Testimony before the Grand Jury, jurisdiction of Jerusalem, Monday, A.D. O.
Pontius Pilate, presiding
Victims of JIM BAKERUS vs. Estate of Jesus of Nazareth
For the prosecution: Janus Cochranus
The defense is unrepresented
Pilate: Present your case, Cochranus. And be quick about it. My tincture of opium is wearing off.
Cochranus: Your honor, I represent more than a thousand families from Jerusalem and environs. These families were robbed blind by the late Jim Bakerus. He promised them an unreasonable return on their investments, they bought into it, and they were plunged into poverty when the scheme proved to have no foundation. At least 326 children have been sold into slavery by parents made bankrupt by the fiend Bakerus. Whole families have been torn apart.
Pilate: Yeah, well, we caught that guy and crucified him. He'd spent all the money, but hey. He died a lingering death.
Cochranus: That's the issue, your honor. Many of the wronged parties turned out to see said Bakerus receive his punishment. They clearly overheard another condemned prisoner promise Bakerus he'd be going directly to paradise. Your honor, you cannot imagine the emotional impact such a promise has had on my clients. They've watched beautiful young daughters sold to brothels. They're begging in the streets for food! Their lives have been ruined, and the thought that Bakerus is sitting around in paradise like a king just pours salt into their wounds. My clients are seeking financial redress from the Roman government for pain and suffering.
Pilate: Wait a minute. Who was this prisoner who promised instant heavenly rewards to a vile criminal?
Cochranus: His name was Jesus of Nazareth.
Pilate: Doesn't ring a bell. What was he crucified for?
Cochranus (checking notes): Disturbing the peace, inciting to riot, fomenting rebellion.
Pilate: We don't usually crucify for that. We put those types in galleys, let them row off their anger.
Cochranus: It was an unusual case. I have your signed death warrant. It's noted thereon that you felt the sentence unnecessarily harsh.
Pilate: So this Jesus of Nazareth blabbered about heaven while being crucified, and you expect the government to pay out compensation? That's a reach, Janus. Even for you.
Cochranus: Well, your honor, you see, it's like this. My clients feel that Jesus of Nazareth is setting a dangerous precedent when he unilaterally sends a fellow condemned man to heaven, just on the basis of the condemned man's feeling remorse for his crimes. Don't you see where this could lead? People could live totally immoral lives, ask for some sort of Almighty forgiveness on their deathbeds, and go to paradise. On the other hand, perfectly moral folks who happen to commit an itty bitty sin and then get mowed down by a chariot could face punishment on the celestial side. It's not logical. In fact, it's downright hurtful. Here my clients sit, weeping for their lost children, their total ruin, and there Bakerus sits in heaven, having a good old time.
Pilate: I see your point. Zeus would expect some sort of celestial redress for victims even if a criminal died penitent. That's why we Romans have such an advanced civilization, while these infernal redneck shepherds are always arguing with one another about theology. But I don't see how I can send this case to trial, for two reasons. One, you have no defenders here for said Jesus of Nazareth.
Cochranus: They've fled to the hills in fear for their lives.
Pilate: I like hearing that. Sounds like peace to me. But the fact is, it's the family of said Jesus of Nazareth that your victims will have to sue, not the Roman government. We did our job. We crucified Bakerus. If this Jesus said something inflammatory from his own cross, that's a matter to take up with Jesus's estate - if he has one.
Cochranus: But the precedent, your honor! The metaphysical implications!
Pilate: Don't use such big words. All right. I'll issue a writ. Any victim of Bakerus who wishes redress for the untoward remarks of Jesus of Nazareth may apply for charity at the Temple of Poseidon. I'll bet some wealthy man of Poseidon will step forward and buy back those children sold into slavery. The victims can pray to Poseidon for a proper celestial reconsideration of Bakerus's heavenly status. Poseidon will take care of it on the other side.
Cochranus: I thought that was what you'd say. But you haven't addressed the precedent.
Pilate: How about this. We'll round up anyone we find who supports this Jesus of Nazareth and feed them to the lions.
Cochranus: If you can be thorough. The problem with that is, the ones that get away will feel like they're part of something big.
Pilate: It's the best I can do. Honestly, Janus. Do you think anyone will be dumb enough to believe that if they spend their whole lives stomping on other people and raping the earth, then just ask some god to forgive them as they expire, they'll get a free pass?
Cochranus: I never underestimate the stupidity of the human race, your honor.
Pilate: Case closed. Janus, let's go have a drink. I've got three more years in this hell-hole, I might as well spend them smashed.