Yabinta Jarju: “Cause of death is head injury due to gunshot” – autopsy report

By Rohey Jadama
Corporal 3700 Muhammed Sowe testified as the sixth prosecution witnessBinta Jarju
(PW6) in the ongoing trial of Mustapha Njie, the driver of the taxi vehicle in which Binta Jarju was shot and killed .
Corporal Sowe was giving evidence before Magistrate Patrick Gomez of Kanifing Magistrates Court yesterday 1st April,2015. ASP Mballowrepresented the IGP, while Edward A. Gomez announced his appearance
for the accused person.
The Corporal told the court that he is attached to the major crime
unit of the police headquarters and that he lives in Banjul and he
recognises the accused person in the dock. He told the court that on
the 8th of March 2015 the major crime unit received a case file from
the Kairaba CID with the accused person about a shooting incident that
happened in Manjai.  He further told the court that he was instructed
by his commanding officer to investigate the matter with Cadet
inspector Kinneh Jallow.
PW6 told the court that they interviewed the witness concerned in the
matter, the security officers   and the passengers on board the
vehicle in the shooting. He adduced that at the time they had already given their
statements at Kairaba police station so they interviewed them to
confirm; adding they also interviewed the accused person whose statement
was in the file they received. Corporal Sowe further told the court
that he later went to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for a
post mortem to be conducted on the late Ya Binta Jarju. He said
thereafter a death certificate and autopsy report were issued to the
police by a medical doctor which he received on behalf of the
Inspector General of Police (IGP).
At this juncture ASP Mballow applied to tender both the death
certificate and autopsy report as an exhibit. There was no objection
from the defence. It was admitted and marked as exhibit A1
and A2 respectively.
Continuing with his testimony, PW6 said putting into consideration the
content of exhibit A1 and A2 he and his colleagues deemed it necessary
to see the vehicle involved in the shooting. He further told the court
that they were made to understand that the accused refused to stop at
the joint check point comprising the Police intervention unit
(PIU) and the military which prompted the security officers pursuing
the vehicle. “When they fired those warning shots the driver refused
to heed and swerved to a narrow road. He told the court according to the
witness when the accused swerved to the narrow road the security fired
to disabled the vehicle.
Corporal Sowe added that when the security fired, the vehicle stopped
and they informed the police about the incident. He further told the
court that they were made to understand that the vehicle was
obstructed by flower trees. “Putting into consideration what we
heard from the witness we deemed it necessary to inspect the vehicle
and we observed that the back windscreen was smashed,” said PW6.
At this juncture prosecutor ASP Mballow asked the witness to read the
content of the death certificate and the autopsy report to the court.
Reading the report, PW6 said the former states that the cause of
death is “Head Injury”, while the later states “Head Injury due to gun
shot”. He added that the investigation revealed that the driver
refused to stop and that the deceased died as a result of gun shot.
ASP Mballow applied to tender the photograph of the deceased and the
vehicle as an exhibit. Defence counsel Gomez did not object to the
application. He however, added that they are beneficial to the
defence.  ASP Mballow objected to this statement arguing that the
defence does not also know why they are tendering it. The said
documents were admitted and marked as C1 and C2.
Continuing his testimony PW6 told the court that he told the accused
to narrate his story in Wollof which he wrote in English and read it
to the accused and after confirming the statement, the accused signed
it with is thumb print and an independent witness also signed.
ASP Mballow applied to tender the voluntary statement as an exhibit
which was not objected to by the defence.  It was admitted and marked
as exhibit E. PW6 said he obtained four voluntary statements from the
accused and thereafter he wrote an investigation report and submitted
it to the authorities concerned.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Gomez, the witness was
asked for how long he has served in the Gambia Police Force. PW6
responded that he had served for 6 years now. “You recorded 4 voluntary
statements”? Asked Counsel Gomez.  The witness responded in the
positive.  “Take a look at exhibit A1 what is stated as the cause of
death of the late Ya Binta”? Instructed the defence counsel. “The
primary cause of death is head injury due to gunshot according to the
pathologic report,” responded Corporal Sowe.
“From your investigation is it the gun shots that were fired by the
security officers on duty that day that caused the death of the
victim? ASP Mballow interjected and objected to this question arguing
that it is the court that should make the conclusion as to what killed
the victim but not the witness.  He further argued that the witness is
only testifying on statement of facts within his knowledge. He said
judgment is reserved for the bench not the investigative officer. He
urged the court to disallow the question. Defence Counsel Gomez
submitted that he made reference to the medical report which was
received by the witness on behalf of the IGP. He further added that
the witness is familiar with the content of the report Which states
the cause of death as found out by a pathologist. “I cannot see
anything wrong asking the witness this question and the exhibit
eloquently stated the cause of the death is gun shot.
The trial magistrate in his ruling overruled the objection and allowed
the question to be asked by the defence.
The witness responded that during his investigation he was made to
believe that the officers after following the vehicle fired to
disabled the car but that he cannot conclude what killed the lady.
He was asked by defence  counsel whether he was
satisfied that Ya Binta died as a result of the gun shot. “Yes with the
document from the pathologist”, said Corporal Sowe. This evoked
laughter and murmuring in the court room. He was also asked whether he
was satisfied that the security officers fired on the vehicle.
PW6 responded in the positive. He was asked whether he examined the
vehicle in question. “I examined the physical appearance of the
vehicle”, said PW6.  “Looking at exhibit C what did you notice”?
Enquired Counsel Gomez. Corporal Sowe said he noticed that the rear
wind screen is smashed.
“Did you find out during your investigation the reason why the rear
wind screen was completely smashed?  PW6 responded that investigators
could not get an expert or a witness to say the reason why the rear
wind screen was smashed. This evoked laughter in the court room.
He was asked by the  defence counsel  how many security officers he
interviewed. PW6 told the court that he can’t remember. “Did you
interview any member of the PIU and Military”? Enquired Counsel Gomez.
“Yes”, said PW6.  The witness was asked whether during his
investigation he was able to ascertain that the security officers were carrying
fire arms.
He responded in the positive.  He was further asked whether he
ascertained that they fired those fire arms. “They said that they
fired to disabled the vehicle,” said Corporal Sowe. “Officer Sowe
when you examined the vehicle did you notice any burst tyres  that
could have disabled the vehicle”?  PW6 responded in the negative.
“So the vehicle was not disabled”, asked the defence. “This is a funny
question,” said the witness. This evoked laughter in the court. “To be
honest the tyres were not broken. Cross-examination ended at this
point.
At this juncture ASP Mballow announced the closure of the
prosecution’s case. This prompted the defence counsel to apply for the
accused to be bailed. The counsel told the court that the accused has
been remanded for a period of time now. He draws the court attention
that the charges preferred against the accused are bailable. He cited
section 19 and 17(1) of the constitution and section199 (5) of the
Criminal Procedure Code to support his submission.
ASP Mballow said he will not reply to the application but instead he
will object to it as the lower court lacks the jurisdiction to hear an
appellant. He said the accused was denied bail and the counsel is
supposed to review the bail or appeal to the high court.
The trial magistrate adjourned the matter to 14th April 2015 at 10am
for ruling on the bail and defence.