It was the third week of the trial metropolitan newspapers described as “The Case of the Lonely Daughter,” since the accused was not only the daughter of the decedent, but was also the defendant. The preliminary trial was going the way of the prosecutor until the leading witness was called.
John Peah was the third prosecution witness who seemed to have what was needed to lay the case on the accused. When he was called to the stand, he stated that he knew Elizabeth Davis and the now decedent, Willie Davis, having been invited to the couple’s home by Adele Davis to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. He had, on the sixth day of December, visited the decedent’s house and he was much alive and healthy as well. He had spent several hours with them and had been well fed. He enjoyed his visit and later, he asked permission to leave. The couple had suggested he should wait a little while and they had returned to their bedroom, or one of the rooms he considered to be their bedroom. After some minutes, he said he heard noises, in what he thought was an argument between the couple, which was followed by what he realized was a gunshot. He then rushed to the room only to find his benefactor slumped on the ground, and it was then that his daughter Adele Davis, the defendant in the case, approached him with US$5, 000 to say nothing about the incident. He also testified that Mrs. Davis, who was also present in the house, shielded 26 year old Adele Davis, adding that both mother and daughter connived to kill the father.
He further testified that Adele Davis was drunk; and when Mrs. Davis saw him, she snatched the murder weapon from Adele’s hands and broke down in tears, suggesting that the motive for Mr. Davis’ death was the allegation that his child from another relationship, said to be his most adorable, stands to inherit from him huge properties in Monrovia.
Prosecutor Robert Duo grinned. Turning to the defense table, he said: “Your witness,” and ambled his way to his seat.
Defense Counsel Jason Doe frowned at the prosecution’s instruction and strolled leisurely to the witness.
“What time did you arrive at the house?”
“About 3 p.m.”
“The couple invited you?”
“And the wife and husband were extremely glad you could come?”
“Yes,” the witness smiled, and said. “They were happy I could visit with them at their house.”
“Did you notice the presence of Adele Davis?” the lawyer asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Not at the time I arrived,” the witness said, “until when I heard the argument.”
“But there was no indication of any misunderstanding between the couple and the daughter initially?”
“That’s as far as you were concerned?”
“How long did you stay with them?”
The witness hesitated and said, “At least 30 minutes.”
“And so you told them it was time for you to leave?” the lawyer said. “But then they wanted you to wait?”
“The couple proceeded into what you considered to be their bedroom?”
“It did not take that long before there was a heated argument?”
“I think there…”
“Don’t tell me what you think,” the lawyer said, “tell me what you saw.”
“Well,” the witness said a bit irritated, “they cussed each other.”
The lawyer was thoughtful for nearly a minute, then said, “Be specific. What clearly did you see?”
Suddenly, the prosecutor was on his feet, with an objection:
“Counsel is browbeating the witness to get him confuse the timeline of events.”
Judge Bendu Smith looked down on defense Counsel Doe, and said, “Why does the prosecutor say so?”
“The events that culminated to the murder of the decedent are all clear to this minute,” the prosecutor said, “and so I strongly hold the belief that there is no need for counsel to put too much emphasis on the timeline of the murder.”
With a smile, the judge said, “This is a serious observation, but the Court wants to ensure total fairness in this process and therefore will give counsel every support in the process.”
“Thank you, My Lord,” the prosecutor said with a bow, “I thought I had to make that clarification.”
“And I think,” Judge Smith went on with expected contempt in her voice, “you did that fairly well and the court takes a different view on your position and wants to stipulate that under no circumstance should the prosecutor assume that he has a responsibility to educate the court on the management of the trial.”
The prosecutor bowed in submission and there was a murmur among the spectators, which was evidently a blow to his presentation.
The judge turned to Jason Doe and indicated, “You may continue, counselor.”
The lawyer frowned, and with a smile, decided to change his line of questioning, not as a result of the prosecution’s overzealousness but rather to pursue a point of fact he had observed could help his case to bring out the corpus dilecti; that is to say, the body of the crime, which he had observed lacking at this stage of the proceeding.
“There was an argument in the room?”
“Which was obviously that of the couple with their daughter?”
“Yes,” the witness said, “but I did not realize the couple had Adele Davis in the room; and now that you mentioned it, it was the couple and Ms. Davis in the house.”
“So from your location,” the lawyer said, “when you saw the commotion, you rushed to intervene?”
“Well,” the witness said, shifting his position, “it was a fight and I never thought about it at first but later realized that it was in the family for a long time.”
“And Adele Davis was in the room with the family?”
“Ehhhh….” the witness fumbled, “I heard that she…”
“Don’t say what you heard just what you saw.”
The witness glared at the lawyer and sweeping his head away from him, said, “It became apparent to me that Adele Davis came to the room twenty minutes after I had arrived.”
“When you entered the house, and particularly into the living room, did it occur to you that either the husband or the wife had recently returned from a trip?”
The witness gave a deep breath and said, “I did not observe anything like that.”
“And you were invited to the occasion? Who did invite you?”
“The couple did.”
“You testified that Adele Davis invited you to the celebration…”
“The fact was that I was invited by somebody which was obviously the family,” he said.
“But it was not the person you testified, invited you, was it?”
The witness turned to look at the prosecutor as if he needed some support. Turning to the lawyer, he said, “It could be Adele Davis.” The lawyer saw the inconsistency, and with a smile turned to look at Judge Smith, who nodded in anticipation.
Walking to the defense table, Jason Doe made a show of examining some documents. He pulled out a sheet of paper, gave it a brief look, returned it to its place and walked back to the witness and said: “According to a mobile phone record obtained from your provider, you called Mrs. Davis’ number one hour before the incident. Can you tell the court your reason for the call?”
The witness shifted his position and said, “She called me.”
“Who called you?”
“Mrs. Davis called me.”
“Why you did not say that when I put the question to you earlier?”
“I did not think it was too important.”
“But now it is important, isn’t it?”
“It is your word.”
“Mr. Peah,” the lawyer kept the pressure on, “when you arrived at the house, you were met on arrival by a house girl identified only as Josephine Tarley…”
The witness interrupted the lawyer.
“I know this will come up in the end; and the truth is that Josephine Tarley is a friend that I had known, even before she went to work for Mr. Davis.”
Smiling, Jason Doe said, “So it was Ms. Tarley who called you; it was Ms. Tarley who called to give you the information that Mr. and Mrs. Davis were at home and it was due to that call that you sneaked into the house, through a backdoor opened by Josephine Tarley…”
“I don’t know what to say now…” the witness said, with his head turned away from the lawyer. The lawyer saw the opening and went for it.
“You do not have to invent anything to say, Mr. Peah. You need to tell the court how you entered the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Davis.” The lawyer’s statement fell on the witness and he stood in the witness stand unable to make a response.
“I’m beginning to get the whole picture from you,” the witness was able to say after a couple of seconds. The witness fumbled with his hands, and lowering his gaze at the lawyer, said, “Many things are complicated; and this one, too.”
“What is complicated?” Jason Doe said and turned to Judge Bendu Smith, whose attention was drawn by the witness’ statement.
Judge Smith requested the prosecutor and the lawyer to her chambers for a conference.
Thirty minutes later, Jason Doe, Mrs. Davis, Adele Davis and a host of friends and sympathizers gathered at the lawyer’s office on Benson Street to congratulate the lawyer for the resolution of the case.
“What really happened,” Mrs. Davis said, “that you discovered the relationship between Peah and Josephine?” The lawyer smiled and lowered himself onto the overstuffed chair at the corner of his law office, and said, “I should have realized that there was an element that that could have connected Peah and his presence in your apartment.
“Josephine had promised to marry him but the problem was that Peah was in debt and wanted money to extricate himself since he was at the point of losing his job.
“Josephine had promised to find him money and aware of your husband bringing huge sum of money to the house, she plotted with Peah to steal the money. But the problem was how he would get into your apartment. What saved him was the 20th wedding anniversary, for which Josephine secretly sent him an invitation.
“However, when she managed to sneak him into the apartment, he came face to face with your husband and Peah panicked. It was in that process that he shot your husband with your husband’s gun that Josephine had provided him.
“In the course of the trial, it finally occurred to me that the witness did not know Adele for the mere fact that Adele was nowhere around when he sneaked into the room and neither did Mrs. Davis had any contact with him.”
The gathering congratulated each other, and Mrs. Davis pulled out a checkbook and signed a check for U$5,000 and handed it to the lawyer.
Jason Doe received the check, glanced at it, smiled and said, “It’s time for some celebration.”