Strong defence, meticulous jury save innocent farmer
A 39-year-old farmer and Rastafarian accused of being part of a gang that raped a 17-year-old girl has been acquitted and discharged by the Accra High Court.
Kwame Dorleagbenu was set free after a seven-member jury unanimously found him not guilty of rape, following a strong defence put up by his counsel, Mr Saani Mahmoud Abdul-Rasheed of the Legal Aid Scheme.
Counsel had led witnesses to prove that Dorleagbenu was not part of the gang that raped the victim and that the prosecution had failed to prove that the accused raped the victim.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Lawrence L. Mensah, in his summary before the jury retired to decide on the fate of the accused and also held that the police violated many regulations leading to the arrest of the accused.
He, therefore, advised the jury to take into consideration all the infractions committed by the police, as well as testimonies by witnesses and other pieces of evidence that came up during the trial.
After the deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty.
Abduction and rape
The facts of the case were that the 17-year-old girl, who lived with her father at a village near Asutsuare in the Eastern Region, was walking along the Tema-Akosombo road on January 14, 2014 at around 7:30 p.m. when a vehicle suddenly pulled up by her.
According to prosecution, when the vehicle stopped, a Rasta man opened the back door and forcibly pulled her into the car, in which two other men were seated.
She was blindfolded and driven into a bush, where the men removed the blindfold and the Rastafarian had sex with her on the ground.
After the Rastafarian, the two other men also had sex with her.
After her ordeal, the men blindfolded her again and drove to a spot near the roadside and left the girl to her fate.
A retired soldier, who was walking by the roadside, saw the girl crying and after she had narrated her ordeal, he took her to the Doryumu Police Station and lodged a complaint.
The police, in the facts, claimed that after the report, they arrested the accused upon a tip-off and the girl identified him as one of the men who abducted and raped her.
But in his defence, Dorleagbenu denied being part of the gang or ever setting eyes on the girl.
He said he was in his house at Shai Hills when police stormed there, arrested him and took him to the Doryumu police station.
According to him, he recognised the investigator in the case, Inspector John Klolegome, because he (investigator) had earlier investigated a case of stealing against him and he was acquitted and discharged for lack of evidence.
He explained that when he got to the police station, the police instructed him to stand beside two Rasta men for an identification parade.
Dorleagbenu further told the court that the victim was then called to identify the Rasta man who raped her, but the girl said the Rasta men looked alike so it would be very difficult to identify the man who raped her.
The accused said Inspector Klolegome, however, told the girl to point at him as the one who raped her.
The girl, he said, then said he (Dorleagbenu) was the one who raped her.
In his summary, Mr Justice Mensah said the police violated all the rules governing identification parade as stipulated in the Ghana Police Standing Order 195.
He said the law prescribed at least eight people for identification parade, but the police only lined up three people.
The presiding judge held that the police also assisted the victim in identifying the accused, which was also a violation of the law, as the investigator was not even supposed to be present at the parade.
“Witnesses shall not be assisted by any verbal or written description of the suspect and they shall not see the suspect or any other photograph before the parade,” he said.
Mr Justice Mensah also said the police gave the victim more than one opportunity to identify the suspect, which was also against the law.
The judge, therefore, advised the jury to disregard the said identification parade done by the police in its deliberations.