(Continued from A Game of Traitors II)
Hellen is an accomplished actress, one who has unfortunately never been, and will never be, discovered by the world. On the witness box at Machakos Law courts, her talents come in handy. She sheds a bucket-load of tears as she describes how horrified she was when her daughter told her that the man she took in as a son had been raping her for months. In fact, that very evening she had been raped. As if that is not enough, she was already pregnant for him.
“My sweet daughter is pregnant for a rapist!” she wails.
Hellen emotionally tells the court that she was having a chat with her daughter that night when the younger woman started crying. After probing, she got the truth. She woke up her husband so that they could confront Mutua together and find out if that was the truth but they found that he was not in his house. So they called the police.
The presiding magistrate, Truphena Juma, is also the head of the court station. She asks Mutua if he has questions for Hellen, but the boy does not answer. He just stares blankly at the magistrate. Even when Truphena glares at him, he looks back with a stunned half-pleading stare. This look unsettles Truphena. It is one of the reasons she is so curious about this case.
Feeling the need to help, Truphena asks Hellen why they did not take Rhoda for medical examination.
“I was too traumatized, your honor. And angry. How could someone do that to my daughter?”
Truphena has a bunch of other questions to ask, but she lets them slide.
Truphena, the Head of Station at Machakos Law Courts is a no-nonsense lady. Within three years of her posting the backlog at the station has been cleared. Cases are moving fast. Part of the reason is that she has great people skills. She easily managed to convince other magistrates and the local chapter of the law society to put in more hours to clear the backlog.
For a year, she managed to get courts to open on Saturdays. The move was not without its challenges. Noise was made. Some clerks at the registry even petitioned the JSC seeking her removal until she was almost fired. As a matter of fact, she was suspended by the Chief Justice for “oppressing” employees by making them on Saturdays. But she was shocked by the support she got. Members of the local Bar, as well as other magistrates, came to her defense. Members of the public kicked a storm. Here is a public servant who actually cares. How can that be wrong?
After being criticized on the media for two weeks, the Chief Justice backed down and rescinded her suspension. The JSC disproved all the allegations against her. No employee was forced to work on a Saturday; it was all voluntary. The complaining clerks were transferred and new ones brought. Truphena is a public darling, and the Judiciary hierarchy has learnt to stay out of her way. Under her watch, registries are now working effectively. The staff arrive promptly at 8 am and do not leave until 5 pm. Files no longer disappear every day. Machakos has become a model court station. But it is not just her administrative duties that put her on the map.
Her judicial decisions are bold but well thought. They split opinions sharply amongst lawyers. But it is difficult to predict her decisions based on a particular philosophy. Lawyers have long concluded that she is a pragmatist: she is unhinged by philosophies and decides each case on what she feels is best in the circumstances, within the law. In her 13 years as a magistrate, only three decisions have been overturned by the High Court, two of which the Court of Appeal affirmed her decision and overturned the decision of the High Court.
The case against Sebastian Mutua is making Truphena uneasy. She feels something is wrong somewhere, but she cannot point out what. She has read the file several times and is becoming convinced that that boy is not guilty. The biggest challenge is that the witness statements indicate that there is enough to convict him.
Why does she feel he is not guilty? Is she becoming soft?
In their witness statements, Mr. and Mrs. Kioko have painted Mutua as a “potentially aggressive” boy. Mrs. Kioko has even mentioned that twice he has made passes at her. In her statement, the girl has described graphically how Mutua started seducing her, and then moved to groping her and finally started raping her and threatening her into silence.
Mutua has refused to write a statement. There was a statement that had been prepared purportedly by him but it was so poorly done that Truphena could tell straight away it was a police fabrication. So when Mutua appeared before the court she interrogated him about it. He denied making any statement, and that is the only thing he has said in the entire trial. He does not have a lawyer, and Truphena is unable to get him one because pro bono lawyers only work on capital offences at the High Court.
There is something wrong with this case, and Truphena is determined to find out what it is. The hearing is today. Perhaps something will come out of it.
The next witness is Hellen’s husband.
Mr. Kioko is a poor liar. He is nervous and jumpy as he basically repeats what his wife had said, though with less theatrics. He explains that he was asleep when his wife woke him up. They went looking for Mutua and when they couldn’t get him, they called the police.
Truphena senses that he is the weak link in the case. Her killer instinct from her days as defense counsel is aroused and she asks him question after question until he nearly wets himself. This makes Truphena even more curious.
“Your honor I respectfully wish to remind you that you cannot cross-examine the witness. You are not the accused person’s lawyer. You are supposed to be an independent umpire,” the prosecutor, a beefy youth by the name Andrew finally protests.
“Calm down young man. We are here to find out the truth, and I can ask any question I please if I think it will help me establish the truth,” she responds with a patronizing smile. The prosecutor backs down.
As was the case when his wife was testifying, Mutua does not look at Kioko. His stare remains fixed at the magistrate.
Police Corporal Elias Mutinda explains how he received a call from Mr. Kioko about a young man who had raped their daughter. So he went out in search of the boy and found him at the market centre and arrested him.
“Your statement says you arrested him while he was sleeping in his house at the Kioko homestead, Corporal,”
“That was a mistake. What I meant was that my team and I checked his house first. But he was not there. So we went to the market place.”
“So what did you find him doing in the market place?”
The corporal hesitates. The Prosecutor assured him that there would be no questions because the young man is still confused by his arrest and is unlikely to ask any questions. Plus, he doesn’t have a lawyer. But they did not warn him that the magistrate would ask questions.
“He was sleeping your honor,”
“Sleeping where exactly?” Truphena presses.
“At the market square,”
“Did you collect the victim’s clothes? Did you arrange to have her examined by a doctor?”
“No, your honor. It was late at night,”
“You could have done follow up the next day,”
“I forgot your honor. I apologise.”
Truphena has more questions to ask but decided to hold her peace.
The next witness is the most critical: the victim. Rhoda is ushered in by a police officer and taken to the witness box. Her eyes are red as if she has been crying. Mutua’s eyes leave the magistrate for the first time. He fixes the same half pleading gaze on Rhoda and their eyes meet briefly. Suddenly Rhoda starts sobbing uncontrollably.
After failing to console her, Truphena asks that she is taken out to calm down while the next witness is called in. As Rhoda is led out, Truphena notices that tears are rolling down Mutua’s cheeks.
Police Constable Abraham Kibe’s testimony is supposed to be a routine collaboration of Corporal Mutinda’s testimony. Instead, he shocks the court with a tale of an intricate bribery circus involving Corporal Mutinda, Prosecutor Andrew and the Kiokos.
“The corporal received one hundred thousand from Kioko to ensure the boy was arrested. Prosecutor Andrew received a similar amount to ensure he is jailed.”
“Did you receive any money yourself?”
“Yes your honor. I received Kshs. 5000 from the corporal. He said we have to testify and make sure the young man is not only arrested but also jailed.” The youthful policeman removes a bundle of money in his coat and places it on the table
“This is the money, your honor. I have never touched it,”
“He is lying!” Hellen yells.
“Shut up or I throw you in the cells. Go on, officer,” Truphena growls.
Constable Kibe continues to explain their involvement in the scheme and how the prosecutor was roped in and given his share. He was instructed to ensure, through any means necessary, that the boy was jailed.
“Your honor, the witness is…”
“Let him finish,” The magistrate hisses.”You can cross examine him if you want, even though he is your witness,”
Kioko and Hellen rise to leave, but Truphena orders them to sit.
“Nobody is leaving this room until I say so. Officers please lock the doors,”
The Constable finally finishes his testimony and Rhoda is brought back. She gazes at Mutua and tears well in her eyes, but she remains controlled. A clerk guides her through the taking of oath and the prosecutor rises to guide her through examination in chief.
But Rhoda ignores him.
“Your honor,” she begins. “I was forced to lie in my statement. Mutua did not rape me; Mr. Kioko, this man here in a grey suit, is the one who has been raping me, and now I am pregnant for him,”
The court gasps. For a moment everyone sits still, including magistrate Truphena.
The second novella is almost ready. I intend to release it on Tuesday 30th July, so that it does not interfere with our Friday stories. Come ready to buy more coffee at the end of the month. The price will still be Kshs. 100.
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