Characters in the Story
Deborah Beauty—The young socialite whose disappearance is the center of the case.
Samson Solo—The defendant who denied knowing the missing woman’s whereabouts.
John Sory—The prosecutor who wanted justice at all means.
William Kulu—The prosecution’s witness who has the meat on the defendant.
Dorothy Farkollie—The judge with glasses always perched on her nose.
Jason Doe—The criminal defense lawyer who believed in the innocence of his client.
Janet Lovebird—The lawyer’s private secretary who wept when she heard the ordeal of Deborah Beauty.
THE COURTROOM REMAINED quiet except for the occasional uhs and ahs of a spectator and the regular echo of standing and ceiling fans.
Prosecutor John Sorry led the witness, William Kulu, through events that led to the disappearance of Debora Beauty, and her relationship with an unidentified diplomat. Aware of the immunity clause that surrounds members in the diplomatic community, there were contentions that the case should be directed at Samson Solo, a man of many contacts, and contrasts, whose personal relationship with Debora Beauty led to her involvement with the unknown diplomat. And also for obvious reasons metropolitan newspapers had deliberately omitted the nationality of the diplomat, a source of great interest.
The victim, Debora Beauty, was a local socialite and daughter of a leading politician. Debora Beauty prowled the corridors of the rich and the famous, William Kulu told the court.
But if any of the spectators in the courtroom thought the high profile case was simply a charade due to the immunity clause that benefits members of the diplomatic community, they were wrong, for the law went after locals who were instrumental in leading the socialite to her alleged disappearance. The young socialite’s parents, though having sort of abandoned her, due to what was described as a life of debauchery, nevertheless made full appearance when the case opened, and especially when news reports indicated that the cause of her disappearance was through a youthful diplomat, who had promised Debora a trip abroad, along with the material trappings that would normally turn a young woman’s head upside down in a society where such opportunities were lacking, the witness told the courtroom filled with sympathizers and those who wanted the latest on the juicy story.
In fact, immediately after the case broke, three weeks before the preliminary trial, in which Monrovia Criminal Lawyer Jason Doe represented the man with many contacts, Samson Solo, metro newspapers went wild with juicy reports of the missing woman’s escapades with men in the larger Monrovia community.
A local daily, in its front-page banner headline declared: A SOCIALITE PAYS FOR INDISCRETION. Though there were some sympathies in the narrative, it had the lighter side of mockery, pointing fingers at parents and children who lost their sense of direction because of the love of what money could offer. In actual fact the media went for the sensation in the story to feed the ever-growing gossip community and to offer women some gossip angles of the ever present struggle of the nature of human beings in their exceptional interest in life on the streets.
But the prosecution’s witness William Kulu, perhaps out of spite for the young woman’s lifestyle, otherwise testified that Samson Solo, the accused who had aided and abetted her life, a week before her disappearance, had confided in him of the young woman’s failure to have settled with him.
“What do you mean by failure to have settled with him, Mr. Kulu?” Prosecutor John Sorry prodded on.
“It means the money she was supposed to give him.”
“And how much are we talking about, Mr. Kulu?”
“It was $2,000 United States dollars.”
“Was it the first time you personally came in contact with the accused on such a business?”
“No,” the witness said, “since we are friends, he very often informs me about what has been going on between them.”
“You have shared ideas together in the past?
“Yes,” the witness said, “he is a very good friend.”
“You must know much about Debora Beauty, then?”
“Deborah,” he said in a whisper, “was a lovely woman and a wonderful friend.”
“Therefore,” the prosecutor turned swiftly to stare at the judge, “it’s probable, and we are establishing that the disappearance is criminal mischief in which the young woman’s life has been led into danger.
“And the likelihood is that while the woman involved in this case is mature enough to handle her own affairs, she was evidently prodded on, aided, encouraged, and pushed on, and when the enterprise did not go the way of the accused we are here today to find out where the young woman is,” the prosecutor said at length.
The inference here was that the accused, seated at the defense table, had executed some form of reprisal against the woman in question, for an earlier witness had testified that the accused had had the occasion to assault Deborah Beauty during an earlier situation that involved money.
Though defense counsel Doe did not cross-examine the earlier witness, only saying he would do so at another time, the present witness seemed to convince the court of a recurring misbehavior on the part of the accused in his retaliation against the young woman when he was not compensated for his role in the affair.
As the second prosecution witness revealed the role his client had played in the life of Deborah Beauty, Jason Doe, all along had his head lowered in contemplation. It was only when the witness admitted to the prosecutor’s question, making his client responsible for what led to the young woman’s disappearance, that he lifted his head and stared directly into space.
He knew the case had a complication, particularly with a diplomat’s angle, but the question was: “Where was the woman involved?” The prosecutor could not advance the theory that the young woman was dead or had been killed, since the court would demand for her remains. And these days that many a young woman had traveled outside the country without parental knowledge, it could be that the young woman had traveled abroad and chose not to inform her parents. His client had insisted he had not seen the woman in question in the last three months, and had only “talked to her on the phone,” that his admission to the lawyer that they had worked together on a personal or private enterprise convinced the lawyer of the truth of some of the issues that had been revealed in court. But Counselor Doe could not add up the numbers that his client was responsible for the woman’s disappearance. Or there was any criminal nature or enterprise which the onus now fell on the shoulders of his client to tell her father her whereabouts.
What about the role of her parents? As many of the metro newspapers revealed, her father had been so involved in politics that he had, to say the least, neglected his daughter or as one newspaper described it, “The Honorable man has failed to take the leadership to ensure the safety of his family.”
Counselor Doe was in such contemplation when he heard the prosecutor said, “Counselor, your witness,” ending his cross-examination.
Judge Dorothy Farkollie had her back comfortably on her chair’s backrest, her eyes shone through her glasses, which perched, not sat, on her nose. The spectators, including the parents of the missing woman, wedged in their seats, with the mother’s eyes filled with tears.
In a motion of defiance, Counselor Doe deliberately stood up and turning to the accused, gave a smile. Behind the witness was the lawyer’s private secretary Janet Lovebird, her face in apparent sympathy with the accused.
Her female instinct worked along well with the mother, whose anguish of her only daughter’s disappearance mixed with the agony of every parent’s sadness.
Counselor Doe was on his feet and strolled towards the witness. In a swift moment, the lawyer glared at him, and the witness responded swiftly lowering his head and mumbled words to himself.
The courtroom remained tense. The lawyer’s reputation of rescuing the beaten and defeated from the claws of injustice was becoming legendary and many witnesses felt uncomfortable anytime Cllr. Jason Doe confronted them in the box. Such was the situation when the midday clock chimed to announce recess, ending the morning session.
Like a cue, Judge Farkollie looked at her watch and announced: “The Court will take recess and reconvene at 2p.m.” Counselor Doe smiled at the announcement, and felt relief from the tension that had built up in the courtroom. He considered the judge’s announcement as a blessing in disguise. He had suddenly discovered the angle to burst the case wide open.
True, he had picked up some points of interest that he could use for a better understanding of what might have happened to the young woman in question, as to whether she was alive or dead.
He would do that after the court reconvened for the afternoon session.
THE COURT RECONVENED exactly at 2.p.m. and there was a feeling of triumph in the atmosphere, as Judge Dorothy Farkollie reclined behind the bench and lifted her chin, and said, “Counselor Doe, you may recall the witness to the stand.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” he said, “I recall William Kulu to the stand.” William Kulu ambled his way to the witness stand as spectators’ eyes curiously followed him.
Deborah Beauty’s parents sat at their usual place, with tears in their eyes.
Moving towards the stand, Jason Doe said, “Have you had any occasion to discuss issues with Samson Solo?”
“What are some of the issues, Mr. Kulu?”
Prosecutor James Sory was on his feet, “Objected to as incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial. Not proper cross-examination.”
Judge Farkollie said, “Will counsel clarify his line of cross-examination?” Jason Doe turned swiftly to the judge and said, “Your Honor, there is an important fact that is central to the current case, which is the level of the relationship between the witness and the defendant.
“There is also a missing link about the motive for the accusation against my client, as far as his relationship with the alleged missing woman is concerned.”
Judge Farkollie gave the lawyer’s response some careful thought and then turning to the prosecutor, said, “It is well for counsel to understand the level of the relationship which seems to be the basis of the witness’ contact with the defendant and therefore I am not going to overrule it.”
The prosecutor nodded and returned to his seat, as the judge said, “You may continue with your cross-examination.” Jason Doe repeated his question.
“Well,” the witness said, “the important issue involved Deborah Beauty.”
“Have you been jealous of their relationship?”
The witness smiled, and said, “a little sometimes.”
“What is the basis or why being jealous, Mr. Kulu?”
“He was fortunate to have her as a friend.”
“What exactly do you mean when you said, and I quote ‘He was fortunate to have her as a friend’?”
“Many times they walked together and it was too unfortunate for me, and fortunate for him.”
“Did that give you some ideas, and if yes, what type of ideas?”
James Sory was on his feet again, “This is a leading question Your Honor, and I think counsel is exploiting an unfair ground.”
The judge lowered her glasses and stared at the prosecutor and then remarked, “Sustained.” Jason Doe smiled and rephrased his question.
“Mr. Kulu,” he said, “do you have any reason to hate Samson Solo?”
“But you hated his luck with Deborah Beauty?”
The witness shifted in the stand, “Well, sometimes I wish I had the opportunity he had, that’s all.”
The lawyer frowned at his reply, and squaring his shoulders, grimaced and said, “You ever entertained the thought that Samson Solo might do Deborah Beauty any harm?”
“And so you never have the cause to worry about the woman being in danger as far as she was with Mr. Solo?”
“So, as far as you are concerned,” the lawyer stressed, “the couple as friends wanted the relationship, though platonic, to remain as far it could hold?”
“Yes,” the witness said, “and that was the envious part.”
“So,” the lawyer said, “you began to show an envious spirit against the couple?”
“No,” the witness said, “I just wanted to protect her.”
“Did she need you to do that?”
“She was a woman and she needed it.”
“But there was no need for any protection, was there?”
The witness hesitated and changed his position behind the stand, and said, “As a friend I thought…”
Judge Farkollie retorted, “The witness should be able to speak about what he saw and not what he thought.”
Jason Doe grinned.
“Thank you Your Honor,” he said, and turning to the witness, he said, “Was any protection necessary for Ms. Deborah Beauty, as far as you were concerned?”
“There was something like that.”
“Like how, Mr. Kulu?”
“Deborah was moving too fast. She was just twenty one and she was blessed with a wonderful friend who was interested in sending her away.”
“Ok,” the lawyer said, “so it is possible that Ms. Deborah might have had an opportunity to travel abroad?”
“How did you know that, Mr. Kulu?”
“I was in a meeting with them and later when I met Solomon, he confided in me that Ms. Beauty was planning a trip abroad.”
“So,” the lawyer said, “you got the news about her impending trip?”
“And at the same time you testified that her disappearance is some kind of criminal enterprise which the defendant is guilty of?” The lawyer indicated with his right hand, and lifted his face so that the spectators could follow his move.
The question startled the witness and he threw his head back to gaze into the eyes of the lawyer. The lawyer’s eyes grew enormous, and the witness swept his head away from him.
The momentary action engaged the court’s attention. The courtroom remained silent thereafter as all heads turned toward the witness.
The defendant, oblivious of the trend of the case, sat pensively, his glowing but shocking eyes directly toward the witness who seemed to be providing the circumstantial evidence to seal his doom.
The echoes of ceiling and standing fans hummed along, and across from the defense table, the prosecutor hung on his chair in an expectant atmosphere.
Prosecutor James Sory’s eyes moved directly after the dramatic effect that Jason Doe’s action had occasioned, and for maximum effect, Judge Farkollie leaned close to her bench and placed her hands on its surface.
The witness meanwhile cleared his throat, and said, “I was aware of what Ms. Beauty wanted to do but it did not occur to me that her going would be so sudden.”
The lawyer thought about his reaction and squared his shoulder at the witness.
He said, “So, you are aware of the whereabouts of Ms. Beauty?”
The witness’ response was slow, and the lawyer saw the opening he had been waiting for. By the witness’ own admission, he was aware of the young woman’s impending trip, and it could be possible due to her relationship or being a mistress of someone in the diplomat community. Securing a visitor’s visa would not be difficult. Another tempting motive was the prevailing economic disadvantage in the country that was responsible for the increase in the jobless population that had affected recent graduates from the various universities.
But did it mean that the young woman was dead, or she had been killed as her parents, the media and some witnesses circumstantially claimed at the preliminary trial?
When the lawyer directed his attention from the defendant to the witness, he said, “Which country did she tell you she was traveling to, Mr. Kulu?”
The witness’ composure changed suddenly at the question, and the lawyer continued:
“Evidently, the defendant did not aid, or encourage, and neither did he push the young woman to either disappear or otherwise as you testified, did he?”
The direct question came as a surprise to the witness. He grimaced, and his shoulder sagged. He lowered his head, and found it embarrassing to lift it to meet the tormenting eyes of the lawyer.
The witness’ atrocious expression of uncertainty was evident as he continued to struggle mentally to reassert himself over the gnawing defeat. Judge Farkollie, from her corner threw her chest back and folded her hands. Perhaps she was getting the direction the cross-examination was heading to. Counselor Jason Doe was enjoying the torture. From the beginning of the case, he never believed that the young woman’s disappearance bothered on any criminal enterprise, and the witness admission had brought that out.
It was a case in which the defendant was being used as a scapegoat, a whipping boy and for an unusual reason to be branded a criminal and possibly convicted to deny him the benefit that his relationship with the young beauty had wrought. The only probable cause of the whereabouts of the young woman was that she might have gone abroad. But how come her parents did not know it? Jason Doe saw it as the missing link in solving the current case.
The lawyer was about to spring another surprise when the echo of a woman’s shoes ran through the silent courtroom. The lawyer turned and met the eyes of a young woman dressed in black slacks, with a matching blouse. She was in her mid thirties. Dark goggles occupied her face. A bailiff moved in quickly and walked the woman directly to Judge Farkollie and held a brief interaction with the judge, who turned to the lawyers and smiled.
Suddenly, the defendant erupted with a sigh, as she shouted, “Deborah, Deborah,” and he rushed towards the woman.
Deborah’s mother, whose eyes had followed the woman after she walked across the courtroom, also ran to her: “Oh darling, where have you been?”
Jason Doe smiled.