“Your Honor,” Prosecutor John Kieh said, “Counselor Doe is a dare-devil in 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, as she gave her consent for the prosecutor to continue.
Prosecutor Kieh’s smile was triumphant when he turned swiftly to the witness and said, “Theresa Koffa, when you arrived at the house and found your niece slumped on the floor, you did not simply conclude that she was dead, but you called a neighbor and rushed to Dr. James Woto’s clinic.
“That is, the final confirmation of your niece’s death came from the information you received from Dr. Woto, and not from you or your friend?”
“Yes,” the witness said. The prosecutor kept his smile in place and turning to the defense table, announced, “Your witness.”
Criminal defense counsel Jason Doe lifted his light frame and strolled to the witness.
“You are Ms. or Mrs?” he asked with a grin, his eyes beamed directly at the witness.
“I was married once,” the witness 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 tear- streaked 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 hushed 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 brief ripple of laughter swept across the courtroom, and the judge sounded his gavel to restore calm.
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 about her relationship with the defendant?”
“What was the basis of your warning, Ms. Koffa?”
The witness hesitated, 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?”
“Yes. 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 hefted his himself from his seat, “Your Honor, this is going too far, 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,” and the prosecutor took his seat with a frown on his face.
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 in which you were involved,” Jason Doe said as he strolled in the middle of his sentence, to the defense table, and pawed through some documents, extracting one.
He returned to the witness and, handing the letter to the witness said in 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. After a few seconds, she took a deep breath and leisurely folded the letter.
“Oh my God!” she said, and lifted her chin once again, and directed the letter to Jason Doe’s outstretched right hand. The lawyer then passed the letter to the judge.
Judge Wolo smiled, received the letter from the lawyer, opened it and ran her eyes across it, 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 bailiff read: “My dear Anthony, no matter what happens to me, your presence in my life has brought many changes, and I must express my love for you.
“My aunt has from the beginning of our relationship been a thorn 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 is yet unknown to me, 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 which has been the basis of my aunt’s unhappiness.
“At the same time, when my mother died when I was aged 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 loving 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 bailiff completed reading the letter and handed it back to the judge. During the process, the roomful of spectators remained silent, and a pin’s drop could be heard.
As with 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 spectators with disgust.
Judge Wolo turned to Jason Doe, and said, “Counsel, you can continue with your cross-examination.”
Suddenly, Ms. Rosetta Koffa 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 10 a.m. the next morning.
The next morning Anthony Boe, Criminal Lawyer Jason Doe, his personal secretary Janet Lovebird, and three other sympathizers reclined in 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 he completed reading the latest decision on a murder trial, handed down by Judge Blamo Dixon of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The lawyer said, “It makes sense to see the working 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 Boe’s acquittal.
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. On the front page was a cartoon drawing of Jason Doe, and the witness, Theresa Koffa, during the cross-examination. The lawyer returned to the gathering and handed one of the papers to Mr. Boe, particularly the one with the big banner headline: AUNT ADMITS KILLING NIECE.
Boe glanced at the headline; stood up and rushed from his chair to grab the hands of the lawyer.
“Thanks,”’ he said, pumping the lawyer’s right hand, “I will never forget you.”
The lawyer smiled and easing his grasp, returned to his swivel chair, then said, “I think it is time for a brief celebration.” Smiling faces greeted the lawyer as they moved towards the door.