Long before American missionary Lucas Richard had his first day in court, the court of public opinion had already written him off as a sad commentary. To some, it is a grave disappointment for an unsuspecting family who embraced him for marrying their daughter, whose life he allegedly attempted to take. To others, given the testimonial evidence already stacked up against him, no amount of prayer or preaching could rescue him from the weight of the law.
Accused of attempted murder of his Liberian wife, Richard was led in handcuffs by armed police from the headquarters of the Liberia National Police, placed in a pickup truck, and taken to the Bushrod Island Magisterial Court, on the outskirts of Monrovia, for his first court appearance.
Given the nature of the case — a U.S. citizen accused of attempted murder of a Liberian woman — police appear to be extremely cautious about their handling of the defendant.
Ahead of his arrival at the courthouse on September 19, police were already there, in riot gear, waiting to receive him. They quickly took him into the building while two armed officers stood facing outward, guns ready in case of any mob activity.
Inside the court, Richard sat alone on a bench, wearing a black shirt, tan shorts, black, socks, and brown leather shoes. He was handcuffed, clasped hands, his head slightly bowed.
Soon, the relatives of his Liberian wife, Jessica Lloyd, found their way into the court, eager to hear the beginning of court proceedings.
While waiting, Richard asked someone, “excuse me, can I have my water.” A man poured some water into a cup, drank some himself, to show Richard that it was OK, and then Richard drank some.
The first order of business in the courts was for justice officials to take an inventory of all of Richard’s personal belongings. Everything that was said there was audible to everyone in the court.
“Two briefs,” said the same man who had given him the water, as he began verbally listing Richard’s belongings. Without protective gloves, the man went through Richard’s underwear and other things, item by item, as a woman in a khaki uniform dutifully wrote down what she had seen.
“Some are clean and some are dirty. Some are rolled up,“ Richard voluntarily informed them.
The indignity of them literally airing his dirty laundry had not yet occurred to Richard who, up to this point, appeard cooperative and not necessarily concerned about privacy. Yet, this may very well be a foreshadowing of startling discoveries as the case unfolds.
“One Bible. One small Bible, pocket sized Bible,” the man continued as his colleague took note.
“Seven cups of medicine,” the man also announced, pulling out a plastic bag containing a lot of various medications.
Suddenly, Richard began to complain that his privacy is being violated by journalists in the court recording what medications he has.
“This is not America here,” one of Jessica’s aunt’s said out loud, responding to Richard’s complaint about ‘violation of privacy’.
The medications in Richard’s possession could prove to be of key relevance to the trial, given that Jessica earlier told the police that Richard gave her an injection, which caused the termination of her pregnancy.
Among the medications in the plastic bag inventoried by the court were anti-anxiety pills, used to calm people down. Through their side-effects or incorrect use, such medications could potentially cause drowsiness, dizziness, disorientation or sedation.
Jessica’s family, including her brothers, who had been paying keen attention to the inventory exercise, tried to remain calm.
“He’s really brave,” a Liberian woman who was there for another case said, observing Richard and speaking about how brazen she felt he had been to commit the crime he was accused of.
As Lucas closed his eyes, the woman said, “he say he praying. You see him closing his eyes?”
“God can’t answer him, self!” Another woman responded.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Jessica’s aunt, who said she raised her, said “he was coming kill this girl for nothing, oh!”
The woman there for another case said: “he doesn’t even know the mess he’s gotten himself in.“
Meanwhile, cops in riot gear waited outside, walking back-and-forth, watching the road. People weren’t checked for weapons before entering the courtroom.
Up to this point, no lawyer, family, friends or colleagues of Richard had shown up to represent or commiserate with him.
His lawyer finally showed up, asking: “Ehn da the place the white man did the thing with the girl?”
Dressed in a shiny gray suit, shiny royal blue shirt, and a navy blue tie, the lawyer says he’s from the Foundation Law Services, Inc.
Court proceedings begin.
Inside the court, Richard’s lawyer, who wore an affable smile, argued that the case is “beyond the jurisdiction of this honorable court.” He asked that the case be “sent to the appropriate circuit that bearing original jurisdiction over this matter.”
Though there was no objection from the state, there were mentions that ‘attempted murder’ is a capital offense and, therefore, Richard was not eligible for bail. He was therefore remanded at the Monrovia Central prison at South Beach, Monrovia.
“This matter has been successfully transferred,” the judge said as he hit the gavel, prompting police to take Lucas Richard outside, place him into the pickup truck, and left.