It was the third session of the most important preliminary trial of the case and defense lawyer Jason Doe must shake off the testimony of the last prosecution witness, in whose hands seemed to dangle freedom for his client or bounding him over for a jury trial.
Six months had passed since the case began and now District Attorney Jay Sutu, having concluded direct examination of his important witness, was sure that he was almost at the point of wrapping up the case into the death of former Monrovia socialite, Anita Joe, precipitated by an accident that led to the amputation of one of her legs.
The circumstances surrounding her injury angered Monrovians and lawmakers began to agitate for a solution, putting pressure on the DA to get justice for the victim by identifying and convicting the accused. With someone of interest in custody, the case was forwarded to Court to begin the preliminary trial on how Troy Lee hanged himself and how possible that could lead to the arrest of the person who killed Anita Joe.
Defendant Desmond Hay whose girlfriend, Cecelia Nowah told prosecutors that Hay had confessed his involvement in the murder of Anita and, by implication, might be responsible for her death was now facing trial for her murder. Troy Lee, found hanged on the outskirts of Brewerville reportedly had credible information that could have led to the arrest of the man who was accused for his attempt to murder, and resulting into the amputation of her left leg.
While justice was seen as the major concern, many people claimed that the defendant’s girlfriend was apparently motivated by the US$20,000 that an anonymous person had offered for the identification and prosecution of the criminal and not so much about justice for the debauched life the victim had led.
District Attorney Jay Sutu concluded his investigation, pointing out that the case smelled of deliberate harming of another and therefore it was a case of attempted murder, leading to serious bodily injury with the loss of one of Anita Joe’s leg.
In the preliminary trial, the defendant’s lawyer, Monrovia criminal lawyer Jason Doe, noted for stampeding such cases to his clients’ advantage could not agree to the position of the prosecution and on the third day of the trial, turned the courtroom into a drama with interesting ramifications.
Before Cllr. Doe began his cross-examination, Cecelia Nowah, defendant Hay’s girlfriend, as a witness for the prosecution, seemed to have the case wrapped up. She stood at five-five, and weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. She was dressed in a tight fitting pair of jeans and a loose blouse and her wukus were definitely too telling to ignore.
Her eye-lids were particularly noticeable since they stood alert, having been done specifically for the trial. Her black blouse was an indication that she was disturbed by the tragedy that befell her friend Anita Joe, and she even told prosecutors that both victims were some of the nicest friends she ever knew.
The courtroom was packed to capacity; spectators had washed their hands with chlorinated water, located at the entrance to the courtroom, as mandated by health authorities, due to the fight against the Ebola virus disease.
An observer at the occasion would have realized that the spectators were not only interested to seek justice for the victims but also to ensure that the fight against the Ebola virus was contained.
At the defense table sat defendant Desmond Hay whose future hung in a balance. The question on the minds of many was whether he made any confession about his involvement in either the death of Troy Lee or Anita Joe, since by known accounts, Anita led a life of debauchery and did not care who got hurt in the process. Interestingly, Anita’s alleged life of abandon had excited metropolitan newspapers, who had had a field day about it, and had contributed to the exceptional interest that seemed to have agitated Monrovians.
Though the amount of US$20,000 put up by an unknown person to help find who killed Anita Joe drew many people’s attention and queried the police about whoever provided the money, and whether the person may not have any other interest that could be the motive for the support. Of course, those on the other end held the opinion that though human life was precious, in a society in which many survived on the equivalent of one US dollar per day, the loss of one person to result for another unknown to put up so much money, demanded more questions.
“It could cause greedy people to sacrifice somebody they don’t love anymore,” was the refrain heard on the streets of Monrovia.
Some of the people did not agree that any of those who did not appreciate the lifestyle of the decedent had any right to judge the victim, since in a society that deeply made references to God in all things, only God was their judge.
Interestingly, many of them accepted the reality that the law did not allocate the right to live the way you want only to be judged by Him, for many legal minds pointed out that when God gave the Ten Commandments, He wanted man to carry out justice to ensure that society remained calm and peaceful.
But to get justice for the victims in the current case, the trial must go on, and so when it began, hundreds came to the court and did not want to be left out.
On the morning of the third day of the preliminary trial, Prosecutor Jay Suku could not hide his pleasure and he leisurely ambled his way back and forth as he kept his focus on the witness, on who the state depended to ensure their case.
Under the prosecutor’s line of questioning, she testified that her boyfriend, defendant Desmond Hay confessed to her that their life would change for the better, after he completed a job that put the end to the decedent and showed her a huge sum of money for completing the job.
She also stated that Desmond told her that he was under the strongest secrecy not to disclose the name of his sponsor, but meanwhile explained how easy it was for his plot to cause the accident that compelled Anita’s’ leg to be amputated, “because from what I was told to do, I was to cause her to lose any of her limbs.”
She claimed that she did not have anything against her boyfriend, and insisted she still loved him, “I could not allow love to blind me when someone’s life is involved.” She denied that her primary motive was the US$20,000 that she stood to gain, after her boyfriend’s possible conviction.
“Your honor,” the prosecutor said, “I call the woman’s death as a murder, as it has been corroborated by this witness.”
Judge Solomon Yarley glared at the prosecutor, and leaning forward, he placed his two elbows on the bench, and nodded.
The prosecutor, in another dramatic fashion, turned swiftly to the defense lawyer, and regarding Jason Doe in the face, said, “Your witness.”
The audible echo of ceiling and standing fans filled the courtroom as Jason Doe limped towards the witness. The courtroom remained tense and a drop of a pin could have been heard. Judge Yarley held his peace as the lawyer hobbled toward the witness, and a smile wedged at the corner of his mouth.
Though satisfied with his conclusion, the prosecutor sat nervously with his face blank, as if he had left something important unsaid, just when defense lawyer Jason Doe began his cross-examination.
“US$20,000 is a lot of money?”
Smiling, the witness said, “Yes.”
“It is money that many people,” the lawyer said, “can be fooled to sacrifice even those who are close to them.” The lawyer’s statement was loaded with conclusion and the prosecutor was about to jump to object when he followed it up with another question.
“You have been with Desmond Hay,” he said, “for the last five years?”
“Yes, except the last one year.”
“How good were those years?”
“Well,” she hesitated briefly, “They were good, except recently just some misunderstanding.”
“And,” the lawyer said breezily, “the last one year has not been good, though you described it as due to some misunderstanding it is a fact that you got hooked up to a former boyfriend?”
“It’s got nothing to do with anything of that sort.”
“But you got hooked up with a former boyfriend?”
“Is it yes or no?”
“Yes,” the witness said, “if you insist.”
Nodding, the lawyer said, “The former boyfriend is Dada Solaris?”
In a glaring stare, she remarked, “Yes and I’ve known him before meeting Desmond.”
“Have known him, meaning he was a boyfriend and he recently returned from abroad?”
The lawyer walked to the defense table and consulted papers briefly, and returning to the witness said, “You have been meeting with this man, Solaris even though your boyfriend Desmond has indicated his displeasure?”
“For old time’s sake.”
“But your recent problems have been because of this fellow who recently came back from abroad.”
“Not exactly but it is part of it.”
“Part of it in what way, Cecelia, please remember that you are under oath.”
“In words…words…” she fumbled, providing the lawyer the chance to conclude the case.
“Solaris,” the lawyer said, “told you it would be easy to become U$20,000 richer by implicating the man that you no longer loved?”
“Not in those words,” she admitted inaudibly, and spectators strained to catch her response.
Sweeping his eyes across the courtroom, and glaring at the witness the lawyer said, “It is Solaris who led you to believe that since you no longer loved Desmond, you must as well get rid of him.”
“How could I do that?”
“By being a witness for the prosecution, and agreeing to link Desmond to a murder that he did not commit.”
The witness began to shout, “Please stop, stop,” but the lawyer went on in full blast.
“You agreed to implicate him once he is convicted you and your new love would be USD20,000 richer?”
The prosecutor was on his feet.
“Your Honor,” he said directing his attention to Judge Yarley, “counsel is confusing the witness.”
Looking at the prosecutor, the judge brought his glasses on his nose, and with a grin, said, “The Court has followed the development of this case with a great amount of interest since it involves the life of a young woman whose adventures may have led to an intended action that another man is being accused.
“While her death was unfortunate, the presence of U$20,000 to help identify and convict the criminal has introduced another dimension that we are witnessing, for it is the court’s opinion that Ms. Cecelia Nowah has been influenced by another character that the Court cannot simply ignore.”
Judge Yarley’s grimace met the grin of Counselor Doe, whose features showed a successful conclusion of a case that appeared initially against his client.
By now the witness’s tears could no longer be contained despite a number of paper towels that the clerk handed her, as she kept mumbling words that spectators interpreted to say, “I told him I did not want to do it but he said we would get free money,” and when the judge heard that he said, “The Court will take fifteen minutes recess.”