A fawn-colored light streaked here and there with tints of deepest orange. It was like the multicolored light of a rainbow.
Inside the courtroom, a fever of enthusiasm filled defense lawyer Jason Doe when he said, “You definitely want justice for the victim, don’t you?”
“Yes,” the victim’s father, Johnson Kollie said with a grin.
“Have you thought about the possibility that this man, Leslie Solo, the defendant, might not be the one who is responsible for the crime he is being accused of?”
“I don’t have to think about that.”
“But you want justice for your son?”
“And your son was not living with you before his death?”
“And it was not because he wanted to live by himself but because you did not want him to live with you?”
“That was a family matter.” The prosecutor rose to object but changed his mind and frowned.
“You asked him to leave your house and that particular night you threw his belongings out of the house?”
Prosecutor Rufus Teah shouted, “Your Honor, this is too much. What has that got to do with his son’s murder?”
Leaning closer with his arms on the bench, Judge William A. K. Jeboh glared at Jason Doe and said, “Will counsel justify his line of cross-examination?”
Jason Doe smiled, and turning swiftly to the judge said, “I am trying to reveal the entire circumstances that in desperation caused the tragic death at his own hands.
“I am also trying to show how culpable the father is in the events that led to the young man’s unfortunate death.”
“Very well,” Judge Jeboh said “You may continue.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” Jason Doe said, and turning to the witness in the box, said, “You loved your son like any good father would?”
“Yes I loved him.”
“And because you loved him,” Jason Doe said, “you were prepared to do as much as you could in his interest.”
“And even though there have been witnesses who have testified that you are an excellent father, they never told the Court about your periodic fights at your house with him, along with the woman who lives with you?”
“Families have problems here and there.”
“While that is true, those witnesses did not know that despite their claim of your love for him,” the lawyer said. “You were constraint to throw your son’s things, including his clothes, out of a house you have given him and had resided for the last five years.”
“It was a poor judgment on my part.”
“You did not tell the prosecutor that when you asked him to leave the house, after you threw his things out of the house,” the lawyer said, “neighbors were good enough to steal everything you threw out, did they not?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think about what?”
“I…I…I…,” the witness stuttered and shifted his position.
“Please remember you are under oath to tell the truth.”
“All the things that belonged to your son were stolen by neighbors while you stood there, did you not?”
“What was the reason you asked him to leave, and did not give him at least a month to leave the house?”
“Mr. Doe,”’ the witness said, “my son has been murdered by that man,” he pointed his finger defendant Leslie Solo, the Good Samaritan who took the victim in after he was thrown out of his house, “and I’m sure the law will give me justice.”
“That’s the objective of this Court,” the lawyer reminded him, “but at the same time circumstances that led to your son’s death indicate your own negligence about the son you claimed you love and on whose untimely death you are here accusing a man who rescued your son.”
“Parents can have disagreements with their children.”
“You were one of the first persons to be by the remains of your son’s body?”
“What was in the hands of the decedent?”
“The decedent held firmly in his folded arms several sheets of paper.”
“And the sheets were from a book that you owned, is it not?”
“And you told the police that the decedent had apparently stolen from a neighbor?”
“Who did you have in mind as the one that your son might have apparently stolen from?”
“I am not sure I can remember what I said.”
“But you told the police your son you claimed you loved had stolen from someone?”
“No, don’t think,” the lawyer interrupted him, “just tell me what you told the police.”
“I had always kept money in that particular book,” the witness said, “and someone stole the book from my house.”
“So was it the fact that your son allegedly stole from a neighbor as you indicated to the police?”
“I was simply confused.”
“And you told a lie to incriminate your son?”
The prosecutor was on his feet, “This is not proper cross-examination, not sufficient background laid.”
“Sustained,” the judge declared.
Jason Doe smiled and rephrased his question.
“The truth was that your son did not steal anything from you?”
“I had the impression that he did.”
“Tell the Court about your intention to provide such negative about your son?”
The witness shifted his position again and all the spectators stared at him.
“It was pure assumption.”
“And you assumed that your son stole from you and also from someone?”
“I was simply confused and not to myself,” the witness said. “He was one of the few that visited the house though.”
“And the torn book belonged to you and not to a neighbor as you told the police?”
“Yes,” he responded, lamely, and a titter among the spectators dealt a lasting blow to the witness’ claim.
The lawyer allowed his answer to sip through the Court and then walked to the defense table and pawed through some papers and, returning to the witness, said, “Did your son have the habit of stealing things from you?”
“Was there any evidence that he stole the book?”
“He was indebted to someone in a mount of 1, 000 US dollars and therefore when the book and the money disappeared, I assumed that he was the one.”
“How much money was hidden in the book?”
“About 3, 000 US dollars”
“But he denied it?”
“What else could he have said?”
“But he denied it,” the lawyer repeated. “Is your answer yes or no?”
“Yes,” the witness said, embarrassed.
Jason Doe allowed the witness’ answer to sip through the spectators and then change his line of questioning.
“Are you presently married, Mr. Kollie?”
“I am a bachelor.”
“But you have a live-in girlfriend?”
“Does it have anything to do with this?”
“Is that your answer?”
“Well,” the witness said, “I have a live-in girlfriend.”
“Felicia Zoe is her name?”
“Is she still in Monrovia?”
“She has traveled abroad to buy goods.”
“And that means she took along a considerable amount of money for the trip.”
“Will you please tell the Court the feud that erupted between you and your live-in girlfriend a week before your son’s death?”
The witness lowered his head and began to fret with his hands. The brief silence was filled with the echoes of ceiling and standing fans rattling on their hinges.
With a frown, Jason Doe went for the kill: “Is it not a fact that on March 22 you accused your live-in girlfriend of ‘stealing’ your money for a young man that you suspected she was going out with?”
“On March 30, just before her trip to Nigeria, did you not find concealed in her bag an amount of 3,000 US dollars along with a note or a letter allegedly written by her lover requesting for money, as she had promised him?”
“Something like that.”
“Is it yes or no, Mr. Kollie?”
“Could that money not be the missing 3, 000 US dollars?”
“It could be the money or not the money.”
“On the night of your son’s death,” the lawyer continued, “which was on April 4, did you not shadow your live-in girlfriend when she reportedly visited her lover, who happened to live in the same vicinity of your son, that is in Sinkor around 14th Street.”
“Is that yes or no?”
“Yes, I was trying to find evidence against her.” A ripple of laughter filled the room.
But suddenly, the witness began to perspire. The lawyer was not done with him and moved to burst the case wide open.
“Isn’t it true that due to your intense jealousy when you hid around your live-in girlfriend’s lover’s house, which was about 11:30 p.m., you by accident encountered this man who you thought was your girlfriend’s lover but incidentally was your son?”
“It was fate,” the witness said, and covered his face with both hands.
Jason Doe said, “Perhaps it was a chance meeting but you assumed it was the man who was going out with your girlfriend and as a result you assaulted him by knocking him dead.”
“Oh, Your Honor,” the prosecutor whined, “this is getting too much.”
But the judge raised his right hand to silence him, urging the witness to answer the question.
“I was not to myself.”
“So jealousy consumed you to the point that you were prepared to kill another?”
“I had intended to only find out the information and then leave her.”
“But you could not control your emotion after you found the information and allowed your jealousy to dictate to you to kill your son.”
“I did not know it was him.”
“You did not know it was who?”
The lawyer grinned and said, “So instead of doing the reasonable thing by leaving your girlfriend, you chose to kill what incidentally turned out to be your son.”
Tears filled the witness’ eyes, and he fought them back with a white handkerchief.
“Please help me,” he said, as his face darkened and his eyes narrowed slightly.
“And still unaware that the victim was your son, a book he had taken from your house to do research for a project he had initiated, and assuming that his attacker wanted the book, he had held it till you bashed him to death?”
“Please tell him to stop because I am losing my mind.”
Jason Doe’s forehead knitted into a perplexed frown as he turned swiftly and smiled, before strolling to his table. He grinned at the defendant, whose spirits had apparently been elevated by the blistering evidence that had vindicated him.
Judge Jeboh, also grinning, said, “It is shocking the level a man can go to vent his jealous anger and concoct a plot to involve the innocent.
“This case has underscored one of man’s inherent deficiencies in his affair with the opposite sex. And while this case is horrible, the Court is pleased that an innocent man was not prepared to face a trial that would have exhausted his joy as a free man.
“The Court appreciates the forthrightness of defense lawyer Jason Doe and now stipulates that the witness must now be held since there is a probable cause to begin his trial for crying wolf in his attempt to let someone carry his load.
“At the same time,” Judge Jeboh went on, “the Court orders the defendant released.”