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Opinions of Monday, 22 April 2013

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

5 Hours of Disappointment in Hopelessness

When he took his stand to begin questioning Dr Mahamadu Bawumia who had given a lengthy concise, explicit and compelling testimony to the nine eminent Supreme Court Judges as star witness for the petitioners in the December 2012 election petition case, Mr Tony Lithur, lead counsel for the first respondent appeared rather stout, towering and in perfect gait and spoke quite distinctly, apparently with a promise of delivering something unprecedented in his cross-examination as has never been known in legal history. In fact and indeed he did something unprecedented as above but with a negative effect. Lawyer Tony Lithur, in cross-examining Dr Bawumia, the imminent in-coming vice-President of Ghana overtly evoked his dearth of any point relevant to dismantling any of the infrangible alleged infractions levelled against the respondents in what can aptly be described as shoddy and hopeless lawyerly performance at the Supreme Court as has never happened before to the view of millions of viewers across the world. A colleague of mine couldn’t help asking me if this is how cross-examining is done in Ghana.
In his futile effort to possibly psyche out the his cross-examinee Dr Bawumia, Lawyer Lithur carefully chose his words, pronounced them as impressively distinct as possible in trying to make the phrase ‘I have in my custody here’ sound and look as if it holds the key to some unthinkable ‘Weapon of Mass-Destruction, capable of reducing all the facts so outlined in the petition as meticulously explained by Dr Bawumia to rubble. In testifying before the Court, Dr Bawumia had successfully run through unscathed all the alleged commissions and omissions by the Electoral Commission, encompassing over-voting, voting without biometric identification, duplicity of pink sheet code numbers, unsigned pink sheets, unknown polling stations, falsification of polling results all of which took place during the elections that have brought the results so declared into disrepute. Funny enough, at the time of testifying in his initial evidence during which counsel for respondents should have managed to punch holes in his testimony, the only perforation that was attempted was so feeble an objection by Lawyer Quashie Idun, supported by all two other lead counsels of the respondents that it rather turned out to be a pointless punctuation in the witness’s flow of testimony as it was immediately crushed. Failure by counsels of respondents to puncture holes in the ‘sac’ containing the collection of complaints by the petitions so as to leak out any or all of the substance contained therein has indeed put an overbearing weight and strain on the respondents and their lawyers. The next point of call available to them at this failure to initially puncture holes was pushed to the cross-examination session, of which part one of three has been so poorly and hopelessly managed; clearly suggesting how infrangible the petitioners’ case is to the respondents.
Cross examining a witness has always been an opportunity for lawyers with the aim of quizzing the testifier in a manner as would evoke any element of fabrication or manufactured testimony through inconstancy in responses, to render witness testimony incredible, tantamount to lying to the Court. If such emerges through cross-examination, the witness testimony so given loses its entire probative value. There are several areas of infraction mentioned in Dr Bawumia’s testimony yet ‘Lawyer’ Lithur chose to dwell on a plethora of monotonous questioning based on only one format with same content but for change in polling station name, code number and exhibit code number as provided by the petitioners for ease of reference. His style, tone and mode of quizzing were overtly menacing, a mode that was immediately spotted by the eminent Judges and commented on to desist from. This notwithstanding, Dr Bawumia maintained his tenacity and resistance by focusing on the content of his given testimony, which is all in all the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the days of old, defendants’ lawyers would attack witnesses and prosecutors, most especially police officers’ appearance in uniform would be give a good dressing down, even if smartly dressed, just to psyche him/her out. In modern days of Court room encounter, contesting lawyers are obliged to show decorum.
Lawyers have at certain times ‘brought the house down’, either in approbation or disapprobation but Tony Lithur appeared to have gone beyond bounds by making the Court room so boring a place with a plethora of monotonous monomania questioning. Thinking that his ‘disk’ might have had a fault in its grooves, thereby playing the same tune repeatedly, alarmed by the eminent Judges, a timely prompting was done but Tony would not heed to prompting. Similar to a Dramani Mahama on a bike without brakes, descending a steep hill at loss of control, Tony only came to a stop where stopping was automatic, -at the acclivity- when the Court session came to an end for the daylong sitting. In a polite telling-off, the Court has had to come out with a directive outlining the modalities that would be acceptable for cross-examining witnesses and plaintiffs.
It may be recalled that not long ago, in an attempt to drag the Court’s hearing of this landmark case as far as possible, the NDC decided to bring in thousands of groups of joinders, an attempt which was quelled with one blow. Next in their numerous tactics up their sleeves, in their sworn affidavits to the Court, John Mahama and the NDC proposed to come out with eleven thousand witnesses all of whom Tony Lithur prayed the Court to grant oral testimony that would last for at least five minutes and be cross-examined. In their wisdom, the eminent Judges reduced all witnesses to paper form except those named as petitioner or respondent. Out of the eleven thousand witnesses, only 327 have been able to make their testimonies in writing yet with same format, same content that have no probative value, similar to Tony Lithur’s cross-examination. ‘Lawyer’ Lithur’s last hope in the tactics of intimidating witness and delaying on monomania questioning has been ditched and same will apply to Quashie Idun and his team as well as Tsatsu and his team.

His assignor has been aware from day one that he is already vanquished in the battle that he is fighting at the Supreme Court. He knows also that his advocate is weak in legal strength yet for a reason of some sort, he decided to engage him no matter what, knowing pretty well that the end is nigh; it is unavoidable. The millions of viewers across the world indeed watched ‘Lawyer’ Lithur goof disgracefully and hopelessly.

Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa; (London, UK)