Judge Martina Yuo was aware of the importance of the case and had a definite understanding of her position in the trial. She entered the courtroom with a triumphant air and settled in her chair. The case was one of interest to the Logan Town community, for the decedent Clinton Dahn, until his death was a man who made huge contributions to the town’s development.
Judge Yuo was noted for her respect for time, and by 8:30a.m in mid November, she signaled District Attorney William Jarboh to get on with the case. Prosecutor Lt. Samson Swen lifted himself from his chair and strolled to examine Col. Jackson Payne of the Homicide Department.
“Lt. Payne,” Lt. Swen said, “on the evening of October 15, you were called to the residence of the late Clinton Dahn, what time did you receive the call, and for what occasion?”
“The call came just after 6p.m and I was first to arrive at the Logan Town residence of philanthropist Clinton Dahn,” answered Col. Payne.
He continued, “The house is located on an isolated plot of land near the popular Logan Town Broad Street, and there were a number of people gathered outside.”
Prosecutor Swen said, “Did you enter the house?”
Investigator Payne responded, with a grin, “Yes I entered the house, which was unlocked and found the decedent wedged in a chair. I checked his pulse and there was no sign of life.”
“Did you visit the house alone, Col. Payne?” asked Lt. Swen.
“No I went with Captain Dorothy Sumo and Col. Mohammed Kamara of the Homicide Department,” Col. Payne explained.
Prosecutor Swen turned swiftly to the spectators and said, “What did you find?”
“Our investigation,” Col. Payne said, “discovered that the decedent’s last contact was that defendant Ephraim Sackor had visited the house, two hours previously.”
There were murmurs in the crowd, as Prosecutor Swen said, “Did you get to know the reason of the defendant’s visit?”
“What was it, Colonel?”
“A Promissory Note, containing the amount of US$30,000 was firmly held in the hands of the decedent.”
“What was on the content of the note and do you have it on you?” Prosecutor Swen said, his tone rising.
Homicide investigator Payne considered the question thoughtfully, and replied, “It said defendant Ephraim Sackor would honor the payment of US$30,000.00 and that the money was loaned towards his interest to win the presidency of the Media Union, whose elections coincided with the week of his murder.
“The two signatures have been by fingerprint experts at the Department to be those of the decedent and the defendant.”
The prosecutor said, “Do you have the Note on you, Colonel?”
“Yes I have the note,” Officer Payne replied, and pulled from his left breast pocket, a carefully wrapped single sheet, and handed it over to Lt. Swen, who smiled and swept his eyes across the courtroom, who said, “This can be accepted in evidence as Exhibit A.”
All along defendant Ephraim Sackor sat with his chin up and his hands folded across his chest. He seemed to take the revelation with a posture of innocence.
On the other side, away from the packed spectators, was the family of the decedent. Widow Elizabeth Dahn, who occasionally mopped her face with a handkerchief, her eyes bloodshot with tears, and to her immediate left sat three of her six children, along with other family members.
The prosecutor’s deliberate action stirred the courtroom to action and engaged spectators’ interest. On the other hand, Defense Counsel Jason Doe sat thoughtfully at his table and looked directly at the officer in the dock.
His mind was apparently engaged in other things when he heard Prosecutor Swen say, “What else did you find Colonel Payne?”
“We found out that the late Clinton Dahn had loaned the money to the defendant and the money was to be paid that very day.”
“Did the defendant pay the money, Colonel?”
“No,” detective Swen said the defendant Ephraim Sackor lost the Media Union elections, an election that he evidently pumped in much of the money.”
The prosecutor said, “What was the outcome of his loss, on the line of the loan?”
The investigator smiled, and said, “It became clear to the defendant that he did not have the money to pay as promised, and aware of how much money was involved, and also aware of the poor health of the decedent, the defendant nevertheless visited the victim and bluntly told him he would not be able to pay his money.”
“From your investigations,” Prosecutor Swen continued, “did it reveal that with the amount involved, and with the victim’s poor health, defendant Ephraim Sackor, somehow played a major role in the victim’s death, didn’t he?”
“It was evident from our investigations, which was corroborated by the toxicologist report of Doctor Albert Akorsah from the National Medical Center that the manner in which the defendant delivered the message was so unexpected that it played significantly to affect on the decedent.”
The prosecutor allowed that last statement to sink into the minds of the spectators, and it attracted the attention of Judge Yuo, who leaned forward on her table but since the defense remained silence on the approach, she did not pursue her position.
“Colonel Payne,” the prosecutor said, “how did you get to the defendant?” The question was so direct that the officer adjusted his position in the dock before answering, “After we completed our investigations, the most likely suspect was the man whose name was found written on the Note found in the decedent’s hands.”
“And that name was the defendant Ephraim Sackor who is presently in this courtroom?”
“Yes,” officer Payne admitted, directing his eyes to the defendant and in so doing carried along those of the spectators, and he added “so a warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest. Meanwhile the house of the decedent was searched and sealed and the family was advised to relocate till investigations were completed.”
“How did you get to the defendant, Colonel Payne?”
He said, “It was after a week after the murder, and a week after the elections of the Media Union, and a week of unsuccessful attempt to locate the defendant. At his residence in Tweh Farm, on the outskirts of Monrovia, we met with his wife Cecelia Sackor, who was very cooperative.
“She informed us that her husband had suffered a mental breakdown after he lost the elections.”
Prosecutor Swen smiled and it was followed by a mild laughter from the audience.
“Did she help the police to locate her husband?”
Colonel Payne said, “Initially the police did not reveal our intent to Mrs. Sackor for fear that the information could reach him before we got to him.
“Evidently, Mrs. Sackor had found out about the huge money her husband had reportedly borrowed for the Media Union elections, and was also aware that her husband was so much angry against some of his friends who let him down in the end.
“Therefore, she believed in the mental breakdown but when she later got the information of the search for her husband, she said she believed her husband has been framed of murder.”
“How then did the police get hold of the defendant?”
Colonel Payne turned to the defense table, and said, “It was during the evening, one week after the warrant was issued, when Counselor Jason Doe telephoned District Attorney William Jarboh with information on the whereabouts of the defendant.”
“As far as you are concerned, Colonel Payne,” Prosecutor Swen said, “Can you testify to this court that Counselor Doe acted cooperatively with the police?”
“Yes,” Colonel Payne said, “I went along with the DA when Counselor Doe telephoned.”
“Was there any resistance from the defendant?”
“But did Counselor Doe put down some conditions to the police before he broke the news that the defendant, whom he had kept away from justice, was with him?”
The officer turned to look at the defense table and nodded, “Well, he requested for unhindered access to his client as one of the conditions, as well as instructing the client not to speak to the police without his presence.”
The prosecutor said, “Can you surmise conclusively that knowing how much time and money the DA has spent to look for the defendant, counsel did not obstruct the work of the police?”
Jason Doe had sat through the lengthy examination, refraining from interrupting the prosecutor when he raised issues that demanded his concern. However, Jason Doe felt compelled to react when he realized that the prosecutor was forcing the witness to make unjustified conclusions.
“Objected to as not proper examination, calling for conclusion…” Counselor Doe thundered, and Judge Martina Yuo shouted from her bench:
“Sustained,” and still not satisfied she remarked, “the prosecutor should not insinuate evidence since the Court is with the conviction that the police have done a thorough investigation in the case.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, “we are trying to show that cunningly the defense is noted in handling cases of such nature, and likely all the time the defendant was being sought, he was apparently hidden by the defense…”
Judge Yuo removed her glasses, and glared at the prosecutor, “I hope the prosecutor is not forgetting that it was the defense, his witness testified, who called the DA to present the defendant.”
“Very well, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, “while that is well noted, I have a strong reason to believe that counsel did that as a ploy to throw any suspicion off him.”
“That’s unfair conclusion,” Jason Doe retorted, and lifted his tall frame from the defense table, “the prosecutor should not insinuate that I have aided and abetted a crime.”
The prosecutor lifted his chin, and thumped his nose at Counselor Doe, “What else can I conclude,” he charged.
The judge said, “I think the prosecutor has concluded in this case when Counselor Doe is yet to cross-examine the witness.
“This Court takes serious exception to the legal shadowboxing that the prosecutor seems to enjoy and will now stipulate that there will be no such insinuation to interrupt the orderly proceedings in this Court.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, and moving away, countered, “Your witness,” lifting his finger to Counselor Doe.
Judge Yuo was aware of the tension in the courtroom, and Counselor Doe knew about her readiness to act. Counselor Doe moved in to initiate his defense but then, stealing a glance at the huge wall-clock directly opposite the judge, he indicated with his head to the judge.
Judge Yuo realized it and said, “The court will resume at 2p.m.” and indicated an adjournment.