amendment. That there was a point in time where we didn’t need to limit ourselves to a certain character count to be understood. That there was a time when literature and art stretched thousands of words and speech was actually free.”

“Court reporter character count?”

“300 Mr. Harris.”

“Your honor, I move that the witness’s testimony be stricken and added as people’s 27. I also ask that the record reflect his answer to be interpreted as a yes.”

“Objection your honor. That is not what-“

Gavel strikes.

“We are not deaf Mr. Williams. We all understood what your client said and understands. He is an English teacher after all. Mr. Williams objection is overruled. The testimony will be stricken and added as peoples 27.”

“So Mr. Jones do you understand how your own students could take your words and act? You are their teacher Mr. Jones, an authority figure in their life. Do you understand why they would take your hurtful words and act on them?” 

“That is not what I am on trial for. The first and primary charge is simply for something we all do every day.”

“Not those of us who are careful. And Mr. Jones, can you see why after what has happened ADMT 1.6 is more important than ever? Maybe if you had not violated it, they wouldn’t have acted. They would have had less to process and comprehend?” 

Mr. Jones laughs. 

“You are asking me if me breaking my speech into, what, 55-word increments would have made a difference? If I had used two fewer characters? If I had said dumb instead of ignorant we wouldn’t be here.” 

“I am asking you if you understand the importance of the amendment.”

“I understand that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I understand that there was a time where being on trial for something like this would be unthinkable and unheard of. Your honor, Mr. Harris. I don’t ask for anything more than for you to let me speak and to truly answer. To have my peace.”

“Court reporter-“

“Stop that shit Mr. Harris. Please… Your honor… Just let me speak my peace. Please. You can have it stricken. You can do what you want with it. But let me speak.”

“Your honor I ask for a recess. My client and I need a side-“

“-I don’t need a break with my attorney. I don’t need to be consulted. I am upset and angry, but not because of what you think. I just need to answer his question fully. I need to be allowed to speak.” 

“You understand that we have not stopped you from that.”

“Politely your honor that is bullshit.” 

Gavel strikes.

“That was a direct attack against me. Do that again and you will be taken into contempt.”

“Your honor every time I speak, I see Mr. Harris get that gleam in his eyes as he counts my words and waits to ask his damn question to the court reporter. Then he uses it against me.”

“That is my right-“

“-And I say that when you do that I cannot speak or answer your questions freely.”

“Your honor again I request a recess.”

Gavel strikes.

“Mr. Jones do you understand that anything you say can and will be used against you?”

“Use it against me, but please have that pompous ass sit down and actually let me speak.”

Courtroom goes silent. Judge thinks. 

“Mr. Harris?”

“I can sit judge.”

Mr. Harris returns to his table and sits. Mr. Williams rises.

“Mr. Williams save your breath, your client has made his intentions clear.”

Court settles. Defendant takes a deep breath. Speaks.

“You know not that long ago that you didn’t have to sign a waiver before you bought or wrote a book. There was a time when people were allowed to speak their mind and their heart. There was a time where our clarity was determined not by the number of characters we used, but by what and how we said it. 

Things changed. I don’t know when, but they did. Hell, you may think, he is an English teacher, he should know better. You may think I am rough around the edges and crude. And you are right. I am an English teacher who has been teaching for over twenty years. I started at 23 and have been teaching under these laws the entire time. I teach my classes, type out my lectures, try to imagine responses, and what my answer will be. I slave over the desire to fit into the law. I agonize over every single character. I lament that I am forced to teach masterful works in a way they were never intended. I weep at the fact that we do not allow ourselves the responsibility of understanding deeper ideas. 

Don’t let Mr. Harris confuse you. Don’t let this trial confuse you. Don’t let the fact that we live this way confuse you. I understand that by the letter of the law, based on what ADMT 1.6 says, that I have broken the first amendment of the constitution. I understand that under Section 1.6 b anything I said while violating that clause can and will be used against me in the court of law. And I also understand 1.6 C that I can and will be charged with any crime extending from that violation. I understand that and also understand that it is stupid. 

Love wasn’t meant to be discussed in 55 words or 280 characters. People we were not meant to ingest everything in short spurts. Art is supposed to be greater. Conversations more. Ideas expounded and discussed. 

We passed this article, the statute, this addition, this amendment at a time when our country was grappling with what free speech meant and who should control it. We were fighting people who were trying to use bully pulpits to destroy everything we stood for. At that point speech had revealed itself to be the weapon it has always been. We changed our constitution to disarm speech, but I ask did this make a difference? Does someone interrupting me after 280 characters, does the additional voice, that space, make a difference?

People like Mr. Harris will tell you that Section 1.6 is what gives the voices of truth a chance. That it is specifically there to give people the chance at rebuttal and to present truth. He will argue that ADMT 1.6 is not limiting as long as you are speaking truth. He would even say that being required to give a thirty-second break after reaching the limit is not only important, but necessary. That is shortsighted. Mr. Harris is wrong and an idiot.

1.6 has become a scapegoat. A way to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility. I didn’t kill Mr. Ellis. I didn’t kill a man who was a xenophobic racist who was a blight on his community. I was standing up for three of my students who I heard him berating because of their race. I was standing up for something I heard he was planning to do. I stood up to stop him from raping a thirteen-year-old girl. 

I was told I shouldn’t do that. That I should let him call people the names he wants and that I should report his speech. I should have recorded what he said. But, and this is not an excuse, but after so many years of slaving over every word I said I let go. I told a horrible person what I thought of them. I called them out in front of everyone and spoke the truth. Hoping to diminish his voice, forcing him to confront his beliefs, and to dissuade him from what he was going to do. I used 282 characters. Two characters over the limit is the reason we are here.

It is a shame Mr. Ellis is dead. It is. But Michele and Alex are serving five years. Five years because no one interrupted me after 280 characters. Because I did not give him a place for him to defend himself after about 55 words. You heard what I said. You heard it and that is why we are here. Why we are all here today was because of what I said because my speech is somehow worse than the actual murder.

I do not, in any way think that Alex and Michele have a problem interpreting things longer than 280 characters, but that is the bar that we have created as a society. That is where we have lowered it. If I had used the word dumb instead of ignorant we wouldn’t be here. I want you to think about how trivial that is. About how this trial is being reported to the world. The court reporter is sending out everything we say along with the details they deem important 280 characters at a time. Everything I am saying now will never be heard outside of this room. You are the ones who hear this truth. Only the people who are a part of this trial, the reporter, stenographer, bailiff, two officers, judge, two lawyers, myself and you, the jury. You are the only ones who will experience it. Who will understand what went on in here outside of a predetermined character count. You are the only ones who will know that two characters, to letters or spaces, are what have brought us here today.

I ask every member of the jury to think about what we have created. I am well aware that the second I finish what I am saying it will be stricken. I fully understand that what I am doing now is all for naught. I comprehend that you cannot make this change or this determination, that you cannot make this go away. I get that, but ask you: Do you plan your life, do you live it, do you experience it, 280 characters, about 55 words, at a time? Should you?

I want you to think about the fact that I am being charged with corruption because of what I said in front of kids. Conspiracy because those kids met and then planned to murder a man, and finally murder one because they murdered him. They will serve five years. But if I am convicted, I will be put to death. I ask the jury, I ask all of you in this room: Is that fair? Is that what free speech really is? Can we actually live life 280 characters at a time? Isn’t it time to recognize the craziness that this has become?”

William Devin Jones speech complete. 

“Court reporter character count?”

“6,104 Mr. Harris.”

“I request that the defendant’s testimony be stricken and entered as people’s evidence 28.”

“So ordered.”

“Your honor.”

“Mr. Williams?”

“Based on peoples 28 I ask that my client’s plea be changed from not guilty to guilty.”

“Will you be changing your defense?”

“No, but we will ask for the court for consideration during sentencing.”

“So ordered. Court adjourned till sentencing.”

Gavel strikes. Courtroom empties. Trial concluded till sentencing. Expected sentence/penalty: death.

August 13, 2022 02:58

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