It was evidently one of the major cases to demand the attention of the community of Congo Town, near Monrovia in recent times. The individuals involved were popular figures in the community and the father in particular was a local boy who had made valuable contributions to many of the needed residents.
But the star attractions were the newly promoted police officers Lt. Wilfred Bono and Sgt. Prince Massaquoi of the homicide division, whose duty was to ensure justice for the victim and to remove those who were not prepared to live according to the rule of co-existence so that they far away from peaceful residents.
From their initial contact the two officers did not take a liking to criminal lawyer Jason Doe, for they were aware of his successes in several cases that the Police Department had prosecuted. The embarrassment had caused government prosecutors more disaffection by the public and they were determined to change that.
But if the two officers had wished for any showdown immediately they assumed office, the murder of Samson Dawson, 55, owner of The Dawson’s Real Estate, and a prospective candidate for the House of Representatives, was a case made for them. So with the case Anthony Dawson v The Republic of Liberia, the preliminary round was interestingly set for the unexpected shocks and surprises.
Prime suspect Anthony Dawson was the decedent’s thirty five year old spoiled son, whom the Monrovia’s metropolitan newspapers described as ‘the presumed gambler.’ Several newspapers ran series of stories that showed the accused in so negative a light that many objective residents could not help but to insist that he was doomed beyond redemption. But not Criminal lawyer, Jason Doe. The lawyer was a fighter, who would go to the extra-mile for his client.
He believed in justice and as a trial lawyer, he held sacred the element of ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’ and he would not compromise on it, since it bothered on the possible innocence of his clients and the chance of artful and deliberate act of revenge or of envy by those who would stop at nothing than their diabolical objectives were achieved. That position had gradually earned him high marks, and won him many admirers.
From the word go, Tony Dawson had already been convicted in the court of public opinion, for the media claimed that he did what he was charged off, because of earlier reports of the apparent feud between the son and the father, now the decedent.
It was therefore no surprise that the whole community of Congo Town was present at the preliminary trial on the raining morning of 21 September. The accused was small and light, fine-boned and has a look of frailty. His hair was short, rather finely cut, and his eyes were startling deep brown in a pallid face. His small frame filled the chair beside the lawyer. In fact he was perched, not slouched but perched despite his effort, in the chair and flicked a startled glance upwards and instantly looked down again at the Counselor Doe and then at the spectators in the courtroom. All in all, mama’s boy was written rather plainly on his face, and the impression was only hardened on the eventual circumstantial evidence of the case about his role in the death of his father.
The prosecution, under the gritty Lt. Bono, was assisted by Sgt. Massaquoi before Her Honor Judge Elizabeth Trobe. Judge Trobe was one of the few but prominent female legal minds in the country. Perhaps, the officers had chosen the available case to make a criminal prosecution that would change the frequent failures of prosecution lawyers, particularly against criminal lawyer Jason Doe, who was becoming a rising star in legal circles as his past successes had demonstrated. His recent success case was ‘The Case of the Abandoned Lover” which exposed the weakness of the prosecution and questioned the capacity of state prosecutors. There was also ‘The Case of the Businessman’s Daughter;” which failed to stand the pressure of criminal lawyer Jason Doe’s cross-examination.
The two officers were determined to change that, for they were as determined as defense lawyer Jason Doe in the search for justice for victims and those who, unfortunately failed to recognize that one person’s freedom ends when another person’s begins. They were unwilling to compromise on the craftiness of any defense attorney to the detriment of potential victims, as well as defenders of the rights of those whom the state had a responsibility to protect and the state’s sacred duty to maintain law and order. The two men’s appreciation for justice stemmed from their own, during the fourteen years of the civil-war in Liberia. And so right from their graduation from University of Liberia, they joined the national police service and ten years later, they had risen to their current positions.
Now with the ball now set in motion, the morning October rain drummed on the ceiling as Judge Trobe signaled proceedings to begin.
“You can call your next witness,” Judge Trobe said, and the brief murmur among the spectators ceased.
“I call Sam Monday to the stand,” Lt. Bono said, and while the witness’s steps echoed behind him as he mounted the stand, Counselor Doe grimaced and swept his eyes across the courtroom, as if to give him the reassurance that all was fine.
“Your name is Sam Monday?”
“Tell the Court the events of Tuesday September 10.”
The witness had apparently received some reassurances of support from the police, for his response to the officer’s direct question was evidently calculated with energy and power.
Light of excitement appeared on his face, and rubbing his hands together narrated the events of Tuesday, September 10. He testified he had met the accused at the Lover’s Inn where he had looked disheveled and seemed to have just arrived from a physical fight. Upon enquiry, he told the Court that the accused told him, his father would not get what he wanted anymore in this life.
“I asked him what he meant and he said, ‘can’t you see what I have done after taking care of him?’ and when I also wanted to know his father’s physical condition, he claimed ‘he was gone forever.’”
He further testified that the accused physically showed a bunch of money that he claimed he had taken it from his father and as a result he would never go broke in his life.
He said Tony Dawson then invited him to a drink and while he called for one carton of Guinness Stout, he also invited everyone in the Inn to join him in celebrating the luck of his life.
“He told the gathering that, everyone all the drinks were on the house and they can drink anything they want.” He admitted that Tony Dawson was his friend and both of them were compulsive gamblers.
When he was asked if he had anything against the accused, the witness drew murmurs from the audience when he said, “Not against a man who has the gut to kill his father,” which the defense “objected to as incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial,” and was sustained by the judge.
Judge Trobe said, “Just a moment, gentlemen. The Court will presently stipulate that the witness will have to follow the procedure as it is protected by law and will no more inject his personal opinion in the case because the Court is sufficiently clothed with the authority to elucidate the circumstances of the case.”
“Thank you Your Honor,” Prosecutor Lt. Bono said, and turning to the witness said, “It is important you stick to your answer without making opinions that have the tendency to suggest your personal biases.
“Nonetheless, just answer to the question as clear as you are able to do. Now I am going to ask you this: did the defendant’s appearance and demeanor suggest to you that he was somehow influenced by anything other than his natural ability, for example regarding his understanding of what was going on around him?”
The witness considered the question for a moment, and said with a smile, “I must be honest with you, Sir, for I don’t want to seem bias in my comments but in truth if I must offer a position regarding the defendant’s appearance and demeanor as you mention then I must be bold to declare that he seemed perfectly aware of what he had done and what he had offered the roomful of people.
“I don’t want to get on the nerves of the judge and I am honest in my statement about what I am able to remember about what the defendant said and told the gathering that day he returned from wherever he had been.”
“Thank you,” Lt. Bono said.
Suddenly, Judge Trobe glanced at her watch and signaled the lawyer as well as the prosecutor to her bench, and remarked, “I see it is time for the afternoon break and therefore I am going to order proceedings to continue after the recess at 2pm.”
The case was then adjourned.