War of words at Court Martial
AUGUST 28, 2014 By Alusine Sesay
In what members of the public would describe as a bizarre situation in a court room, two opposing counsels in the ongoing court martial trial of 14 alleged mutineers yesterday traded vulgar words to the annoyance of Judge Advocate Otto During.
The vulgar exchange came about when Principal State Prosecutor, Gerald Soyei, sought leave to collectively tender two documents as evidence in court, noting that the two were interwoven.
Defence counsel Ishmael Philip Mammy retorted that such was ‘dirty practice’ as it was untenable for the two documents to be collectively tendered in court.
The remark seemed to have infuriated lead prosecutor Gerald Soyei, who referred to the defence counsel as a ‘dirty practitioner’.
The two lawyers were visibly enraged, and it took the intervention of the Judge Advocate to calm their nerves. He cautioned both counsels, noting that the court is a court of justice and that the defence should not entertain the thought that justice would not be done.
“This is not a battle ground. I am the final person to look at the issue and I would do so. Just leave it to the Bench and I will treat it the way it deserves,” he said.
In addition to the Judge’s cautioning, defence counsel for the 14th accused, R.B. Kowa, noted that both counsels were not in court to force through issues, but rather to ensure justice takes its course, and condemned the act of his colleagues, especially in public.
Responding, Mammy said that the defence vehemently objected the tendering of the documents on the grounds of authentication. He noted that the purported original document labeled EX01 does not in any way reflect a photocopy of a particular document that was served on the defence.
He argued that it is clearly established in exhibit GG 1-51, page 32, that what was shown to the 6th accused was a photocopy of a certain document labeled EX01 and not the original. He said the tendering of the document would be adversely prejudicial to the 6th accused and that in the interest of justice, the said accused would have been given the original copy of EX01 instead of a photocopy.
The defence counsel further submitted that the 6th accused was not accorded the opportunity to authenticate or distinguish the photocopy of EX01 with any other document.
“The defence submits that the prosecution has failed to show the court how the two documents are interwoven, whether by way of attachment or content. The prosecution should have informed the court as to the connection between the two documents,” he submitted. “I submit that the prosecution cannot in any way tender both documents collectively because they are two separate and distinct documents. They are labeled separately and not from the same source.”
Meanwhile, Soyei replied that the 6th accused admitted in his statement to the police that though the document shown to him was a photocopy, it was written in his own handwriting.
The trial continues.