Hot exchanges between the defence counsel and the trial judge, characterised proceedings at an Accra Fast Track High Court yesterday when the case in which two military personnel are being tried for the death of the late Northern Regional chairman of the Convention People’s Party, Alhaji Issah Mobila, was heard.
The exchanges started when the defence counsel, Mr. Thadeus Sory, attempted to interrupt the judge, Mr. Justice Senyo Dzamefe, who was questioning Lt. K. Adukonu, the military escort of the accused persons, why he flouted the court’s order to send the accused into prison custody.
While Mr. Sory argued that the court should take judicial notice of the fact that the defence had filed an application for stay of the order at an Appeals Court and, therefore, the accused should be held in military custody pending the determination of the application, the judge insisted that he was only enforcing the ruling of a Tamale High Court.
Mr. Sory said at the heart of the application was the issue of whether the court presided over by that particular judge had the jurisdiction to continue to hear the case especially, when he had been elevated to an Appeals Court judge.
The exchanges became worse when the lead prosecutor, Ms. Penelope Ann Mamattah, told the judge that she overheard the defence counsel telling the military escort “not to mind the judge about the order because he cannot do anything.”
Obviously surprised about that “revelation”, an attempt by the judge to probe further to verify the truth or otherwise intensified the exchanges, which observers said was uncharacteristic of the bar and the bench.
Justice Dzamefe who had earlier written to the Chief Justice (CJ) to inform her of the position of the defence not to allow him to continue with the case, gave the reply of the CJ to a clerk to read it to the hearing of the court.
It read in part, “You should continue with the case because the issues raised are not administrative and should be determined on the merits of the legal and factional issues involved.”
At that point, the judge asked Mr. Sory “on the basis of what the CJ has directed, can I go on with the case?”
He answered, “My Lord, you can go on to determine what is before you now, but not to continue to hear the case.”
Following the exchanges, the court could not determine whether the case has become a fresh one because of the judge’s elevation to an Appeals Court.
It could not also rule on whether the old jury which was dissolved because one of them was sick can be brought back following the formation of a new one.
The judge, however, maintained the order to remand the two accused, Corporals Appiah Yaw and Modzaka Eric in prison custody, warning that violation of a High Court order was tantamount to contempt.
The case has been adjourned to January 19,2011.