Characters in this story:
Jason Doe——-Criminal defense counselor who was willing to hear the case
Janet Love—Cllr. Doe’s private secretary
Sam Dennis—-Private Detective
Clarisa Jay—-one of several women recently returned from Lebanon and seeking justice
Helen Joe—-Another woman also seeking justice
Criminal lawyer Jason Doe readjusted himself on the big swivel chair in his officer and grimaced as his private secretary Janet Love entered the office. She shut the door behind her and with a grin said, “A young lady of about twenty three wants to see you.”
The lawyer grimaced and said, “She made any appointment?”
“No,” Janet Love said, “but I think she has a case that she wants you to handle.”
“She told you that?”
Janet Love smiled, and said, “She tried to say something about a promise for a better future that did not turn out to be that.
“She looks extremely hurt because of what she describes as a major disappointment happened outside Liberia; that is, it happened in a foreign land.”
The lawyer began to drum his fingers on his table, and said, “When is the next appointment coming in to see me?”
“In about 15 minutes.”
“Ok,” the lawyer said, “then I’m prepared to hear what the young woman has to say…and what she said is her name?”
“How well dressed is she?”
Janet Love looked away from the lawyer with a smile and said, “Chief, she is like daddy’s girl who did not get the promise she deserved as a little girl.
“Her hair is braided with an attachment; and that is in no way suggestive that she is well to do, since Monrovia girls love to dress. She is about 5 feet 4 inches and weighs about 140lbs, indicating to me that she is careful about her weight.
“One thing about her – and this, Chief, is how girls in Monrovia love to do – that is her eyelashes are prominent as they are straight looking at you, and they give her face a beautiful look.”
“Ok,” the lawyer said, “you have interested made to be interested in this girl and I think I can see her now.” Still laughing, Janet Love turned around swiftly and was out of the room.
A few seconds later, the lawyer’s doors swung open, and Janet came along with a young woman who walked towards the lawyer, with her eyelashes staring at him.
The lawyer used his head to direct the young woman to a nearby chair, as he heard his secretary grabbing a pen and paper to jot down in shorthand what was about to transpire.
The young woman seated herself and pulled her blouse over her knees after she placed the left on the right, and lowered her gaze.
“Your name is Clarisa Jay?” the lawyer shot back at her. The woman lifted her head slowly and as it met the gaze of the lawyer, responded, “Yes.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“I have been looking for a good lawyer to handle an important case, and a friend of mine mentioned your name and I came to find you.”
“Ok,” said the lawyer. “You know I am a criminal lawyer and therefore I don’t handle any other case…”
The young woman responded, “I know but this case can only be handled by you.”
“Why don’t you tell me what your case is about, because I am expecting a client in 15 minutes.”
The young woman took a deep breath and responded, “You don’t make it easy for me to say what I want to say.”
“But you came to see me because I am a lawyer?”
“And you are ready to tell me about your case right now?”
“Yes,” she said, and lowered her head, “but I don’t have money to pay you even if you decide to take my case.”
The lawyer regarded her for a second and said, “Ok don’t let me or don’t think I am not interested in your case because you don’t have money to retain me. Lawyers are people with conscience who fight for the dignity of others.”
“Can I tell you my story the way it happened to me?”
The lawyer responded, “That’s what I want you to do.”
The young woman turned her side and grabbed a long lady’s purse, and placed it on the table before the lawyer. His private secretary Janet Love, was busy scribbling in shorthand what was taking place. At one point the young woman turned nervously to look at her.
The lawyer, observing it, said, “Are you Mrs. or Ms. Jay?”
“I’ve never been married and so Ms. Jay is fine.”
The lawyer said, “Ms. Love is my private secretary and so don’t feel any apprehension about her presence here.” The young woman swept her eyes at Ms. Love, whose smile gave her some reassurance.
Ms. Jay said, “Before I begin to tell my case, what is that you do for your clients, Mr. Doe?” Her question elicited a smile from the lawyer, and though he assumed that whoever recommended him to her might have told her about what he could do for his clients, but felt that it could hurt restating his objective as a criminal defense lawyer.
So, Jason Doe said, “My answer is in two words: I fight, but to give some clarity, it means I fight for my clients and I go the extra mile to get them justice.”
The young woman said, “I like that spirit and I want you to know though this is not a criminal case, it is more than that.”
“Ms. Jay, Ms. Jay…you are among more than 10 young women who were recently brought from Lebanon?”
“Yes,” she replied and suddenly tears formed in her eyes, “for five years I was in Lebanon with other girls and we want justice, but it does not seem that we can have it.”
Cllr. Doe was aware of the story that local dailies described as ‘Deceptive Promise,’ when the girls were promised education and jobs in Beirut that turned out to be domestic work; they were poorly paid, physically assaulted by their madams (the women they worked for), and even tortured when they spoke
up against their inhuman treatment.
The lawyer had followed the case, held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, and knew that the case was thrown out due to legal technicalities against prosecuting lawyers who had not regularized their memberships to the bar; and how the case had inconsistencies and therefore had no basis in the court of law. The lawyer knew also that the accused, a Lebanese national, was released from further detention.
Cllr. Doe was also aware that the case ended and prosecutors had been trying to get the case restarted and the defense had said the case could not be tried twice, invoking the principle of ‘double jeopardy.’
The lawyer turned to Ms. Jay said, “Ms. Jay it is interesting that what is being discussed by prosecutors and lawyers is the principle of ‘Double Jeopardy’ a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges in the same case following a legitimate acquittal or
Cllr. Doe said “Though there is an appeal before the Supreme Court for reconsideration…that is to say to look into the case, but the defense, I’m convinced, could enter a peremptory plea of autrefois acquité or autrefois convict, which ‘autrefois’ means ‘in the past’ in French.
“It also means that the defendant has been acquitted or convicted of the same offence and hence that he cannot be retried under the principle of ‘double jeopardy.’”
Ms. Jay said “Does it mean the issue is dead?”
The lawyer replied, “While I cannot be forthright to state the obvious, the principle is that if prosecutors raise the issue, evidence will be placed before the court which will normally rule as a preliminary matter whether the plea is substantiated; if it is, the projected trial will be prevented from proceeding.
“In some countries the guarantee against being ‘twice tried’ is a constitutional right; but in other countries, the protection is afforded by a statute.”
Jason Doe regarded the young woman for a while and his heart went out to her. If the law could not give her justice, who could? It was an interesting question, since the Liberian initially believed in their cases and made submissions to the Lebanese government to resolve what the young women went through.
The other side of the story, Cllr. Doe knew, was the ‘pain and suffering’ that his client went through, and he chose to put it before her.
“Ms. Jay,” he said, “from newspaper reports on your case, you claimed you were abused and even denied the basic needs as a human being?”
“Yes,” she said, slowly. “I was thrown into jail, and it was there I was tortured. At one time I was placed in a room with low temperatures, and the most hurting thing was that they took away my clothes and I thought I was going to die.”
The lawyer folded his hands across his chest, as the young woman ended her explanation. He knew this woman deserved some justice and could not understand why it had not happened or why no one had believed her.
“What attracted you to volunteer to go to Lebanon?” the lawyer said, trying to ease the high tension that had built up. “What was really attractive?”
“I wanted to go to school and be able to get a job, and I was misled to believe that I could get them in Beirut.”
“Did you get any commitment on paper that those were possible?”
Ms. Jay said, “No, there was only a verbal commitment. Another issue was that I was told not to inform anyone about the trip.”
“For fear that someone could block my way,” the young woman said. “Through ‘juju’ because there have been stories that those who revealed what they were planning to do or to travel abroad ended up dead or something else happened to them.”
“And so you kept everything that the man who helped you to travel to Lebanon told you to yourself?”
“Yes,” she said, and began to sob.