Characters in the story
Sam Dwalu—The suspect who cried innocence
Anthony Kollie—The witness whose hostile behavior forced the judge to intervene
Willie Korboi Jones – The musician whose murder drew the attention of the community
James Layman—The prosecutor, who the judge told to let due process find the accused
Jason Doe—Defense Counsel who believed his client was innocent
Eva Choloplay—The Judge who was concerned with the due process rights for both the decedent and the accused
Though the life of the 28-year-old musician Willie Koboi Jones was involved – and many people knew he had a brilliant future – newspapers described the case as one that was purely engineered by the love of money. It was not strange that metropolitan Monrovia dailies devoted much of their columns to the case. One interesting aspect was that the decedent was a resident of Kakata, Margibi County, and a rising star among musicians. On a competitive occasion, Willie Koboi Jones, known among music fans and the entertainment industry as The Real WKJ, had caused more than 3,000 Monrovians to converge at the Monrovia City Hall, a record that was yet to be broken.
At the preliminary trial, Defense Counsel Jason Doe listened in horror as witness after witness indicated that the decedent was so reckless that it would seem his death was ordained by his actions. But who then killed The Real WKJ? And what was the major reason that one of his friends, Sam Dwalu, who happened to be the musician’s most adored fan and promoter, was accused of his murder?
As the preliminary trial proceeded, witness Anthony Kollie testified that the decedent was the best friend of the suspect and he saw them at many places together. He claimed, when prodded on by Prosecutor James Layman that on the week of his disappearance, the decedent had US$25,000 in his possession and the suspect informed him later that the decedent had given him the money.
Kollie further testified that contrary to the claim by the suspect that he had no knowledge of the money, the decedent had called him a few hours before he was reported dead and his body discovered under the Bong Mines Bridge on Bushrod Island in Monrovia on November 2, that “he suspected his close friends are after him,” in reference, he said, to the primary suspect’s involvement, which he claimed might have led to his death.
On the source of the money, the witness explained that The Real WKJ received the money from a man whose name he did not reveal and that the money was intended to complete a house that the decedent had started more than two months ago.
At best the case was based on circumstantial evidence because the police, during their investigations, created several circumstantial theories about what might have happened. The only reason that compelled them to arrest Sam Dwalu as the primary suspect was a phone call he had made to the decedent a few hours before his body was found.
Though Dwalu denied any involvement, he could not account for his whereabouts around the hours that police investigators indicated the singer was allegedly murdered. It was apparent that witness Kollie’s testimony and the allegation that the suspect was found with the amount of US$25,000 belonging to the decedent were factors that led to his arrest. However, Counselor Jason Doe, representing the suspect in the pretrial case, was of the opinion that circumstantial evidence was not enough to convict his client. “It must be beyond all reasonable doubt.”
So when Prosecutor James Layman exhausted his questions, he turned to the defense in a triumphant murmur, “Here is your witness,” and walked away leisurely.
Spectators in the court room waited with impatience. In fact, the media had raised the level of interest in the case to fever pitch. Some of the metropolitan newspapers in their editorials compared the singer’s death to the recent tragic war in the country, insisting that the search for justice had never been too necessary than the solution of Willie Jones’ murder.
One newspaper compared Jones’ murder to that of the little Angel Togba whose murder raised so much attention and agitation that it had become a standard procedure for lawyers to make reference to it in their search for justice.
Criminal lawyer Counselor Jason Doe, on the other hand, believed that while the search for justice was universal, forcing others to accept a crime they apparently never committed was also a misleading the search for justice.
Now, as he strolled towards the witness who seemed to struggle with himself in the stand, the crowded courtroom remained silent.
The only echo was the rattling noise of ceiling and standing fans, located at vantage points in the courtroom, humming along and filtering much needed air over the spectators.
“Anthony Kollie,” Counselor Jason Doe said, in a well modulated voice that indicated his inner frustration. “You don’t seem to like Sam Dwalu, do you?”
Kollie, in a surprise move, wrung his hands, and made a face. The lawyer observed it but deliberately allowed his eyes to sweep across the spectators.
“I like all my friends, Sir,” the witness replied.
“How long have you known the suspect?”
The witness shifted in the box, and said, “I have known him for about three months and up to the time my friend was murdered.”
“How close is your relationship?”
The witness considered the question for a second, and said, “Just a casual friend, I mean someone I see around. We don’t normally share things in common.”
The lawyer frowned at his response, and continued, “How do you then know that the decedent was murdered b y the suspect?”
The witness again hesitated, and then replied, nonchalantly, “The prosecutor and the police told me that he murdered him.”
Counselor Doe shrugged his shoulders, and walked deliberately towards the defense table, considered some papers and returned to the witness.
“You testified that the suspect told you that the decedent gave him US$25,000?”
The lawyer’s smile was a bit triumphant when he said, “Kollie, you told the court that your relationship with the suspect has been casual and both of you don’t share things in common, did you not?”
“Is it yes or no, Anthony Kollie?”
“Yes,” he said, raising his eyes, “if that’s what you insist.”
“And you have seen him around for about three months?”
“I told you already.”
Judge Eva D. Choloplay lifted her head, adjusted her glasses on her nose and in an irritated voice said, “The court cannot accept the scorn that this witness provides to answers posed by the defense and will want to stipulate that under no condition should a hostile witness demonstrate his unwillingness to ensure that ‘a due process’ is offered to the suspect.
“Nonetheless, it seems probable that to ensure the eventual resolution of the case, the witness will have no other choice but to offer answers that can lead to the provision of justice by the law.”
Prosecutor Layman swiftly jumped up from his seat, and made a defense to the witness’ action: “Thank you Your Honor but it seems also that counsel is using some tactics that the witness understands to lead him to contradict the information already provided during the examination.”
Judge Choloplay adjusted herself in her seat, and glaring at the prosecutor, said, “The prosecutor must understand that he can have an adequate time for a re-cross-examination if he feels the information being provided by the witness is affecting his earlier examination.
“The court cannot accept innuendos from the prosecution and the witness and I stipulate that the witness should not let the court to believe that being a hostile witness, he is providing information under strict instructions from the prosecution, which is contrary to the spirit of due process.
“The court cannot entertain the unwillingness of the witness, for justice means that the one who is providing the information about a suspect, particularly in a murder case of this nature, avail himself all the chance he could to ensure the equitable dispensation of justice.
“I need not remind the prosecutor of the due process right of the suspect and there is absolutely no way that this court will maintain the belligerence posture of a witness, particularly this witness whose actions so far seem to mitigate against the very search for justice.”
The judge’s remarks were enough for the prosecutor to see the seriousness and the apparent displeasure of the court.
Layman then dejectedly said, “Thank you, Your Honor,” and turning to the witness, said, “You need to provide the required answers to counsel because I am here to protect you and therefore don’t create any disaffection with the court.” The blow was too clear to be seen, but the prosecutor thumped his nose and filled back in his chair.
Now fidgeting in the dock, the witness lowered his head and made a comment under his breath. Judge Choloplay turned to defense counsel Doe, and said, “You may resume the cross-examination,” but she took a swift look at her wrist watch, and said, “We are nearing the end of the morning session and therefore I am ordering the case adjourned for fifteen minutes recess.”
Defense Counsel Jason Doe smiled, but his attempt to look at the defense was met with a sneer of opposition.
The lawyer then turned to the suspect and he saw his soul was smitten and scourged but still invested with dignity and innocence. The lawyer had seen such a character before. Though his duty was to ensure his defense, he could not tell if the issues being presented, though circumstantial, the hostility of the witness could work against his client. However, he was thankful that Judge Eva Choloplay was a character full of justice.
Jason Doe could depend on that to find justice in this case.
THE Court reconvened after recess and Judge Eva Choloplay, said, “The witness may return to the box,” and turning to defense counsel Jason Doe, indicated it was time to resume his cross-examination.
The witness, Anthony Kollie ambled his way to the stand. He adjusted his free-flowing shirt and stared directly into space with a puzzled expression on his face.
Counselor Doe stood up, and in a swift moment, glanced at his wrist watch. The temporary effect was unexpected, for the witness attempted to smile. His face suffused with a smile at the corner of his mouth. It was so brief and it deserted him, for his mouth remained in a hollow position. He strained his eyes and there was a mock incredulity in his eyes. The witness then clamped his teeth together.
Judge Eva Choloplay, from her bench, waited patiently, and seemed flustered. The brief silence in the courtroom ignited laughter from the spectators and the judge sounded his gavel for order.
Counselor Doe, moving closer to the witness, regarded him thoughtfully.
“You have known the accused for a short time?”
“Yes,” the witness replied, his glowing eyes empty.
“And as far as you’re concerned,” the lawyer continued affably, “your relationship, if I can call it so…”
“We have no relationship,” the witness interrupted.
“Very well,” the lawyer countered, “then is it correct to assume that you can never confide in someone that you have had no relationship?”
“I would never do that,” the witness said, lifting up his chin, “I can only trust those I have known for many years.”
“But you testified in this court that this man,” the lawyer made a dramatic turn, pointing to the accused, whose seemed to stare into space, “informed you that he had collected U$25,000 from the decedent?”
The witness moistened his lips with his tongue, glanced somewhat helplessly at the prosecutor and the judge, then said, “Things happen when you less expect people to act normal.”
“Is your answer yes or no, Mr. Kollie?” Doe pressed on, his feet planted apart, his shoulder squared directly towards the witness.
Then suddenly, Prosecutor James Layman, sensing the tight spot that the witness had been cornered, responded, “Objected to as improper cross examination…”
“Overruled,” Judge Choloplay replied from her bench.
Counselor Doe’s eyes seemed granite, and his hands found their way into his side pockets. He withdrew them and folded them across his chest then let them fall on his sides.
“Is your answer yes or no, Kollie?” the lawyer repeated.
“No,” he said, “I would not want…” The echo of the spectators’ murmur swallowed his response.
“And yet you want this Court to believe that this man that you cannot trust, this man that you admitted you have no relationship told you what you claimed he did?”
“Yes,” the witness said in a whisper, “I think God exposed Robert.”
The courtroom exploded into laughter.
Counselor Doe watched the witness, and moving directly to the defense table, considered a couple of papers scattered on the table. He searched through them and in a practiced action, done as a result of dealing with scores of clients, shrugged towards the witness.
“Mr. Kollie,” he said, “you responded to my last question and I quote you, ‘I think God exposed Robert,’ who were you referring to?”
The witness’ eyes grinning, he pointed to the direction of the accused, “That’s him there.”
“And his name now is Robert?”
“I know his name.”
“And so all your testimony has been against a Robert but not a Samuel Dwalu?”
The witness said, “I can swear to my ma.”
“Swear to your ma about your inability to remember names, Kollie?”
“That Robert Quelie is the one who told me about the money.”
Counselor Doe turned to the prosecution table and emitted a smile. Now walking back to the defense table, he pawned through a couple of sheets, and meeting the eyes of the accused, he nodded with a smile.
Returning to the witness, the lawyer said, “Mr. Kollie, is your real name Anthony Kollie?”
“Yes,” he said, “I can swear to my ma about it.”
“You pointed your finger a while ago to the man who is sitting at my table there…” the lawyer said, and allowed the witness a moment to look at the direction indicated, “are you still sure that that man over there is
the one you know as Robert Quelie?”
The witness hesitated and with a smile, nodded.
“So now you have come to realize without anyone asking you that that man over there at the table that you testified about his involvement in the case is not the man you received the information from?”
The witness nodded.
The lawyer saw the opening and went for it.
“Mr. Kollie,” he said, “does the name Doris Wloto mean anything to you?”
The witness shouted in haste, “Don’t mix her into this, because I have already been told about you.”
“Why not, Kollie?”
“Because our business has nothing to do with this case.”
“Can you tell the court who actually gave you the information about the missing US$25,000 and where you were when the musician Willie Koboi Jones was murdered on the night of September 10?”
The witness lifted his hands and covered his face, and cried out, “I can’t believe this, I can’t just believe this.”
When he dropped his hands, spectators’ were drawn to a young woman who walked briskly towards the witness stand. A bailiff interrupted her and matched her to Judge Choloplay.
Spectators in the courtroom looked more surprised.
Suddenly, Judge Choloplay asked for a conference with the lawyers and the young woman. Few minutes later, the group returned to court.
Judge Choloplay said, “This preliminary trial has turned to a dramatic finish and after consulting with this young woman, who gave her name as Doris Wloto, the court is going to permit the witness Anthony Kollie
to answer to counselor’s question about the role Ms. Wloto played in the current affair and particularly the witness whereabouts, the night of September 10.”
Anthony Kollie said, fuming, “I know you will betray me; I know you will betray me.”
Judge Choloplay then said, “The court now understands that there are incriminating issues that are yet to be resolved and the court finds it compelling to order the release of the primary suspect, Sam Dwalu. The court is now convinced and stipulates that proceedings against the accused, to wit, Mr. Sam Dwalu be halted thereof.”
As Cllr. Doe shrugged to his table, and the court waited momentarily from what the judge had said, bailiffs moved towards Anthony Kollie, who then shouted: “Women are devil, for I did not know that she could turn a viper and exposed me.”
Judge Choloplay realizing the frantic outburst of the witness further said, “The Court will now order the witness held pending further investigations.”
Thirty minutes later, Mr. Dwalu sat in the lawyer’s private office in downtown Monrovia, on Benson Street and before him was a bottle of whisky. Jason Doe’s secretary Janet Lovebird reclined behind her personal computer and a former police detective William Boyd, rested in the big loveseat, with a grin in his eyes.
“It is over and it’s time for some vacation,” Janet Loveseat told the lawyer, as she busied herself hitting the keys of the computer. The lawyer who was by now comfortably seated at his big but comfortable chair laughed.
“I sure need a vacation,” the lawyer said. “But first of all I think Sam Dwalu rather needs more than a vacation since he has just been to hell and back.”
Mr. Dwalu smiled, overwhelmed by the dramatic turn of events.
“I need to thank you,” Dwalu said, pleased with the persistence of the lawyer, particularly for believing in his innocence.
“A lawyer job is to fight for his client,” Jason Doe said with a smile. “You need a big party for your deliverance.”
Across from Jason Doe, the former police officer dozed off. Before him was also a bottle of whisky and the echo of his snoring moved his chest back and forth.
Jason Doe felt the success of the case and wondered how on earth even people who were involved in other crimes tend to mislead the very people clothed with the law to help them. He could also not be convinced about those who find themselves in circumstances of their own making and turn around to blame others.
He thought about the nature of the crime and felt pleased that another innocent man had been released from the machinations of man’s inhumanity to man. The snoring of the former officer brought distance memory of the witness who swore under oath about someone that he never met before. Life lessons, he considered, offer the best defense in life.