Characters in the story
Sam Dwalu—The suspect with tears of innocence
Anthony Kollie—The witness whose hostile behavior forced the judge to intervene
Willie Korboi Jones, the musician whose murder drew the attention of the community
James Layman—Prosecutor, whom the judge insisted to let due process find the accused
Jason Doe—Defense Counsel who believed his client was innocent
Eva Choloplay—The Judge who was concerned of the due process rights for both the victim and the accused.
Though the life of the 28-year-old musician Willie Koboi Jones was involved, and though many people knew the deceased had a brilliant future, newspapers described the case purely as one that was engineered by the love of money. It was not strange that metropolitan Monrovia dailies devoted much of their columns to the case. One interesting aspect was that the decedent was a resident of Kakata, Margibi County and a rising star among musicians. On a competitive occasion, Willie Koboi Jones, known among music fans and the entertainment industry as
The Real WKJ, had caused more than three thousand Monrovians to converge at the Monrovia City Hall, a record that was yet to be broken.
At the preliminary trial, Defense Counsel Jason Doe listened in horror as witness after witness indicated that the victim was so reckless that it would seem his death was ordained by his own actions. But who then killed The Real WKJ? And what was the major reason that one of his friends, Sam Dwalu, who happened to be the musician’s most adored fan and promoter, was accused of his murder?
As the preliminary trial proceeded, witness Anthony Kollie testified that the victim was the best friend of the suspect and he saw them at many places together. He claimed, when prodded on by Prosecutor James Layman, that on the week of his disappearance, the victim had in his possession US$25,000 and the suspect informed him later that the victim had given him the money.
Kollie further testified that contrary to the claim by the suspect that he had no knowledge of the money, the victim had called him, few hours before he was reported dead and his body discovered under Monrovia’s Bong Mines Bridge on Bushrod Island on June 10, that ‘he suspected his close friends were after him,’ in reference, he said, to the primary suspect’s involvement which he claimed might have led to his death.
On the source of the money, the witness explained that WKJ received the money from a man whose name he did not reveal and that the money was intended to complete a house that the victim had started more than two months ago.
At best the case was based on circumstantial evidence because the police, during their investigations, created several circumstantial theories about what might have happened. The only reason that compelled them to arrest Sam Dwalu, as the primary suspect, was a phone call that Dwalu had made to the victim few hours before his body was found.
Though Dwalu denied any involvement, he could not account for his whereabouts around the hours that police investigators indicated the singer was allegedly murdered. It was apparent that witness Kollie’s testimony and the allegation that the suspect was found with the amount of U$25,000 belonging to the murder victim were factors that led to his arrest. However, Counselor Jason Doe, representing the suspect in the pretrial case was of the opinion that circumstantial evidence was not enough to convict his client. “It must be beyond all reasonable doubt.”
So when Prosecutor James Layman exhausted his questions in his examination, he turned to the defense in a triumphant murmur, “Here is your witness,” and walked leisurely to the defense table.
The spectators sat in the court room, waited with impatience. In fact, the media had raised the level of interest in the case to fever pitch. Some of the metropolitan newspapers in their editorials, compared the singer’s death to the recent tragic war in the country, insisting that the search for justice had never been more urgent than the solution of Willie Jones’ murder.
One newspaper compared Jones’ murder to that of the little Angel Togba whose murder raised so much attention and agitation that it had become a standard procedure for lawyers to make reference to, in their search for justice.
Criminal lawyer Counselor Jason Doe, on the other hand, believed that while the search for justice was universal, forcing others to accept a crime they apparently never committed was also a misleading search for justice.
Now, as he strolled towards the witness who seemed to struggle with himself in the stand, the crowded courtroom remained silent.
The only echo was the rattling noise of ceiling and standing fans, located at vantage points in the courtroom, humming along and filtering much needed air over the spectators.
“Anthony Kollie,” Counselor Jason Doe said, in a well modulated voice that indicated his inner frustration. “You don’t seem to like Sam Dwalu, do you?”
Kollie, in a surprise move, wrung up his hands, and made a face. The lawyer observed it but deliberately allowed his eyes to sweep across the spectators.
“I like all my friends, Sir,” the witness replied.
“How long have you known the suspect?”
The witness, shifted in the box, and said, “I have known him for about three months and up to the time my friend was murdered.”
“How close is your relationship?”
The witness considered the question for a second, and said, “Just a casual friend—I mean someone I see around. We don’t normally share things in common.”
The lawyer frowned at his response, and continued, “How do you then know that the victim was murdered by the suspect?”
The witness again hesitated, and then replied, nonchalantly, “The prosecutor and the police told me that he murdered him.”
Counselor Doe shrugged his shoulders, and walked deliberately towards the defense table, considered some papers and returned to the witness.
“You testified that the suspect told you that the victim gave him U$25,000?”
The lawyer’s smile was a bit triumphant when he said, “Kollie, you told the court that your relationship with the suspect has been casual and both of you don’t share things in common, did you not?”
“Is it yes or no, Anthony Kollie?”
“Yes,” he said, raising his eyes, “if that’s what you insist.”
“And you have seen him around for about three months?”
“I told you already.”
Judge Eva D. Choloplay lifted her head, adjusted her glasses on her nose and in an irritated voice said, “The court cannot accept the scorn that this witness provides to answers posed by the defense and will want to stipulate that under no condition should a hostile witness demonstrate his unwillingness to ensure that ‘a due process’ is offered to the suspect.
“Nonetheless, it seems probable that to ensure the eventual resolution of the case, the witness will have no other choice but to offer answers that can lead to the provision of justice by the law.”
Prosecutor Layman swiftly jumped from his seat, and made a defense to the witness’ action: “Thank you, Your Honor, but it seems also that counsel is using some tactics that the witness understands to lead him to contradict the information already provided during the examination.”
Judge Choloplay adjusted herself in her seat, and glaring at the prosecutor, said, “The prosecutor must understand that he can have an adequate time for a re-cross-examination if he feels the information being provided by the witness is affecting his earlier examination.
“The court cannot accept innuendos from the prosecution and the witness and I stipulate that the witness should not lead the court to believe that being a hostile witness, he is providing information under strict instructions from the prosecution, which is contrary to the spirit of due process.
“The court cannot entertain the unwillingness of the witness, for justice means that the one who is providing the information about a suspect, particularly in a murder case of this nature, avails himself all the chance he needs to ensure the equitable dispensation of justice.
“I need not remind the prosecutor of the due process right of the suspect and there is absolutely no way that this court will maintain the belligerent posture of a witness, particularly this witness whose actions so far seem to work against the very search for justice.”
The judge’s remarks were enough for the prosecutor to see the seriousness and the apparent displeasure of the court.
Layman then dejectedly said, “Thank you, Your Honor,” and turning to the witness, said, “You need to provide the required answers to counsel because I am here to protect you and therefore should not create any disaffection with the court.” The blow was too clear to be seen, but the prosecutor thumped his nose and slipped back into his chair.
Now fidgeting in the dock, the witness lowered his head and made a comment under his breath. Judge Choloplay turned to defense counsel Doe and said, “You may resume the cross-examination,” but she took a swift look at her wrist watch, and said, “We are nearing the end of the morning session and therefore I am ordering the case adjourned for fifteen minutes recess.”
Defense Counsel Jason Doe smiled, but his attempt to look at the defense was met with a sneer of opposition.
The lawyer then turned to the suspect and he saw that his soul was smitten and scourged but still invested with dignity and innocence. The lawyer had seen such a character before. Though his duty was to ensure his defense, he could not tell if the issues being presented, though circumstantial, the hostility of the witness could work against his client. However, he was thankful that Judge Eva Choloplay was a character full of justice.
Jason Doe could depend on that to find justice in this case.