Characters in the Story:
Jason Doe—the criminal lawyer who believed that his client was innocent.
Anthony Dawson—the spoiled son, whose life was in the balance.
Sam Dawson—the Real Estate owner and politician whose murder rocked Congo Town
Col. Prince Massaquoi—the officer who wanted Cllr. Doe’s head
Lt. Wilfred Bono—the prosecutor who did not like Cllr. Doe and was determined to get results.
Sam Monday—the ex-convict who thought he could send his friend to jail.
Janet Love-the beautiful secretary of Cllr. Doe who told the lawyer to get the truth from the witness.
Judge Elizabeth Trobe-a no-nonsense judge who gave the defense much room to work.
Congo Town—a community near Monrovia
IT WAS evidently one of the major cases to demand the attention of the community of Congo Town, near Monrovia in recent times. The individuals involved were popular figures in the community and the father in particular was a local boy who had made valuable contributions to many of the needed residents. But the star attractions were the newly promoted police officers Lt. Wilfred Bono and Sgt. Prince Massaquoi of the homicide division, whose duty was to ensure justice for the victim and to remove those who were not prepared to live as peaceful citizens.
From their initial contact the two officers did not take a liking to criminal lawyer Jason Doe, for they were aware of his successes in several cases that the Police Department had lost. The embarrassment had caused government prosecutors more disaffection by the public and they were determined to change that.
But if the two officers had wished for any showdown immediately they assumed office, the murder of Samson Dawson, 55, owner of The Dawson’s Real Estate, and a prospective candidate for the House of Representatives, was a case made for them. So with the case Anthony Dawson v The Republic of Liberia, the preliminary round was interestingly set for the unexpected surprises.
Prime suspect Anthony Dawson was the decedent’s thirty five year old spoiled son, whom the Monrovia’s metropolitan newspapers described as ‘the presumed gambler.’ Several newspapers ran several stories that showed the accused in so negative light that many objective residents could not help but to insist that he was doomed beyond redemption. But not Criminal lawyer, Jason Doe. The lawyer was a fighter, who would go the extra-mile for his client. He believed in justice and as a trial lawyer, he held sacred the element of ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’ and he would not compromise on it, a position that had gradually earned him high marks, and won him many admirers.
From the word go, Tony Dawson had already been convicted in the court of public opinion, for the media claimed that he did what he was charged off, because of earlier reports of the apparent feud between the son and the father, now the decedent. It was therefore no surprise that the whole community of Congo Town was present at the preliminary trial on the raining morning of 21 September. The accused was small and light, fine-boned and has a look of frailty. His hair was short, rather finely cut, and his eyes were startling deep brown in a pallid face. His small frame filled the chair beside the lawyer. In fact he was perched, not slouched but perched despite his effort, in the chair and flicked a startled glance upwards and instantly looked down again at the Counselor Doe and then at the spectators in the courtroom. All in all, mama’s boy was written rather plainly on his face, and the impression was only hardened on the eventual circumstantial evidence of the case about his role in the death of his father.
The prosecution, under the gritty Lt. Wilfred Bono was assisted by Sgt. Prince Massaquoi before Judge Elizabeth Trobe. Judge Trobe was one of the few but prominent female legal minds in the country. Perhaps, the officers had chosen the available case to make a difference to change the frequent successes of defense lawyers, particularly criminal lawyer Jason Doe, who was becoming a rising star in legal circles as his past successes had demonstrated. His recent success case was ‘The Case of the Abandoned Lover” which exposed the weakness of the prosecution and questioned the capacity of state prosecutors. There was also ‘The Case of the Businessman’s Daughter;” which failed to stand the pressure of criminal lawyer Jason Doe’s cross-examination. The two officers were determined to change that, for they were as determined as defense lawyer Jason Doe in the search for justice for victims and those who, unfortunately failed to recognize that one person’s freedom ends when another’s begins. They were unwilling to compromise on the craftiness of any defense attorney to the detriment of potential victims, as well as defenders of the rights of those whom the state had the responsibility to protect as a sacred duty.
Now with the ball now set in the case, the morning October rain drummed on the ceiling as Judge Trobe signaled proceedings to begin.
“You can call your next witness,” Judge Trobe said, and the brief murmur among the spectators ceased.
“I call Sam Monday to the stand,” Lt. Bono said, and while the witness’s steps echoed as he mounted the stand, Counselor Doe grimaced and swept his eyes across the courtroom, as if to give him some reassurances.
“Your name is Sam Monday?”
“Tell the Court the events of Tuesday September 10.”
The witness had apparently received some support from the police, for his response to the officer’s direct question was evidently calculated with energy and power.
Light of excitement appeared on his face, and rubbing his hands together narrated the events of Tuesday, September 10. He testified he had met the accused at the Lover’s Inn where he was looked disheveled and seemed to have just arrived from a physical fight. Upon enquiry, he told the Court that the accused told him, his father would not get what he wanted anymore in this life.
“I asked him what he meant and he said, ‘can’t you see what I have done after taking care of him?’ and when I also wanted to know his father’s physical condition, he claimed ‘he was gone forever.’”
He further testified that the accused physically showed a bunch of money that he claimed he had taken it from his father and as a result he would never go broke in his life.
He said Tony Dawson then invited him to a drink and while he called for one carton of Guinness Stout, he also invited everyone in the Inn to join him in celebrating the luck of his life.
“He told the gathering that the drinks were on the house and they could drink anything they wanted.” He admitted that Tony Dawson was his friend and both of them were compulsive gamblers.
When he was asked if he had anything against the accused, the witness drew murmurs from the audience when he said, “Not against a man who has the gut to kill his father,” which the defense “objected to as incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial,” and the judge cautioned him about his answer.
Judge Trobe said, “Just a moment, gentlemen. The Court will presently stipulate that the witness will have to follow the procedure as it is protected by law and will no more inject his personal opinion in the case because the Court is sufficiently clothed with the authority to elucidate the circumstances of the case.”
“Thank you Your Honor,” Prosecutor Lt. Bono said, and turning to the witness said, “It is important you stick to your answers without making opinions that have the tendency to suggest your personal biases.
“Nonetheless, just answer to the question as clear as you are able to do. Now I am going to ask you this: did the defendant’s appearance and demeanor suggest to you that he was somehow influenced by anything other than his natural ability, for example regarding his understanding of what was going on around him?”
The witness considered the question for a moment, and said with a smile, “I must be honest with you, Sir, for I don’t want to seem bias in my comments but in truth if I must offer a position regarding the defendant’s appearance and demeanor as you mention then I must be bold to declare that he seemed perfectly aware of what he had done and what he had offered the roomful of people.
“I don’t want to get on the nerves of the judge and I am honest in my statement about what I am able to remember about what the defendant said and told the gathering that day he returned from wherever he had been.”
“Thank you,” Lt. Bono said.
Suddenly, Judge Trobe glanced at her watch and signaled the lawyer as well as the prosecutor to her bench, and remarked, “I see it is time for the afternoon break and therefore I am going to order proceedings to continue after the recess at 2pm.”
The case was then adjourned.
THE LIGHT afternoon sun streaked through the window office of criminal lawyer Jason Doe. The lawyer reclined on a large chair. His attitude was like someone who needed a lot of patience to get through a difficult situation.
It was evidently clear that he was somehow troubled. The lawyer’s eyes looked empty and his face looked troubled. His express was modest and a thoughtful reality filled his large eyes with penetration with books of various persuasions, particularly law books lined on the right side of the wall in the office. There were four chairs, two of each sat forlornly on each side of the lawyer’s table, significantly located on each side.
With much of the two hours recess already spent, the lawyer strolled to his private secretary Janet Love, in the outer office and grinned at her. The young woman responded with an echo of disappointment as she stared at the lawyer, who began to pace back and forth.
“How many minutes do we have left?” he said, casually.
“Twenty five minutes,” she said, and lifted her head, and when the lawyer turned to look at her, rolled her eyes and swept her head backwards, with a smile.
“I know what you are thinking,” the lawyer said, as his feature indicated someone in deep trouble.
“I’m sure you know, Sir,” Love responded, and pulled her chair closer to her computer. She switched her personal computer on and it flickered back and forth. The humming sound of the machine came to life.
“The case against Tony Dawson does not look good,” the lawyer said, “but I can bet that he is an innocent man.”
Janet Love in a practiced response nodded, her eyes glinting in the light that threw its oblong shadow into the office.
She said, “Samuel Monday was there when he arrived at the Inn and offered everyone claiming that it was free and even suggested that his problems were over, after he was asked about his father.”
The lawyer began to pace back and forth with his two hands inside his trousers’ pockets, his face solemn like a man who had deliberately committed a crime and awaiting response that he did not expect.
He strolled to the center table and drummed his fingers on the surface. The light noise echoed in the office and his secretary lifted her head to meet the lawyers gazing eyes.
He said, “Dawson had no business offering drinks on the house,” and then added, “even that did not lead any tangible circumstantial evidence to establish his involvement in a crime.
“All the claims are circumstantial and the only issue is that two officers are determined to stick their neck at me to develop the theory of his involvement.”
Ms. Love nodded.
“The defendant looks innocent enough to me,” she said, “but as it is now, neither a motive nor any incriminating evidence has been established.”
“Exactly,” the lawyer said, “if at all the motive is established, then of course at least the prosecution can establish that the defendant apparently did what they claimed to gain an undue benefit.
“I have been examining the case and I feel the officers’ determination to get equal with me has blinded their sense of judgment to show that there is reasonable ground for believing the defendant committed that crime. The Court will subsequently make an order binding the defendant over for a jury trial.”
The lawyer continued to pace back and forth and then suddenly turned around swiftly, with a yell, which caught the attention of his private secretary.
“Don’t tell me,” she said, smiling. “You’ve found the missing link.”
The lawyer ignored her remark and moved closer to her table, and said, “I should have known this.”
“That the prosecution officers’ determination to get at me has caused them to overlook the fact that Samuel Monday, during his testimony, claimed that he is a compulsive gambler, putting himself along with the defendant.
“And by admitting that he is a compulsive gambler questions his sincerity. Reason being that a gambler cannot be trusted and therefore the motive that he has to dump his friend is simply because of something personal,” the lawyer said at length.
Janet Love adjusted her dress behind her computer, pulled her head behind and said, “The court will reconvene at least fifteen minutes after the two hour recess, and therefore you can have the goods on him to let him come clean of the motive behind his claim against the defendant.”
“But I am doubtful of something,” the lawyer said, “assuming that the defendant told the gathering at the Inn to drink on the house…can anyone who apparently might have committed a heinous crime like a murder be bold enough to openly offer friends and others and say what they claimed he said?”
“That doesn’t seem likely,” she said.
“Which brings me to the point you suggested that during the afternoon cross-examination I can shake him up to force the truth out of him.”
Janet Love smiled with a nod.
The lawyer glanced at his watch and saw the time ticking closer to the resumption of the case. He gave a deep breath and swept his eyes across the room of his private office. He stood in the middle of the room for a second and directed his attention at his official table located at the corner of the room. He watched the scattered documents on the table and said under his breath, “I hate scattering documents like this,” and began to gather them, putting them in their respective places on the shelf. There were large volumes of books packed on top of each other. The lawyer had reviewed recent Supreme Court decisions, and smiled at the one upholding the legality of the Code of Conduct, that should affect aspirants who did not resign from their official positions, two years before. The lawyer lifted the volumes one by one and shelved them.
The echoes of his secretary’s shoes drummed behind him and the lawyer turned around suddenly to meet her gaze.
Her eyes filled him with horror but the faint smile filled him with reassurance and the lawyer regained the self confidence that was leaving him with dread. The case was an unusual one, but not a case he had not handled in the recent past. He thought about what might be the recourse when Liberian politicians and their lawyers juggle about the Code of Conduct, and he smiled again.
On the current case, he knew a young man’s life was at the center of the case and while he believed that many were those who would have the motive to ensure the demise of their parents, it was extremely hard for the lawyer to believe that ‘mama’s boy’ could be one of society’s misfits to commit such a crime.
He was, however, aware of the recent civil-war that resulted into the deaths or rather murders of thousands of people by otherwise innocent kids in their teens.
But in a personal one on one situation, the lawyer had grilled the defendant on his whereabouts of the night of September 10, when his father was allegedly cut down. Though he had been evasive initially, the lawyer believed him when he explained about his innocence.
With glowing eyes indicating a sense of reassurance the lawyer turned around and stared at what seemed like a blank face of his secretary.
His direct gaze forced her to lower her head, and the lawyer’s voice boomed into her ears.
“Janet I am going to burst the case wide open,” the lawyer said, as he led the way, with the secretary following to court with six minutes remaining for the resumption of the case.