Characters in the story:
Estella Yongor—Former ‘law lady’ whose death was a mystery
Wiliam Sombai—Accused of murdering the ‘law lady’
Judge Samson Saywah—He wanted justice for all
Jason Doe—Criminal defense lawyer who believed his client was not guilty
Prosecutor Santos Weah—The district attorney who was prepared to pull all the strings against the accused
Detective Robert Monger—Who found the gold wrist watch
Samuel Boimah—The witness whose smooth composure was broken by a faint surprise and the red herring Jason Doe needed to crack the case.
It was one of the unusual homicide cases in Monrovia in recent times. Criminal lawyer Jason Doe was defending William Sombai, accused of the murder of a female lawmaker. It became apparent that the district attorney was determined to pull all the strings to bind the defendant over for a jury trial.
Though Jason Doe enjoyed such a trial, where he would stand before twelve common citizens assembled to give his client his day in court, the prosecution in this case did not have a fool proof argument, just circumstantial evidence with all its trappings of human mistakes.
The circumstances surrounding the death of former lawmaker Estella Yongor raised questions about her associates. There were reports that she might have been killed after she received a gold wrist watch, declared missing after her body was discovered, providing an added twist to the tongues of Monrovians who were following the case with passion.
Metropolitan newspapers made wild guesses on the cause of her death. In a sensational angle, one of the most respected newspapers carried an editorial with a touch of irony in the lighter side of life:
“It would be the discovery of her missing gold watch that could offer prosecutors a chance to give her death some justice.
The demise of the woman known among her colleagues as the ‘law lady’ has once again brought it painfully home that there is always a day of reckoning for what we do.
Estella Yongor’s end did not come because she had served her people well; it came because of certain decisions, ambitious as they might have been, were not appreciated by the very same people she had been hobnobbing with for many years.
Sadly, the woman known for frequenting places where even Angels would not dare to set foot, has provided Monrovians much to talk about.”
An argument in a local club about her death was more intriguing as Monrovians could not afford to ignore what they considered as the juiciest part of the story.
Estella Yongor, the controversial lawmaker’s life was full of mystery and contradiction. Consider the following, as reported during the week of her death:
“I saw the lawmaker that night,” said Monrovia Scratch Card Seller, Sam Toe. “She had on a gold watch and she was a beauty, that much I can tell you.”
“A real beauty?” our reporter heard the question from an inquisitor, a young man who said he admired the lawmaker.
Toe smiled, and said, “Yes, but there was this guy with her, and he was not that dashing in his looks, but there was something like a character in his looks.
“Then after say twenty minutes, another man showed up. He was a chubby type of guy and about twenty seven years old. His face was full of rage.
“It was hard to know what was responsible but he demanded for a gold wrist watch which started an argument that ended up in a melee.”
Our investigations revealed that the lawmaker had some inner friends and one of them could have sparked the fuse that led to her untimely death at thirty- five.
But the question is: where is the gold wrist watch? The discovery could lead to the eventual resolution of this horrible crime.
The unrestrained but incriminating reports on the case in the media demonstrated people’s anger and therefore many applauded when Judge Samson Saywah issued a gag order preventing further reporting till the preliminary trial was over.
When her body was found, parts were missing, prosecuting witness, homicide investigative officer Detective Robert Monger testified during the pre-trial.
“What else?” Prosecutor Santos Weah asked, directing his attention to Detective Monger.
“William Sombai, the defendant, was caught with a briefcase that belonged to the decedent.”
“When and where did you find William Sombai?”
“It was two days after the murder and a witness at the club mentioned that he came along with the decedent.
“We found him at his house in Duala, drunk. Evidently he was under the influence of narcotics and a test indicated it was marijuana.”
“What did you do next?”
“We took him into custody and requested assistance from the JFK Medical Center. After some help, it took him two more days before he was sober.”
“Ok,” the prosecutor said,
“What did you do next?”
“Well, when he sobered up enough, he was able to explain his involvement and particularly how he got the briefcase belonging to the decedent.”
“How did he get the briefcase?”
“He said he found it behind the club, the Mayors Club, where the decedent and her friends had been that night of her murder.”
“Did he reveal what happened to the lawmaker?”
“Well,” the officer said, “initially he was not sure what was at stake till we informed him about the death of the lawmaker.”
“What was his reaction?”
“He broke down and wept but explained that he was not involved.”
“He was not involved in what?”
“In the lawmaker’s murder.”
“And what else happened to him?”
“He admitted that he was not himself that night and therefore he could not explain any circumstances that might have led to his involvement in the murder.”
The prosecutor hesitated, and then said, “Did the defendant admit any knowledge of any of the persons that were with the lawmaker?”
“Well, he admitted being there himself, I mean William Sombai…” but he was interrupted by the prosecutor, “When you said William Sombai, are you referring to William Sombai who is the defendant in this case and is in this courtroom?”
“Yes,” the officer said, “and as I was saying defendant Sombai explained during our investigations that he had long known the decedent would end up that way.”
“’What way did he mean?”
“Don’t think,” the prosecutor responded, “just answer the question as best as you know it from the defendant.”
“In that case,” he answered, “he meant the way the lawmaker died.”
The courtroom remained quiet as spectators focused their attention on the detective.
On the defense table sat criminal lawyer Jason Doe, who watched the witness with a slight frown on his face.
“Detective Monger,” the prosecutor pressed on, “you searched the defendant’s room?”
“What did you find?”
“A wrist watch, a gold wrist watch with the owner’s initial on it.”
“Whose initials were they?”
“The initials of the decedent.”
“Do you have it with you?”
The detective searched his pocket and withdrew a gold wrist watch with the initials of the late lawmaker on it.
“What initials do you see on the wrist watch, Detective Monger?”
“They are the letters E Y.”
“Indicating Estella Yongor?”
“What was the defendant’s response as to how he came to possess the gold wrist watch?”
“Initially he was unable to explain how he came by the wrist watch till he realized the difficult position when his…”
The prosecutor said, “Did his lawyer intervene?”
“Yes and he further explained that the decedent had presented the watch to him as a gift.”
“What happened next?”
“When he was told that the owner of the wrist watch had been murdered, he said he would be blamed for her death.”
“What did he do?”
“For the next seven days, he kept weeping.”
“What did he say, during that time?”
“He would say ‘I know they would blame me, but I did not do it.”
“And he admitted without being put under pressure that he was with the decedent but could not explain specifically his role during the period that the lawmaker reportedly died?”
The prosecutor smiled and turning to Counselor Doe, said, “Your witness.”
Jason Doe strolled leisurely towards the witness and staring Detective Monger in the face, said: “You saw the gold wrist watch with the defendant?”
“And initials there indicated EY, which you testified to represent Estella Yongor?”
“But you will agree that the letters, EY can represent many other names other than Estella Yongor?”
“It could be Eternal Youth, or Esther Young?”
The lawyer saw a slightly confused look in the witness’ face, and said, “You examined the briefcase found by the defendant?”
“Yes,” he said, “and we found out several personal effects of the decedent in it.”
“Was there anything to suggest that someone had tampered with the briefcase?”
“And the lawmaker, with all due respect to her memory, was known to have certain relations with certain characters in her community?”
“Yes,” he said, “but evidently she was having a good time.”
“During your investigations, Detective Monger, the defendant was cooperative?”
The witness nodded and said quietly, “Of course.”
A flickering light overshadowed the room, as the lawyer paced back and forth, hammering out questions with a professional touch. The spectators waited patiently, expecting the lawyer to spring one of his unusual questions to get the witness to create doubts about his answers. And the lawyer did not disappoint them when he charged:
“The decedent was involved in many projects and there was one, Detective Monger, that indicated that she, on a number of occasions, argued with a man who had threatened her?”
“Police found out that that threat was not anything serious,” the witness answered, his dark and piercing eyes staring into the lawyer’s gaze.
“Who made the threat against the lawmaker?”
Searching his memory, the detective said, “It was one Samuel Boimah, who had in the past made some attempts to blackmail the lawmaker.”
“Let me refer you to the briefcase which the police collected from the defendant,” Jason Doe said. “Among the fingerprints was that of Samuel Boimah.”
“Mr. Boimah was indebted to the lawmaker in the amount of U$5,000?”
“And since Samuel Boimah was unable or did not want to repay the debt, did it not stand to reason that the pressure from the lawmaker compelled Boimah to engineer the lawmaker’s demise to free himself from the debt burden?”
“Well,” the witness’s smooth composure was broken by a faint surprise as he fumbled his response, “we… considered that angle.”
Nodding slowly, the lawyer said: “And what was your answer from that angle?”
The lawyer’s question seemed to freeze the witness into inaction.
The embarrassing situation was saved when, Judge Saywah said, “The court finds this case very interesting and stipulates with the benefit of the defendant that there is the angle of Samuel Boimah that the police will need to investigate and therefore the court hereby orders the defendant released from custody.
“This case has all the trappings of mystery in connection with how an individual who was expected to give society some direction, however, took her liberty for a chance. Nonetheless, while our society thrives on individual freedom, the court finds it appalling that someone would elevate himself to an executor of evil against another for a debt that he legally owed and as a wanted to avoid his responsibility.” With that the judge replaced his glasses on his nose, swept his head across the courtroom, held his gaze temporarily on Jason Doe’s face, then on the district attorney’s face and emitted a wry smile with a nod.
Jason Doe responded with a frown, drew a handkerchief from inside his left coat pocket, wiped his face, and like a cue, the judge bolted through the back door, as spectators strolled towards the door.
Looking at his client, Jason Doe smiled and indicated with his head that all was fine and it was time to leave, which his client responded to with a grin.