Judge Ossom’s gavel raps harshly, angrily, bringing the two emotionally-mad lovebirds cruelly to the present.
Chris and Effe breaks apart and look into the enraged face of the Judge.
You’re ten seconds away from the stiffest charge of contempt of court, Lawyer Kedem! That is the most inane and grossly inappropriate sight I’ve ever witnessed in my court. In case you forgot, this court is in session!
Effe is suddenly aware of her surroundings, of witnesses, of cameras, of live feeds… and an expression of severe discomfiture seizes her.
She is principled and firmly responsible, and would have condemned a similar spectacle from any couple… but then again it is Chris, a man whose mere look can rob her of all inhibitions.
Looking severely flustered, she looks at the displeased judge humbly.
The court room, shocked into silence a few minutes ago, is now filled with low murmurings of disapproval, of mirth, of anger, and of understanding from a few observers.
A million apologies, Your Honour. May I please approach the Bench?
YOU better, Counsel!
Effe sighs miserably and approaches the Judge. Quickly Jeff Atakora stands up and follows her.
Effe looks up at the Judge, who covers the microphone on the desk with his left hand.
You don’t have to say anything, Effe. You’re off. That was absolutely unacceptable.
Thanks, Your Honour. I’m sorry, but I can’t prosecute him. I love him. I was very hurt, and blinded, but I love him.
You’ve disappointed me, Lady. Jeff, can you proceed, or you need time to prepare? I can postpone, you know, in the wake of that appalling and ludicrous behaviour of Lead Counsel.
Jeff Atakora looks quickly at Effe.
He licks his lips.
We built the case together, Your Honour, I can continue. Sorry, Effe.
Effe nods humbly.
Sudden tears simmer in her eyes.
Your Honour, I’ve reliable sources that shows that the Defense Counsel is just here as a mere stooge, and will not offer anything good to the Defendant-
Don’t dare, Effe, don’t even go there! The answer is NO, you can’t and will not defend that man. You know better! Snap out of that madness, Effe!
Effe is a picture of dejection as she looks at the judge with impotent fury.
She is to be blamed for this. She had been so hurt and bitter that for a moment she had forsaken the man she loves.
Can I speak to the accused, Your Honour?
Are you aware, Effe, that you’re on live television? Every goddamn person who matters is watching us. Why the hell do you want to compromise my hearing? You’re damn lucky I didn’t send you to jail for that silly scene you pulled earlier. Now get the hell out of my sight!
Please, I beg of you, Your Honour. I know I erred, but I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. Understand, this is not easy for me. Mr. Buabasah is just there to make things legal, but you know he’s not going to defend Chris. How fair is that? Please, let me speak to Chris. Just for five minutes, please, I beg of you.
The Judge glares darkly at her, evidently unhappy. He turns his gaze on Atakora.
Are okay with that?
Atakora looks at Effe, and there is pity on his face.
Yeah, yeah, I’m cool, Your Honour.
Judge Ossom removes his hand from the microphone.
Will the Defence Counsel and the accused please approach the Bench?
There are murmurings from the crowd as Buabasah and Chris stand up and walk towards the bench.
Would somebody please take off those handcuffs?
Cuger scowls darkly, but he steps forward and unlocks the handcuffs on Chris.
Chris flexes his wrists and stands besides Effe. She turns to him, and with tears in her eyes she points at Baaba.
She was beaten, Chris. She had your semen in her. There was cocaine in your bloodstream. She had lacerations that point to rape. I love you, Chris-Love, and I now realize I can’t live without you. But if you did all that to her, then you deserve to be punished, because no man should treat a woman like that. If you did, I’ll applaud your sentence, but I’ll wait for you no matter how long. The lie detector showed she spoke the truth. Did you do that to her, Chris, my love?
Chris looks at Effe with haunted eyes. He suddenly takes her hands, kisses her knuckles, and speaks desperately.
I don’t remember, my love, believe me. That day you left for Takoradi, she came to see me. She wanted to make love, but I told her you and I were back together. I showed her the diamond-encrusted bands I had bought for me and you to start our love afresh. I told her to get out, and she still insisted she would never let me go. I was hurting already, and I remember yelling at her to leave me alone. The next thing I realized was that the police was all over the place, and I was arrested. I don’t remember what happened, my love, but believe me, Angelface, I’ve never ever in my life done cocaine. Never.
Effe stares at him, shattered. Her heart is in pain as she suddenly hears Eyram’s voice:
Her head is not screwed on right… screwed on right…
She raises a hand and places it on Chris’ chest. Tears drip down her face.
I believe you, Chris-Love. I don’t know how, my love, but I’m not going to allow anybody to do this to us.
She turns and quickly walks towards the Lawyers’ Entrance and leaves the courtroom.
Judge Ossom heaves a troubled sigh.
Enough of this nonsense already. Sit down, sit down. Let’s restore some sanity here. Counsel, ready for your opening statement?
When everyone is seated and an uneasy silence reigns, Jeff Atakora stands up and approaches the jury.
He looks at their grim faces for a while, sighs, and begins to speak.
Your Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my mission here is a simple one. I don’t expect this to be a long-drawn case, because the hard facts are there, and there are no ambiguities whatsoever. I don’t want us to glorify a criminal, albeit a most popular citizen we all love because of his prowess in the ring. He was the husband of my friend, and I personally like him, but wrong is wrong, and should be condemned no matter who commits it, because no one is above the law. Today the people are charging Mr. Chris Bawa with violations of the Criminal Offences Act with the wilful, deliberate and absolutely inhumane rape of Baaba Brooks. We are going to prove beyond doubt that Mr. Bawa is a heartless rapist who deserves no mercy. We will call three witnesses. One of them is Chief Inspector Danso Cuger, the policeman first to arrive on the scene, an unbiased government official who examined the accused’s house, and he will testify about the state he found the victim and the accused in. Then, we will call Doctor Kenneth Pintos, the medical practitioner who examined the victim, and he will testify that indeed, Miss Baaba Brooks was brutally penetrated without her consent according to the forensic and medical examination. We will also call Miss Baaba Brooks, and live her ordeal right here. Today we are going to prove that Mr. Chris Bawa is guilty, and deserves the maximum imprisonment punishment of twenty-five years. Thank you.
There are murmurings again, silenced by the Judge’s gavel hitting the sound block sharply.
Atakora calls Baaba Brooks to the stand.
Her face still shows the ordeal she had been through.
Her ribs are still bandaged under her dress, and her left wrist is also bandaged.
She is helped into her seat by a young policeman.
She is sworn in on the Bible.
As she sits dejectedly in the witness box she shakes, and any time her eyes fall on Chris she shudders.
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Thank you for being here, Miss Brooks. Are you sure you’re ready to do this?
Baaba smiles bravely, but there are tears in her eyes.
Atakora takes her through the questioning, covering the period she arrived at Grand Castle Prison and how she had felt sorry for Chris.
Baaba narrates how she sometimes cooked for Chris inside the prison and how they became friends.
She tells them of the phone she bought for Chris when he was released from prison and driving him around and finally taking him to Madina.
You must have liked Mr. Bawa very much.
Baaba shudders, and tears come to her eyes and spills down her cheeks.
Yes, I did. I loved him. I wanted him to be my husband.
Baaba, there was an incident that happened prior to the final unfortunate rape ordeal. You lodged a complaint against Mr. Bawa for assault, and he was arrested. Later you changed this story and he was released. Would you mind telling us what happened?
Baaba narrates how she invited Chris to her apartment, and how he had tried to make love to her, and when she refused he had gone berserk and thrown her through her French glass windows.
He was like an animal! I thought he was going to kill me. When he saw I was badly hurt he calmed down and rushed me to the hospital.
So if you suffered so much why did you change your report and let the police release him?
Baaba wipes tears from her eyes, and this makes everybody in the audience extremely sad, all except Wailer Vroom and Eyram who are sitting just behind Chris, and looking at him with pity.
Because I was in love with him. I thought he would change.
There is a low murmur of anger in the courtroom, and people shake angry fists at Chris.
Next Atakora takes Baaba through her friendship with Chris.
Baaba, before the incident, did you ever willingly sleep with Mr. Bawa?
Yes. I once spent the night with him at the residence his sister-in-law gave him. He was having a terrible time, and I couldn’t leave him. I shared his bed, and we made love. Afterwards I told him it was best we didn’t make love again because I wanted to save myself for the man I marry.
And what did he say to that?
He agreed, and promised me he wouldn’t do it again without my permission.
And you believed him?
Yes! I was in love with him! And I trusted him! But he is a beast! A beast!
She breaks down, and begins to weep pitifully.
The courtroom is shocked into silence.
All eyes turn to Chris.
The members of the jury regard him with blatant hatred.
Ben Buabasah shifts his chair a little further away, and looks at Chris with a contemptuous curl of his lips.
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Are you okay, Miss Brooks? Can you continue, or you want a little break?
(in a tiny voice)
I can continue, please.
Atakora sighs and walks back to his seat.
It is very evident that he is terribly affected.
He gets up and approaches Baaba after a while.
That brings us to the morning of April twentieth, the day the sad incident happened.
He takes Baaba through the time she arrived at Chris’ house.
He called me the previous day that he has a package for the prison Chaplain, Jon Fii. I passed through to take the package.
She describes how she had seen Chris sniffing cocaine on the kitchen counter and she had tried to stop him, and when he wouldn’t she had scattered the cocaine.
This prompted a rage in Chris, and he had attacked her severely, beating her up badly and then raping her viciously.
Afterwards, as he was trying to fix himself another cocaine fest she had hit him with a dumbbell, and when he fell unconscious she had crawled to her bag, taken out her phone and called the police.
Chief Inspector Danso Cuger and his team arrived a few minutes later.
(turning to the jury)
She lay there, torn and bleeding, seriously hurt by a man who knows how to use his fists. Maybe she might have been dying. Torn, broken, helpless. And what does he do? He tries to fix himself cocaine. I must add, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, that my colleague, the esteemed Effe Kedem, questioned Miss Brooks using a lie-detector process before we came to court. It showed she told the truth.
He turns slowly and faces the judge.
No further questions, Your Honour.
The silence is electric.
Judge Ossom sighs deeply and looks at Ben Buabasah.
Your rebuttal, Counsel?
Ben Buabasah gets to his feet.
No cross-examination, Your Honour.
He sits down, and some of the people in the audience laugh briefly.
Baaba is helped out of the witness box, still weeping, still pathetic.
Some of the people in the audience are weeping now.
Eyram wipes tears from her eyes, and Wailer scowls at her.
Hey. Weeping for her?
No, no, not for that lying witch. For CB, my love.
Yeah. Looks bad for him.
The crowd hurl insults at Chris, and no amount of warning from Judge Ossom can silence them.
Judge Ossom has no other option than to call for recess.
They are watching the court case on the television.
Mrs. Lois Bawa is weeping and unsuccessfully drying her tears with the edge of her cloth.
You see what I said, Pop? We should’ve enforced that he doesn’t use the Bawa name before this trial! Now look at the shame he’s brought us!
Shut up, Stan! You can never change his blood, son! Criminal or not he’s still your brother!
That’s what you always do, Mom! Protecting him, shielding him, defending him! Are you proud of what he has become? A drug addict who can’t control his habits and rapes people who try to help him? Jeez, Mom! Let him go! This time they’re going to lock him up for twenty-five years, and he deserves it!
Mrs. Lois Bawa looks at her grim-faced husband.
Brand! Won’t you say anything? Are you going to let this hatred fester in our family?
The Reverend Brand Bawa stands up, and he looks sadly at his wife.
I don’t know where we went wrong with that boy, Lois. He is rotten, and he is perhaps my cross to bear. He is wicked, and I regret the day I ever spawned that oaf of a lad!
The man of God turns away from her and leaves the living-room.