“Your Honor,” Prosecutor John Kieh said, “Counselor Doe is a daredevil in his cross-examination and therefore I want a re-direct of the witness to make sure that the state’s position is clear.”
“Very well,” Judge Doris Wolo said with a grin, and gave her consent, for the prosecutor to continue. Spectators in the court waited breathlessly, as the prosecutor strolled towards the witness in the stand.
Prosecutor Kieh’s smile was a bit triumphant when he turned swiftly to the witness and said, “Theresa Koffa, when you arrived at the house and found your niece slump on the floor, you did not simply conclude that she was dead but you called a neighbor and rushed her to Dr. James Woto’s clinic?”
“Yes,” the witness said faintly, as spectators leaned forward to catch her answer, which the prosecutor observed with interest and pushed forward.
“That is,” the prosecutor said, “it was the final confirmation of your niece’s death and it came from the information you received from Dr. Woto and not from you or your friend?”
“Yes,” the witness replied in haste. The prosecutor kept the smile in place and turning to the defense table, announced, “You may cross-examine the witness,” and sauntered leisurely to the prosecution table.
Defense lawyer Jason Doe lifted his light frame from the chair and in an experience gained after countless defenses of witnesses, strolled to the young woman in the stand. The lawyer’s face did not change its usual readiness but it was clear that he was sizing up the witness with a sense of complication, wondering how much truth could be extracted from her. Her face looked somber, and her eyes were out of the light that gave confidence to women of her age when they were faced with a situation that demanded nothing but truth beyond all reasonable doubt.
“You are Ms. or Mrs?” he asked with a grin, his eyes directly at the witness, studying her with his practiced eye, hoping to find her weaker side in a trial that was meant to make a case of probable cause before trial.
“I was married once,” the witness, the aunt of the decedent, said, “but now I am a single woman so Ms is fine.”
“Anthony Boe, the defendant is your longtime friend?”
“And you knew of his role with the decedent Rosetta Quiah?”
The witness lifted her chin towards the defense table where the defendant huddled in his chair, with his eyes streaming with tears.
“I warned Rosetta about a relationship that I knew would put her life in danger,” she said, and pulled a handkerchief to dab her face.
Jason Doe frowned at her reply and realized that attacking the witness on a frontal approach would not be the best since it was apparent that she was emotionally spent, and so he changed his tactics.
“I can understand the situation,” he said, “but I suggest you stick to the answer that suits the question, Ms. Koffa.”
In a hush voice, she replied, “Ok I will try.”
“You earlier heard the remark of the prosecutor with reference to mine being a dare-devil cross-examiner?”
“And by that understanding you know my role here is to get information?”
“That information is to help my client?”
“And,” Jason Doe said smiling, “you’re not in any way worried about the kind of questions that I may ask you?”
The witness dabbed her face with the handkerchief and said, “I feel uncomfortable when you shoot questions at me like that.”
A ripple of laughter swept across the courtroom, and the judge sounded his gavel.
Jason Doe said, “But you know my duty is to shoot questions at you?”
“Do you need time to adjust yourself?”
The witness once again lifted her chin and adjusted her shoulders and said, “I’m ready.”
“Rosetta was your niece?”
“You testified that you had warned her with her relationship with the defendant?”
“What was the basis of your warning, Ms. Koffa?”
The witness hesitated and then said, “There are lots of people coming to live in Brewerville and many of them are not known.”
“So your advice to your niece was simply because she did not know the defendant?”
“And it was not because of a particular reason about the defendant?”
“Well,” she said, “since I did not know him, it meant it was because of a particular reason.”
“But that reason was not because the defendant was a bad man, was he?”
“You can put it that way.”
“Can it be put any other way?”
“What other way?”
“The way I put it,” and her reply elicited laughter from the spectators.
“Rosetta was a lovely woman?”
“And she resided with you since she was thirteen years old?”
“The report about her death,” the lawyer said, “was due to an abuse?”
The witness began to weep, and the prosecutor was on his feet, “Your Honor, this is going too much and I think Counsel is taking an undue advantage over the witness to brow-beat her to defeat her spirit.”
Jason Doe said, “How can you prove such an unnecessary claim?”
Judge Wolo removed her glasses and glared at the prosecutor, “Let me remind counsel to avoid personal intrigues in what is known in boxing as ‘shadow-boxing’ and let’s get to the meat of the case.
“The Court realizes the emotional nature of this case but nonetheless the defense has the right to get to the end of the relationship with the decedent and therefore I’m going to object to the prosecution’s motion and let the defense continue with the cross-examination.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said and took his seat, frowning.
Jason Doe then resumed his cross-examination.
“You testified that the defendant abused your niece?”
“But there is a letter the decedent wrote two days before her death about an incident that occurred that you were involved,” Jason Doe was in the middle of his sentence but strolled to the defense table and pawed through some documents and extracted one.
He returned to the witness and, handing the letter to the witness said, in a mock astonishment, “The content of this letter may be of interest to you, Ms. Theresa Koffa.”
“Uhu what letter is that?”
“Just take a look and see if the content is something you can recall.”
The lawyer observed the witness’ trembling hands as she grabbed the letter from him and looked at the content and after some seconds, she gave a deep breath and leisurely folded the letter and placed it on her chest.
“Oh my God!” and lifted her chin once again and let loose of the letter as Jason Doe stretched his right hand to receive it.
Judge Wolo smiled grabbed the letter from the lawyer. She ran her eyes across the letter, and then decided to read it.
She handed the letter to the clerk.
“You may read the letter,” the judge said, and smiled again.
The clerk read: “My dear Anthony, no matter what happens to me, your presence in my life has made many changes and I must express my love for you.
“My aunt has from the beginning of our relationship a torn in my or a torn in our flesh and she has always indicated that my life with you would end in a mess.
“I know you love me, for you have shown that love does not only mean what the eye can see. You have been there for me, but for a reason that I’m yet to know, my aunt, Rosetta has seen you, or sees you as the devil’s incarnate and I am not sure I understand the reason.
“I stand at the mercy of God and your love but I am unable to find the means to get myself into the graces of my aunt.
“It is possible that my aunt may have heard about the discussion about my late father’s plot of land that you suggested to build on it and it just may be that has been the basis of my aunt’s unhappiness.
“At the same time, when my mother died when I was age 3, it was my aunt that took care of me, till you came into my life.
“My life, after I met you and the grand ideas you showed me, has not been for the better, and I am so miserable that I am convinced that only my death would give my aunt some reason to live her life.
“Though my aunt took care of me, I began to understand what hell meant when I came of age and men began to show some interest in me.
“My being miserable did not originate with you but I’m convinced that running away from her could mean the beginning of my happiness but deep down my heart I’m so afraid of her and I have no heart to think for myself.
“But if living me is what my aunt had wanted from the time you came into my life, then let me say I would go in peace and let my aunt have her life in peace.
“Live for me today and tomorrow.”
The clerk completed reading the letter and handed it back to the judge. During the process, the roomful of spectators remained silent and the drop of a pin could be heard.
Like all human nature, the part in the letter in which the young woman expressed her fears, due to the pressure on her life by her aunt, filled the spectator with disgust.
Judge Wolo turned to Jason Doe, and said, “Counsel you can continue with your cross-examination.”
Suddenly, the witness shouted from the witness stand, “Tell him to stop, please tell him to stop, I’ve had enough.”
The lawyer turned to the judge who signaled him, and made an indication to the prosecutor to meet her in chambers.
After ten minutes, the officials of the court returned, and Judge Wolo decided to adjourn the case to the next morning at 10a.m.
Anthony Boe, Jason Doe, his personal secretary Janet Lovebird and three other sympathizers reclined at the Benson Street office of the lawyer. Boe seemed pleased from his narrow escape and was clasping his hands again and again.
The lawyer returned to the gathering after reading the latest decision on a murder trial, handed down by Judge Blamo Dixon of the Supreme Court.
The lawyer said, “It makes sense to see the workings of the judicial system and the chance that trial lawyers have to exercise their duty in murder cases.”
“Does it have anything to do with the recent case involving Mr. Boe?” Janet Lovebird remarked in apparent gladness for the acquittal of Mr. Boe.
The lawyer grinned, and returned to his swivel chair at the corner of his private office.
He grabbed a copy of one of the metropolitan dailies and returned to the gathering and handed a particular paper, with the big banner headline: AUNT ADMITS KILLING NIECE.
Boe moved swiftly from his chair and grabbed the hands of the lawyer.
“Thanks,”’ he said, “I will never forget you.”
The lawyer smiled and returned to his swivel chair.
He said, “I think it is time for a brief celebration.” Smiling faces greeted the lawyer as they moved towards the door for an evening of merry making.