Judge ‘Grabs’ Journalists’ Phones -Over Obengfo Trial
The frontiers of journalistic practice in Ghana was pushed several miles backwards yesterday when an Accra District Court Magistrate in open court ordered the seizure of the phones of journalists.
According to the judge, the three journalists including this reporter who had thronged his court to cover the alleged murder case involving Dr. Dominic Kwame Obeng-Andoh, the Medical officer of the Obengfo Hospital in Accra could record the proceedings.
The magistrate, Afua Sackey subsequently ordered her Court Warrant Officer (CWO) to take the phones of the journalists in the court, a move alien to the practice of journalism in the country.
This was after the journalists had through the said CWO had informed the magistrate of their presence in the court.
This is not the first time, Afua had openly expressed her seeming dislike for journalists in her court.
On June 12, 2018, this same magistrate berated journalists who had converged in her court to cover the same case.
She stated that the reporters could not report in court as of “right” and as such ought to have in her words the “courtesy” to inform the court.
Last year, Ms. Sackey had vehemently prevented reporters from covering the case involving Ibrahim Mahama over some unpaid Social Security contributions of his staff.
In that case the magistrate gave the explicit caveat that no reporter was to take notes in her court when even journalists are allowed to take copious notes in other Superior Courts including the Supreme Court without any hindrance.
The accused had been dragged before the court over the death of Stacy Offei Darko, 37, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Entrepreneurship Innovative Programme (NEIP) at the Jubilee House.
According to the police, the accused on May 21 this year caused the death of the NEIP Deputy CEO at Weija in Accra.
Also, in the dock with Obeng-Andoh, 49 is one Edward Amponsah, 46, a cleaner for impersonation.
According to the prosecution led by Detective Chief Inspector Simon Apiorsornu, the accused on May 22 “falsely presented yourself to the mortuary attendant at the ST. Gregory Catholic Hospital as a biological elder brother to the deceased, a representation you knew as at the time of making to be false.”
Beyond the needless phone drama, D/C/Insp. Apiorsornu said discrete investigation is still ongoing and that the continuous admission of the accused at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital was impeding the investigations of the police.
While handing over the comprehensive medical report of Dr. Obengfo to the court as ordered at the last court date, he said the autopsy on the deceased had also been performed and that the police was yet to receive the report.
He stated that a duplicate copy would then be prepared and forwarded to the Attorney-General for advice.
Lawyer for the accused persons, Jonathan Dzaisu said the trial had been on a snail pace because of the excuses of the prosecution.
He noted the prosecution at the last court date said what it had told the court and urged the court to order the prosecution to speed up with its investigation.
The magistrate however, did not accede to the request of the defense to order the prosecution to sped up with its investigations arguing that the police is an independent body mindful of its duties.
Hearing continues on July 3
Nana Akosua Animah I, a resident at Michel Camp, the Complainant is the mother of the deceased.
On May 20, this year, Stacy went to the hospital for liposuction and fat transfer surgery been performed by Dr. Obeng-Andoh but she died on May 21 at about 4pm while on admission after the surgery.
On May 22, upon the orders of Dr. Obeng-Andoh, Edward sent the body to three different mortuary facilities but was rejected with the reason that a relative must be present before it could be accepted.
According to the police prosecutor, based on this, Edward sent the body to ST Gregory Hospital’s mortuary at Buduburam where he presented himself to the mortuary attendant that he is the biological elder brother of Stacy and authorized them to embalm the body.
The body was embalmed and preserved the same day without informing the either the bereaved family or the police.
The bereaved family got hint of it and on May 24, suspected foul play and informed police.
“Police proceeded and inspected the body at the mortuary and found multiple surgery fresh cars on some parts pf the body which suggested a foul play” police facts sheet said.
The body was conveyed and deposited at the Korle-Bu Hospital mortuary for autopsy leading to the arrest of the accused persons.
By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson