Mommy, The Court Was Right

By Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus

MONROVIA: In 1978, my mother, Mrs. Rachel Sayma Weah, was in her late prime but she kept the excitement of celebrating great occasions at incredible lengths and wits. The day was Christmas, and like all others homes, Mommy was preparing  a great dish for us but was continually interrupted and distracted by her friends, who were our neighbors also celebrating the Christmas season’s with wines and few bottles of beer and were  singing lousily. Still looking vibrant and somewhat nostalgic of her excellent past when she used to leading a posse of young girls singing and dancing traditional Grebo songs, Mommy soon forgot that she left the huge pot of collard green full of “dry meats, dry bonnies, chicken feet, and cow meats” and the likes unattended as she intermittently graced the chorus. A certain man in his early 30s, looking capricious and feeble from hunger, and apparent denial and rejection by his own people for unexplained reason, took advantage of Mom’s infrequent absence from the pot full of collard green. The man hurriedly grabbed the hot pot from the fire and he attempted to take a shortcut to the back of our neighbor’s house but was met face to face by my uncle. Just about that time Mommy yelled: “My people, your come oo, somebody stole my soup pot oo.” As the man was about to drop the soup pot on the ground to “give it”(runaway),   my uncle grabbed by his trousers and said to him: “You’re caught right-handed”, but the man retorted: “I am innocent; I don’t know what you’re talking about; take me to court.” First, everybody suggested a mob justice but Mommy said the man should be taken to court so that he would get “rotten” in jail, and the man responded: “That would be great because I am innocent.”  The man was taken before a magistrate court in West Point, Monrovia,  and a writ of arrest was issued and served on him but he hired a lawyer,  filed a criminal appearance bond,  and  was subsequently released.  Unaware of the court procedure and the defendant’s right to bail, Mommy accused the court of conniving with the defendant.

However, at material time diverse, my uncle went to the interior to attend the funeral of one of our aunties and did not come back in time. The man who claimed he was innocent assigned the case for   hearing, and mommy and daddy not fully conversant with the procedure, early presented themselves to take the witness stand. Mommy was prosecution’s first witness, and everything she said at the trial was based on what uncle had told her. She did not see the man attempting to steal the soup pot. So too was daddy and based on this the defense counsel moved the court to  have their(mommy and daddy’s) testimonies stricken off the court’s records,  dismiss the case and  set free his client without a day in court. The motion was argued and the magistrate ruled in favor of the defendant for lack of evidence. The young man walked out of the court with a smile across, while mommy was fuming with anger, accusing the court of being corrupt. But daddy was somewhat unconvinced with mommy’s allegations against the court. He said, rather than accusing the court of being corrupt, we should send our son, Sayma to law school, to learn the law so that we too can win a case of this nature in the future. Mommy said: “None of my business. A great leader is one who feeds the people with food. My son will study agriculture and not law”. Daddy responded: “A great leader is one who presides over and judges matters affecting his neighbors and subjects and produces results; Sayma will go to law school.” 13 years on, I went to Agriculture College and studied agronomy and when I got the degree and presented it Mommy. Four years later, I earned an LLB degree in law and I presented it to daddy. But of the two, I love writing and so I love journalism. But as mark of respect to Mommy and Daddy and on the auspicious occasion of my admission  under Rule 43 of the United Nations Backed International Residual Mechanism for  Criminal Court and Tribunals(IRMCT)  as  Liberia’s first  internationally acclaimed Criminal Defense  Counsel, I am in full agreement with the Magistrate Court on the basis of hearsay evidence. We however did not lose anything, and moreover, the man was right when he said: “I am innocent.” This is because he had not been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction. But since we as kids were always warned never to disagree with mommy, whenever she was in a stage of rage, and never trusted our  courts because of what happened  throughout her earthly sojourn, I will say Mommy we were right to have taken the matter to court, and therefore,  were under obligation to accept and respect  what the court said. I wonder what Mommy would have said about the courts today when the Sayma she used to love so much wears the regalia of the ICC to defend accused and convicted persons, a question that will linger on forever.

1 Comment
  1. Jake Doe says

    The great Christmas collard green soup pot case, and its landmark ruling! No wonder the Christmas collard green soup pot defendant won the case, since besides it being a cornerstone of Liberian justice that an accused is presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, uncle himself who claimed to have caught the accused right handed, feasted on the very pot of Christmas collard green soup.

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