Lest We Forget: Trial Of The Century
By: Omari Jackson
Imagine what would happen if the dead could speak! The thousands of Liberians killed during the Liberian Civil War would put on a defence against those whose orders, and through whose hands they died. It would become another trial of the century, only second to the O. J. Simpson Trial.
Imagine also the testimonies of the innocent babies murdered during the various massacres; for example, the Lutheran Church, Harbel, Duport Road and others that did not come to our attention. It would surely be one of the greatest trials in modern history. Surely, the presiding judge, whoever it would be, could find the situation very sobering, indeed!
After much preparation and depositions, the trial would open and the first case would involve the six-month old baby boy, Poky, who was murdered on Duport Road along with his teenage mother. To the horror of the packed courtroom, Poky would explain, how on the fateful night, having sucked enough breast milk, he was put to bed by his mother. "Then after some time, I was aroused by a booming noise," he would explain. "It was the ear-shattering type, I never heard such a noise before. Then there were wailing and anguish outside the house," he would continue. "My mother snatched me from bed, only to meet our executioners outside the house. Something went through my heart and I died. As for my poor mother, she was shot point blank in the head," he would add. With tears, anger sweeping the courtroom, he would explain further, aided by no one, the "the killers did not show us any mercy."
"All this time, my mother had been shot through the head and was on the ground on top of me crying," as he continued his explanation, many of the spectators, including mothers, dissolved in tears. Also, fighting back tears himself, Poky would say, "I had no chance at all to know what life was really about." After Poky, the two-year old girl, Tina, murdered in the Harbel massacre, would walk to the witness box, amid tears and anger in the courtroom. As she made her way through the spectators and onto the eye witness stand, confusion would break out. Mothers would bend down their heads and weep in anger. Even the presiding judge and his colleagues on the bench would be seen wiping tears from their eyes. In fact, they had been doing just that since the trial started some thirty minutes ago.
Tina would then clear her throat with the statement, "One week had passed and all of us had not eating at all." In addition, she would explain that as they slept that night, "Some people came to the camp and began shouting at us to get outside, or else they would kill all of us." Then, she would go on to say, "two of my brothers, ages six and nine, along with my mother and uncle Jim and Daniel and Tony were all killed in cold blood."
The scene would be electrifying, as the people's resentment would gain the best of them. At this juncture, the presiding judge would lose control of his pent-up emotions and would weep. And the news media would have a field day. The Inquirer newspaper would write: JUDGE WEEPS AT TRIAL, the headline would read. Another headline would read: CHILD'S TESTIMONY BREAKS JUDGE'S HEART or DRAMA AT THE COURTROOM. All of these headlines would build the trial to a crescendo and increase the victims' charges against the defendants.
Tina would proceed to say, "mama died, papa died, Junior and all of us died," in concluding her testimony. It would be a scene to witness! Then the next witness would be the 80-year old great grand mother who was hacked to death at the Lutheran Church compound in Monrovia. As she walked unsteadily to the witness stand, the spectators would hold their breath. Unaware of the pain she suffered, spectators would wonder what she had to offer. Then all of a sudden, she would open her mouth to speak about her experience, how she was killed at her age. Though blind, she would explain with difficulty that the executioners did not spare her. "It was like a heavy rain fall that night," she would explain in her inaudible, yet credible voice, as the prosecution counsel struggle to hear her. "It never stopped till we were all dead."
At the defense table would be seated seven prominent Liberian politicians, and behind the defense table would be seated their subordinates. Their names would be fascinating to the huge spectators. There would be names like: Commanding Officer (C. O.) Senghe, C. O. Killing Machine, C. O. Butt Naked, C.O. Two For Five, C. O. Atila and their 9 to 12 years old majors and generals, all sitting stoned face and not smiling. It would be as if to say, "we were doing our jobs."
The next witness would be the seven-month old pregnant woman, Tetee who died in a hail of bullets that night at the United Nations Compound. She would begin her testimony in a din of silence. "I was coming from the bathroom, then suddenly, the soldiers came; we had no chance..." Her voice would trail off, as spectators in the courtroom stamped their feet in protest. The court would demand for order, which would be restored immediately. "Several soldiers shot me in the face and in my belly, and right away I slumped onto the ground. I did not know what happened next." The gory details would be told to the jury of ordinary citizens to determine if there was any merit in the testimonies.
With such an overwhelming evidence, there would be no legal erudition that would be required to know that the evidence is substantially weighted against the defendants. The decision would be unanimous, "beyond all reasonable doubt." Of course, there would be the account of the pregnant woman whose testimony was supported by many eye-witnesses that she died when her excutioners slit her stomach open, because the two young boy soldiers wanted to know what was the sex of the child she was caring.
Then as the confusion subsided, there came a bombshell. It appeared that invincible hands were dictating decisions at the trial. It was a shocker! The presiding judge and his two other colleagues conferred briefly in Chambers. Afterwards, the decision was announced: "The court finds it extremely difficult to reconcile the various testimonies" the judge would say, against the accused. Therefore, the evidence has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt..." The courtroom would be quiet like the graveyard, as the surprised people looked on in confusion."The court therefore", the judge would continue, "acquits and confers on the accused all rights as free and honest Liberians who have great respect for the rights of all.In that event, it would be the miscarriage of justice. Welcome to Liberia!.