On Trial

On Trial – Episode 10

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On Trial – Episode 10

© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu

‘Charge No PHC/121/2016,’ the court register called. ‘State v Abayomrunkoje Quadri.’

Koje stepped into the dock at the back of the court. He was dressed in a white long sleeved shirt with gold cuff links. The first two buttons were left open and the shirt was neatly tucked into his black slacks revealing the expensive brown belt that matched his shoes. He looked good and Kaira noticed that eyes kept straying in his direction. Those who knew nothing about the case were probably wondering what offence such a handsome man could be charged with and some might have concluded that it would have to be fraud.

Appearances were recorded and the Senior State Counsel prosecuting the suit fielded PW5. The twenty-something year old woman in powder blue blouse and black formal trousers, heels clicking, walked into the witness box. The registrar reminded her of her oath and then announced to the courtroom:

‘All witnesses in this case should be out of court and out of hearing.’

The witnesses walked out of the courtroom as was the custom. Anyone who stayed back would have his or her evidence treated with caution. The only witness allowed to stay back in court had to be a party to the suit.

‘On the last adjourned date, you told this court that you had once seen the Defendant and the Prosecutrix in a compromising position but the Defendant had pretended as though he was taking something out of the Prosecutrix hair.’

Kaira’s appearance was with one of the counsel in her firm, Isoboye Yellowe who helped her take down notes. She was a fast writer so that all Kaira had to do was make notes necessary for her cross-examination. The first thing she took out from the witness was that she was good friends with the Prosecutrix and also an admirer. Tari went on and on about how the defendant took his good looks too far by expecting his female workers to fall at his feet. Laide was not the only one he had harassed but she was the only one who had tendered her resignation. Kaira objected to this, saying that the bad character of the defendant was not a fact in issue and therefore not relevant. The court sustained the objection to the consternation of the prosecution.

‘When you say you saw the defendant and the Prosecutrix in a compromising position, what did you mean?’

‘He was standing very close to her in his office.’

‘Just standing?’

‘It wasn’t a normal kind of standing.’

‘Please educate us on what amounts to normal and abnormal kind of standing.’

‘He was standing too close to her.’

‘Was he kissing her or touching her?’

‘I- I think so.’

‘But you are not certain.’

‘I think that’s what they were doing.’

‘It is correct to say that all you have told this court about the Prosecutrix and Defendant is basically what the Prosecutrix told you.’

‘She wouldn’t lie to me,’ Tari responded.

‘Of course. After all, she was your role model.’

‘Don’t you dare talk about her like that!’ Tari warned Kaira angrily.

The judge immediately cautioned her.

Kaira noted that this witness was uncommonly protective of the Prosecutrix and wondered just what their relationship really was.

‘And you’re here simply because you are upset because the Defendant made no advances towards you no matter how many times you threw yourself in his face.’

‘That’s not true. He’s-’

‘After the Prosecutrix left the employment of the Defendant, he sent a recommendation to her current boss.’

‘Yes. Laide is a hard worker and Mr Quadri wrote in the letter Laide showed me that she came highly recommended.’

Laide hadn’t said anything in her evidence about Koje recommending her to her new boss.

‘That will be all for this witness my Lord.’ Kaira told the court.

‘Any re-examination?’ the judge asked.

‘Yes, my Lord,’ the prosecutor responded. Turning to the witness, he asked. ‘Why did the Defendant make the recommendation?’

‘I wish to object my Lord,’ Kaira said rising to her feet. ‘The essence of re-examination is to clear ambiguities that may have arisen in the course of the cross-examination and the answer given by PW5 was very clear.’

‘Objection sustained. Any other question?’

‘No further question my Lord.’

‘You may return to your seat,’ the judge told the witness.

The Prosecutor announced that he had another witness in court. The witness was called from outside the courtroom and directed to the witness box. PW6 chose to affirm and repeated the words after the registrar. He was a medical expert and a distinguished looking man, everyone agreed. He was impeccably dressed in his tweed suit, plain shirt and tie and black trousers. He had a sprinkle of grey hairs which spoke of years of experience.

The courtroom was silent as everyone listened to Professor Adeyinka Coker talk about the caution taken in establishing DNA, the intricacies of the subject and the carefulness he had exhibited in doing same with respect to this case. According to him, the major focus was on the identification and typing of sperm cells collected from the victim’s body, clothing or bedding, in this case the cushion of the sofa in the living room of the Prosecutrix. The suspect’s underwear had been collected along with penile swabs. These samples were tested for the purpose of establishing the presence of the victim’s DNA on the suspect, thus linking the two individuals. The presence of female DNA whether through saliva or v*****l fluid on the p**** and/or underwear of the suspect was possible given the large amount of nucleated cells present in both of these fluids. However, where ejaculation did not occur and there was therefore no semen present, skin cells shed from the p**** inside the victim’s v***** could be collected. He went on to establish how Koje was successfully linked to the alleged rape.

By the time he was done with his evidence, three-quarters of the courtroom watched him with awe. Kaira looked at the judge who didn’t look impressed. Great.

Kaira had done an emergency online research on DNA and spoken to a doctor friend but she needed more time to take this man on. Cross-examining an expert witness was never easy because he or she was an authority in his or her field. And so you had to make yourself knowledgeable in that field in order to be able to ask the right questions and not be made a fool of. Wasn’t that why lawyers were said to be learned?

Fortunately, the judge, after the lengthy lecture on DNA and how it had been used to establish that it was the defendant’s semen that had been found inside the Prosecutrix, asked counsel to take multiple dates for continuation of hearing. Being a criminal matter, long adjournments were frowned at and so they were able to secure eight dates with the first being twelve days from that day.

She had run a few dates by Koje before the court sat because it was key that he be present at every sitting. If he missed one sitting, a bench warrant would be issued for his arrest and a fresh bail application would have to be moved to secure his release.

‘This case is hereby adjourned to the…’ the court reeled out the dates, ‘for continuation of hearing.’

‘As the court pleases,’ was the general response.

Kaira took a bow and hurried out of the courtroom with Isoboye. Koje joined them outside the court and she could tell that he was pissed but he still found the time to gaze at Isoboye with unhidden admiration. Isoboye smiled at him, blushing when he winked at her, the kind where you slowly close one eye then open it for effect.

For real? Kaira thought, shaking her head.

As Isoboye hurried to the car park, Kaira faced Koje.

‘I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, Mr Quadri, but my lawyers are out of bounds to you, until this case is over. I can’t believe that you still have the mind to flirt considering that you have been charged with the offence of rape and one of the prosecution’s witness almost had the court convinced that the Prosecutrix wasn’t the only female employee you had sexually harassed.’

‘Being charged for an offence doesn’t automatically translate to me being dead and incapable of emotions,’ he replied. ‘I’m still a man.’

‘I never said you weren’t. But next time you want to flirt please have the decency of waiting until I’m gone and stay away from my female lawyers.’

He smiled slightly.

‘Are you by any chance jealous, Ms Madukaife?’

‘Of who?’ she returned. ‘Don’t make me laugh.’

‘You are jealous,’ he said with conviction.

‘You wish. Inukwa ? O Chim! ’

He laughed.

‘My only connection to you is this case and once we’re done, I have no further business with you unless you’re paying me for another case.’

‘My lady protests too much.’

‘And you are beginning to annoy me. What you should concern yourself with is getting out of this one and while you’re at it, I’ll advice that you take up celibacy as a lifestyle until judgment is given.’

‘That’s not healthy,’ he said horrified.

She gave him a wicked smile. ‘I’m sure your girlfriends will make it worth your while when you get back into the market. Right now Laide akugokwa gi afia – Laide has spoilt your market.’

‘You’re joking right?’

‘I wish. Unless you intend to pay double what I’ll be charging you for this case in order to get me to defend you on a fresh charge, you had better keep your zip up. If you don’t know what to do with your money, I’ll suggest that you give it to charity unless you intend to pay off every woman you sleep with to avoid litigation, because as it stands, they are all going to be claiming you raped or tried to rape them and you will end up back in prison.’

‘God forbid,’ he spat.

‘He won’t forbid it unless you and that thing dangling between your legs respect yourselves. Do well to come over to the office by 3pm so we can agree on my fees.’

She walked away, feeling his dark brown eyes on her. She had been rude but rightly so. How could he be flirting as though the charge brought against him was inconsequential? It wasn’t as though he was being sued for groping a woman’s breast in his club. He certainly wasn’t helping his reputation in her eyes by his actions.

She found Isoboye waiting beside her car, talking to another young lawyer. The lawyer greeted and Kaira responded with a smile. She was happy there was no sign on media present but that didn’t mean someone hadn’t taken photographs of her standing with Koje just outside the Block B building. She would know when she went on Facebook later in the day or Rashidat drew it to her attention.

‘What do you think?’ Isoboye asked her. ‘Do you think he did it?’

‘A counsel is not expected to be judgmental,’ Kaira responded evasively.

‘But you believe he did it, don’t you?’

Was she that obvious?

‘Do you?’ Kaira threw the question back at her.

Isoboye thought about it and then replied. ‘He’s a good looking man and also wealthy. He can have any woman he wants, irrespective of their age without having to resort to rape. I’m sure he has a lot of women chasing after him and who would indecently assault him if they had the opportunity. So, no I don’t think he did it.’

Kaira smiled.

‘Rapists do not have a specific look about them and it is certainly not a function of one’s looks or what one has in his bank account. If anything, from my experience, the rich are the bigger perpetrators because they feel it is an entitlement and the women should feel lucky that they caught their fancy even if for just a few minutes. They have the money to engage the best counsel while the victim has to face the fear of being stigmatised. A pervert is a pervert whether handsome or ugly as hell.’

‘He doesn’t look like a pervert to me.’

‘Lawrence Anini didn’t look like an armed robber, did he?’

‘So you’re convinced he did it.’

‘Koje Quadri is our client and we would treat him as such. What I think or don’t think is not important here.’

That afternoon, Kaira went through the case file with Rashidat in order to get her opinion. She also assigned one of her counsel in chambers, Makochukwu to research on the efficacy of DNA in rape cases and get back to her on it by Tuesday afternoon.

To be continued

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