Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga has threatened to expunge the evidence of the second witness of Dr. Stephen Opuni after doctors at the Ridge Hospital asked the court to excuse the witness for a week.
The witness, Mr. Samuel Torbi, a farmer from Assin Fosu, was admitted at the hospital on May 17 for an undisclosed ailment but was discharged on May 20, according to the lead counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe.
The court on Monday, May 23 was informed that the witness has been given a medical excuse duty for one week.
But Justice Honyenuga would not wait for one week for the case to continue with the witness, and therefore ordered Dr. Opuni to produce his next witness on Wednesday, May 25.
The justice of the Supreme Court who is sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, also disclosed his intention to throw away the evidence of the second witness in due course.
“It is my candid opinion that to enable this court to effectively deal with this case and to avoid further delay, I will order that the first accused produces his next witness at the next adjourned date.
“The DW2 can be allowed to recover and at anytime that he recovers, he could be recalled for further cross examination.
“But there is proviso that this court has power to expunge the evidence of DW2 at the appropriate time.”
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, are facing over 25 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
It has been the case of prosecution that the state did not get value for money when COCOBOD procured Lithovit liquid fertilizer, but this has vehemently been contested by the witness.
Mr. Samuel Torbi, who is the chairman of Cocoa cooperative in Assin Fosu in the Central Region, has been testifying about the efficacy of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer, a product he called “messiah”, which application he said helped him to double his cocoa beans, and also showed evidence of how his production declined seasons that he applied other fertilizers.
In his bid to explain further why the witness was absent from court, lawyer Codjoe states:
“My Lord, once again I requested that he gave us a medical report so that I can send to this court, but I was informed that due to the confidentiality between a doctor and a client, I would not be given the medical report but if the court requests it-”
Justice Honyenuga interrupted and wondered why it was difficult for the doctors to write to the court stating the medical condition of the witness.
Lawyer Codjoe then offered to recount to the court what the doctors told him when he requested same. He said he was told by the doctors that some of their colleagues have been sued in the past for doing so. But whilst on it, the judge shut him down and accused counsel of “wasting time”.
“If the view of this court is that I’m wasting time then I will end here,” lawyer Codjoe humbly submitted.
On her part, Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson suggested:
“My Lord once again, we do not know from the excuse duty what is wrong with the witness. My Lord, it is our submission that in order for this court to effectively manage the conduct of this case, it would be necessary for the court to order the medical officer who is attending to DW2 and who has issued this excuse duty to appear before the court on the next adjourned date to give further and better particulars to the court as to the ailment for which DW2 is being asked by him to be excused by this court. My Lord this will help the court to effectively manage the conduct of the case.
” My Lord this will also assist the court in making a determination whether the next witness for the first accused can be called whilst we wait for the DW2 to effectively recover. My Lord that is my submission.”
Counsel for second and third accused persons, Nutifafa Nutsukpui, on the other hand, submitted, “Respectively my Lord, we have also been given a copy of the excuse duty, which on its face does look regular to us but we will abide by any directives the court may give in respect of the said excuse duty. Respectfully my Lord.”
Justice Honyenuga therefore adjourned the case to Wednesday and ordered the first accused to produce his third witness.
“Consequently, although the suggestion to invite the doctor treating DW2 is laudable, I think it will only occasion more delay in the trial of this four year old criminal case. In the circumstances, this case stands adjourned to Wednesday 25th May 2022 at 11am for the next witness of the first accused to testify”.