The Guilty Episode 4 (End)
After the matter was recalled, Eze was put in the dock. He kept taking quick glances at Bamidele and Tosin. He did not know what to do. He was deep in thoughts that he did not hear the Registrar read the charge to him. The only thing he heard was “Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” Eze did not respond. He kept taking glances at Bamidele and Tosin. Bamidele gave him a wry smile, nodding his head, urging Eze to plead guilty. Tosin on his part kept shaking his head.
“Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” the Registrar repeated.
Eze took a deep breath. He shut his eyes and without meaning to, he heard himself say, “Not guilty.”
Justice Okokon shifted in his seat. Bamidele’s wry smile disappeared. Tosin heaved a deep sigh of relief.
“Do you understand your plea?” the Judge asked, surprised. “Registrar, repeat the question.”
“Do you, Eze Chinagorom, plead guilty or not guilty to the charge?”
At this point, Tosin stood up and said, “My Lord, the accused has taken his plea. May I ask for a date for trial?” Tosin was hoping for the matter to be adjourned. He would use the opportunity to properly prepare Eze’s defence. He had to investigate how the victim was killed if, as Eze claimed, he did not poison her drink. He needed to know why the Prosecution was bent on getting a conviction. He needed to know why his colleague, Tayo, did not bother doing a thorough job in preparing Eze’s defence, and most importantly, why Tayo connived with the State counsel, Bamidele Ayodeji to get a conviction. He needed to know Justice Okokon’s stake in this trial. Something was amiss somewhere and he had to find out what, where and why.
Justice Okokon shot an uncomfortable look at Tosin.
“I thought I already told you counsel. No adjournment in my court. We proceed to trial now. State counsel, call your witnesses. How many do you have?”
“Just two, My Lord,” Bamidele responded.
“Call your first witness.”
As the first witness took to the witness stand, Tosin sank into his seat. His “well thought out plan” had just been crushed. This was the best plan he had when he decided to take up the matter. He knew his best shot at doing a good job in the case would be to have the case adjourned today. This was the only thing he had in mind when he accepted to stand in for Tayo. Now, that plan had gone with the wind. He had to come up with a Plan B. He had to destroy the Prosecution’s case. But he had no idea how. He was not prepared for trial today.
The first witness was the Investigating Police Officer who had investigated the case. His name – Mike Asuquo. He knew the case like the back of his hands. Bamidele took him through questions like the name and identity of the deceased, the name and identity of the accused, when the accused was arrested, the role the accused played in the death of the deceased, the role of the Police and then, more importantly, the exhibits obtained during investigation. The first exhibit to be tendered was the Twitter conversation print out of the accused and the deceased and the communication transcript between Eze and his friend, Kazeem.
“Do you recall retrieving the twitter conversation between the accused and the deceased?” Bamidele asked. “And also, a communication transcript between the accused and one, Kazeem Odutola??”
“Yes,” Mike answered. “I can identify the documents containing the conversation if shown to me.”
Bamidele gave two pieces of paper to the Registrar and sought to tender same in evidence. The Registrar passed the documents on to Tosin. Tosin knew the documents were highly incriminating and would damage the accused defence if accepted in evidence by the Court. He studied the pieces of paper. He could not find anything to pick on them. They were as clear as clear could be. They proved two things: Eze was bitter towards the deceased and he promised to kill her if he had the opportunity.
As Tosin was about making his “no objection” statement, an idea whizzed into his head. The documents sought to be tendered were computer generated. Section 84 of the Evidence Act required a Certificate stating the genuineness of the contents of computer generated evidence before they could be admissible in law. The Prosecution did not produce such Certificate.
“I’ll be objecting to the documents My Lord,” Tosin said, standing to his feet. “The documents fall short of the statutory and mandatory requirements for admissibility as stipulated under Section 84 of the Evidence Act.”
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Bamidele was taken aback. He was not prepared for this. Who was this guy?
“My Lord,” Tosin continued. “The Supreme Court in the case of Kubor versus Dickson held that, computer generated evidence which failed to meet the requirements of Section 84 are inadmissible and should be rejected. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and by the doctrine of stare decisis, its decisions are binding on this Honourable Court. The rationale behind the Section 84 principle is to ensure that computer generated evidence are not doctored, as such evidence are susceptible to manipulation. This is a criminal case. The life of the accused is on the line. These documents are inadmissible in the absence of the Certificate of Genuineness. I urge My Lord to so hold.”
Bamidele had no response to the objection of Tosin. He had an understanding with Tayo that none of his documents would be objected to, and whoever this Tosin guy was, did he not get the memo from Tayo?
Justice Okokon looked at Bamidele. He expected a response – any response. He needed a basis to reject Tosin’s objection and admit the documents. Bamidele had none. He was as confused as he was shocked. In the absence of a response, Justice Okokon had no option but to mark the documents as rejected.
Bamidele broke a sweat. This was not part of the plan. He thought of asking for an adjournment to go prepare himself, but he remembered how Justice Okokon dismissed Tosin’s application for an adjournment earlier in the proceedings. Bamidele knew he had no other option but to carry on with his trial.
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Next, he sought to tender Eze’s confessional statement through the IPO. At least, this should nail Eze. Eze admitted to the crime in his confessional statement.
The IPO identified the confessional statement as the one obtained from the accused, and the said confessional statement was passed on to Tosin for any reaction. Bamidele prayed and hoped there would be none. He crossed his fingers.
Tosin studied the confessional statement. He did not spot anything to controvert the said statement. It was also as clear as clear could be. It was hand written with a pen. Just as Tosin was about retuning the document to the Registrar for onward submission to the court, he spotted something. And then he smiled.
“No objection, My Lord,” he said, smiling mischievously.
Bamidele was not sure if he should heave a sigh of relief or not. For one, he was happy Tosin was not objecting, but then, he was not sure why Tosin was smiling. The Judge admitted Eze’s confessional statement in evidence.
“That will be all for this witness,” Bamidele said and took his seat.
Tosin stood up to commence his cross-examination of the IPO. He had just one question for the IPO.
“Mr. Asuquo, take a good look at that confessional statement just admitted by this Honourable Court,” he said. The document was passed on to the IPO. “Look at the signature column. Tell this Honourable Court who signed that document.”
The IPO flipped to the signature page of the document. There was no signature. The document was unsigned. Dollops of sweat broke on his forehead as he struggled to explain how and why the confessional statement of a person accused of murder, was unsigned. Words failed him. He had no explanation.
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“Yes, Mr Asuquo, the court is waiting for your response,” Tosin said.
“The…My Lord…The document was not signed…But My Lord the accused wrote this statement in my presence.”
“No, Mr. Asuquo. That was not the question I asked. The question is, who signed the document?”
“The document is not signed.”
“That will be all for this witness,” Tosin said.
“Any re-examination?” Justice Okokon asked Bamidele.
Bamidele had none. Rather, he asked that the witness be discharged.
“The witness is hereby discharged,” Justice Okokon said. “Any other witness?”
“Yes, My Lord,” Bamidele replied. “We have an expert here to give expert evidence. May I call on Dr. Idris Momoh, the Prosecution’s second witness as PW2.”
Dr. Idris Momoh was the doctor who performed the autopsy on the deceased. He took to the witness stand. Bamidele took him through preliminary questions like his qualification and expertise. Then he asked, “When you conducted an autopsy on the deceased, what did you find as the cause of death?”
“The deceased died from poisoning,” Dr. Idris Momoh said calmly. He knew his stuff.
“Could you expatiate?” Bamidele requested.
“The deceased died from cholecalciferol. It is a common chemical substance found in rat poison. The drink offered to the deceased was heavily spiked with the substance, hence, high level of toxicity caused the demise of the deceased.”
As soon as Dr. Idris Momoh mentioned cholecalciferol whilst giving his evidence, Tosin brought out his Samsung Tab and went on the internet. He had to find out anything he could on the substance, as soon as possible. He was a lay man when it came to medical terms and he needed all the help he could get. And he needed them now.
He stumbled on several articles on Google on the subject but he had little time to read them. His eyes roved over the search results and all he could spot were keywords like “Vitamin D, Vitamin D3, Human, Skin, Animal…” He was not sure what to do with all that. Then he heard the Judge say, “Yes, Mr. Adeyanju, do you have any cross-examination question for PW2?”
Tosin stood up slowly from his seat. He dropped his Tab on the table and started tapping the surface of the table with his fingers. He was not sure how to proceed.
Vitamin D, Vitamin D3, Human, Skin, Animal…
The keywords he stumbled on the internet played in his head.
“Yes, Mr. Adeyanju?” Justice Okokon called again.
Tosin raised his head slowly. He had to gamble with his cross-examination questions.
“Mr. Momoh,” he called at PW2. “You say you are a doctor?”
“Yes, a very qualified one,” Dr. Momoh answered confidently.
“This chemical substance you said the deceased was poisoned with…”
“Cholecalciferol,” Dr. Momoh assisted without being asked. “It is used in making rodenticides.”
“Right. Thank you. Are you aware that, this chemical substance can…” Tosin paused. Then continued, “would you be surprised if I told you that, this chemical substance can also be produced by the human body? That is, naturally, I mean?”
Tosin could not believe he just asked that question. He was not sure what answer he wanted to hear. The only thing he was sure of was that he had to create a doubt in PW2’s testimony.
Dr. Momoh shifted in his seat in the witness box. He tilted his head backwards as he thought out an answer. “Well, I do know that when one is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the human body could produce some level of cholecalciferol, which in this instance is also known as Vitamin D3…So yes, to an extent, the human body could produce cholecalciferol.”
There was an almost deafening and resounding murmur in the court room. Lawyers and litigants alike gasped at the revelation from the doctor. The Judge struck his gavel to compel them to keep quiet. Tosin could not believe the response from Dr. Momoh.
“So, you admit that cholecal – whatever is the name of the chemical substance you just mentioned – is not only found in rat poisons?” he asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Momoh replied. “The human body also naturally produces it.”
“The deceased in question – one Miss Nkem – would you by any chance know if she lived in Nigeria?”
“I don’t know where this question is going to and I cannot say if she lived in Nigeria.”
“Did she die in Nigeria?”
Dr. Momoh looked confused. “Of course, she did. Her body was picked up at Onike, Yaba, here in Lagos.”
“What was she wearing when she was found unconscious?”
“A gown…My Lord I don’t know where this question is aiming at.”
“Was it a full blown gown? A sleeveless gown? An open back gown? What sought of gown did you find her unconscious body in?”
“The gown was sleeveless. It also had an open back.”
“Wonderful. With the nature of the gown, was it possible that, the deceased was exposed to this Lagos sunlight?” Tosin emphasised the “Lagos” in his question. It was common knowledge that the heat in Lagos in recent times had been excessive.
Dr. Momoh was speechless.
“Please answer the question, Dr. Momoh,” Tosin persuaded.
“So, is it possible that, the cholecalciferol found in the deceased could have been caused by sunlight? Any remote possibility?”
“Well, yes but..”
“That will be all for this witness My Lord,” Tosin cut in as he took his seat.
Dr. Momoh was discharged from the witness box at the instance of Bamidele Ayodeji who had no re-examination questions for him. With that, Bamidele closed the case of the Prosecution. It was time for Tosin to open the case of the accused.
“My Lord, the accused shall be entering a No-Case Submission,” Tosin said. “We don’t intend to put in any defence. The Prosecution has failed to prove the vital ingredients of the murder charge. The evidence of PW1 and PW2 are not cogent enough to sustain the charge or warrant the accused to go through the rigours of putting in a defence. We urge My Lord to so hold.” Tosin took his seat.
Bamidele sat glued to his seat, his head cowered in shame. He could not understand what had just happened. He could not believe what he had just witnessed.
Justice Okokon took little time in writing his judgment. It was a short and direct judgment. The trial did not pan out as he had envisaged. But his hands were tied. The Prosecutor had failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt. The document containing the Twitter conversations which would have established the accused motive for killing the deceased had been rejected. The communication transcript between the accused and his friend Kazeem Odutola which would have established to some degree, the accused pre-planned disposition to killing the deceased, had also been rejected. The confessional statement of the accused was unsigned, and Justice Okokon knew that, in law, an unsigned document was a worthless piece of paper. It did not and could not establish anything in law. The expert evidence of the Prosecution’s PW2 was also shaken and put in doubt. Justice Okokon had no other option but to find the accused, not guilty, and accordingly, discharge and acquit him.
With laboured breath, he pronounced the concluding part of his judgment thus, “the Prosecution having failed to prove the charge of murder against the accused, I hereby find the accused, Eze Chinagorom, not guilty. He is hereby discharged and acquitted.”
Eze, on hearing the judgment of the court, fell to the ground in extreme shock and uncontrollable excitement. He also cried profusely as he rolled on the floor of the court. Tosin had to signal the Court Registrars to assist in comporting Eze, so that, he would not be held to be in contempt of court by the Judge for his display.
Bamidele Ayodeji could not leave his seat.
After court proceedings, Tosin stood by the gate of the court compound, trying to flag down a cab that would take him to the office. A young man approached him. He did not know who the young man was. The young man did not introduce himself either. All the young man said on getting to Tosin was, “Take. This would interest you.” He handed a brown A4 sized envelope to Tosin and ran away before Tosin could utter a word. A yellow cab screeched to a stop in front of Tosin.
“Legal Aid Council, Ikoyi,” Tosin said as he slotted into the back seat of the yellow cab. “Please put on your AC. This Lagos heat is killing me.”
As the cabman drove on, Tosin opened the brown envelope. A number of glossy sheets fell onto his thigh. They were photographs. Tosin started looking at them one after the other. The first picture was that of a young, beautiful and exuberant-looking lady walking into an event centre. A paper marker was used to encircle the word “Nkem” above the lady’s head in the picture. Deep into the background of the picture, Tosin could spot a familiar face. It was that of Justice Okokon.
Disclaimer: Although this story was inspired by true Twitter events, what you have just read is a work of fiction. The author has done due diligence to ensure that this work is devoid of any semblance to any one or any situation. The author has also ensured his best that the work is free of errors. However, as the human mind works, it is possible that a reader will, by fire and by force, still notice semblance with any one or situation. It is also possible that the reader spots typographical errors and grammatical blunders. Please be warned that the author distances himself from any of such discoveries as such would be figments of the reader’s imagination. You are on you own. *inserts smiling face*