Characters in this Story
Jason Doe—defense counsel who knew there was the truth somewhere
Janet Dagoseh—she was facing preliminary hearing to establish her role in her husband’s death
Daniel Togba—the judge who was affable in his demeanor
Joshua Sackor—the prosecutor who told the defense: ‘your witness…’
Sam Weah—who was accused but claimed he was innocent
Samson Dagoseh—the decedent whose death linked his wife and who linked the accused
Dorcas Soko—the woman whose name ended proceedings
A triumphant atmosphere filled the courtroom as Judge Daniel Togba entered at 9 a.m. with an air of affability, bothered on many years of judging criminal cases. The defendant, Janet Dagoseh was facing a preliminary hearing in the case in which she was denying culpability in the death of her husband in a fire incident in central Monrovia, on July 25.
State prosecutor Joshua Sackor walked his client through the night of the incident, to establish her innocence.
“How long had you been married?”
“We had been married for ten years.”
“And he was a wonderful man?”
“Yes, he was a man of my heart.”
“Did you have any reason to kill your husband?”
The defendant hesitated, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, and gave a deep breath before adjusting her position on the witness stand: “This question has been thrown at me by many. The truth is that I had no reason to kill my husband of ten years. And if anybody thinks there is any reason, let them prove it.
“Like all human relations, marriage has its ups and downs; and that, I think, is normal. That would not give me cause to hurt another human being—let alone my wonderful husband.”
“Thank you,” the defense counsel said, as he walked towards his bench. He searched through documents on the table and after a couple of seconds made three steps towards the defendant. With an unmistakable air of triumph, he solicited: “Tell us about the night your husband died, Mrs. Dagoseh.”
The courtroom remained silent.
“It was the night that I wish I had not lived to hear about,” she was barely audible, and the spectators in the courtroom leaned forward.
“I had left the house about 6 pm for choir practice. The church is located in Sinkor, and I rode a motorbike for the almost twenty-five-minute ride. Practice ended about 7:30 pm. There was a meeting that caused me to stay a little longer so I did not leave the church until about 8:30 p.m.
“By 9:00 p.m., I was nearing the Benson and Gurley Streets intersection when I saw a huge fire and the defendant Sam Weah coming from the house, along with lots of people hurrying in the direction of the well-lit sky. Others milled around. I overheard their conversation about the fire which had killed a man they claimed was drunk in his bed.
“I did not think about any danger to me or whether Mr. Weah had anything to do with the fire till I got closer to the house when a neighbor met me and wondered how I managed to survive the fire.” She halted and wiped the tears from her eyes.
She continued, “I came to myself about 30 minutes later in a hospital bed because I had fainted. It was after I had been told of my husband’s death that rumors began to sweep across the community that I was apparently involved in my husband’s death since I was not killed in the incident.
“I am a broken woman and tired of life after losing my husband and the only house my parents left for me. My parents died in a blazing fire in 2009; I was the only survivor…” her voice broke again and there were murmurs of sympathy from the audience.
“When Weah saw me,” she continued, “he began to run through the large crowd of people.”
“Your witness,” the prosecutor said, turning to defense counsel Jason Doe. It was clear that the woman’s testimony, along with previous ones suggest circumstantial that Sam Weah could have something to do with the blaze. However, Jason Doe knew there was too much for Mrs. Dagoseh to gain with her husband’s death and to pin on another, an innocent man, was hardly the way to do it.
The accused did not factor too much in the prosecution’s deliberations with Mrs. Dagoseh but it was apparent that Judge Togba had drawn up some conclusions but, the lawyer knew he had the trump card to bust the case wide open. From closer observation of proceedings, he knew there was something fishy and he would chase whatever it was to ensure justice not only for his client but for the man whose charred body was discovered after the blaze.
The lawyer decided to ignore a certain portion of the case and concentrate on the most pertinent points that could make any woman, the greedy type, an unholy belief that they could do away with their husbands and turn around to enjoy their loot.
As the lawyer approached the witness, he turned momentarily to the accused, whose eyes were filled with tears. The lawyer knew Weah had been a frequent visitor to the decedent’s house, as it was brought out in previous hearing and it was clear that Mrs. Dagoseh was a cunning, cold-hearted woman of steel. The lawyer swept his head away from the accused with a reassuring smile and strolled towards the witness.
The courtroom tensed as ceiling and standing fans hummed, overshadowing the spectators with the afternoon breeze.
Janet Dagoseh lifted herself as if to say “I’m ready Jason, go ahead” regained her composure, rolled her eyes, and threw her head back as defense counsel Jason Doe stood before her.
A temporary silence followed which unnerved her, and unable to withstand the silence, tears that had been her companion since her husband died in the blazing fire, came to her assistance.
“Your parents died in a fire disaster in 2009?”
“You were the only survivor?”
“Your husband, or rather your late husband Samson Dagoseh worked for the United Consulting Company?”
“Yes,” she said, “he was an accountant.”
“He worked there for ten years?”
“And he had an insurance policy that said at his death you, his wife, would benefit from a life insurance amount of US$100,000?”
The prosecutor was on his feet, “Leading the witness; what is the relevance of this line of questioning, your honor?”
Judge Togba lowered his eyeglasses and said, “Will the defense tell the court the point of this question?”
“Your Honor,” Jason Doe said, “I am trying to establish a motive for murder. I am aware of the issue of relevance and the court will agree that the defendant has had a history of a fire incident that claimed her parents, leaving to her to benefit a sizable amount when she had just married the decedent…”
“Very well,” Judge Togba said, “you may continue.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” Jason Doe said, and turning to the defendant, said. “You are supposed to earn 100,000 United States dollars as an insurance benefit from your husband’s death?”
“Yes,” she said, lowering her head.
“The last time you had a similar experience, which was in 2009; besides the house that you inherited, you received an insurance benefit of U$175,000?”
“At the time you had just married?”
“You told the court that on the day of the tragic fire incident, on June 25, you went to choir practice in Sinkor and you arrived home around 9 pm?”
Jason Doe, in an exciting tone, said, “Are we not in the raining season, Mrs. Dagoseh?”
“Yes,” she said, “but the rains are not falling every day.”
“But on July 25, how was the rain that day?”
“It did not rain that much.”
“On the night the fire killed your husband, how much fell?”
“I cannot remember.”
“But you remember that you went to choir practice?”
“I don’t miss choir practice.”
“Yes, you don’t but the day fire killed your husband you went to choir practice, you can only remember that you went to choir practice and not how much rain fell that day?”
“What did you tell your friend Dorcas Soko, who visited you at the hospital the day after the fire, killed your husband?”
The defendant appeared surprised at the question and stared at the prosecutor.
“I spoke to her as a friend.”
“What did you say to Mrs. Soko when she told you that she believed you were bewitched, making reference to your past experience when your parents died? Remember you are under oath.”
“I did not mean what I said.”
“Tell the court what you said to Mrs. Soko that you are claiming you did not mean to say.”
Suddenly, the defendant slumped down in her chair, out of the spectators’ view. The bailiff, sheriff deputies, and several police officers rushed forward to help. Judge Togba readjusted himself on the bench and with a grin, beckoned the defense and the prosecutor to have a conference in his chambers.
But before that the judge picked up his gavel and struck twice, announcing the adjournment of the case.