The police and an Accra Circuit Court are in contention over how a 1.01kg of cocaine, which was tendered in evidence in court, later turned into baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) upon a second examination.
The suspect in the case, Nana Ama Martin, was yesterday freed after the court presided over by Eric Kyei Baffour ruled that the substance (exhibit) which was tendered in evidence on September 27, 2011 had been certified by the Ghana Standards Authority as sodium bicarbonate and not cocaine as earlier claimed.
Nana Ama Martin, a lady suspected to be a dealer in narcotics substances who was arrested with one slab of cocaine, was therefore let off the hook by court when the court found out that the substance had disappeared and in its place was sodium bicarbonate.
The discovery was made after the accused person had challenged the evidence that the substance that was later brought before the court was cocaine and insisted that the said substance be tested again which proved to be baking poweder.
Nana Ama was expected to open her defence after the prosecuting attorney, Mrs. Stella Arhin, closed her case, but her counsel, Kwabena Senanu, insisted that another test be conducted on the substance before they proceeded with the trial because at the close of their case, the state had failed to prove anything against the suspect.
The trial judge noted that once the substance proved to be anything than cocaine, the evidence of the prosecution was “manifestly unreliable and it would be wrong for the court to invite the accused person to open her defence”.
He said even the prosecution, in spite of the findings, proved that the substance in question was not cocaine and was of the opinion that the accused person should not be acquitted because of imperfections on her part.
Explaining further, he said that he was unable to appreciate that submission of the prosecution because it meant he would be convicting her for carrying baking powder.
Mr. Kyei Baffuor noted that the state attorney was extremely troubled when counsel requested the substance to be tested again and prayed the court to allow evidence on the test to be given in chambers.
According to the judge, Mrs. Arhin even retorted that the alleged substance could have been changed in court and said if the prosecution believed that what was tendered was cocaine, there was no cause for such inexplicable apprehension.
Furthermore, the judge stated that if the prosecution felt that “the substance it found on Nana Ama was cocaine and someone changed it in police custody, then the prosecution should call on the Inspector-General of Police as a matter of urgency to institute a service enquiry to determine who might have tampered with the drug.”
The judge said the light of the prosecution that shone brightly in the trial had suddenly dimmed in the noon day and he only had to take the invidious option to abort the trial, acquit and discharge the accused person.
However, the police maintained that nothing went wrong while the substance was in their custody for the three years they kept the exhibit.
It would be recalled that the accused person was arrested by officers of the Panthers Unit at the Police Headquarters on August 28, 2008 in a taxi cab.
A spot search on her revealed a slab of a substance suspected to be cocaine in her handbag.
The case was later referred to the Narcotics Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters where investigations into the matter began.
On August 29, 2008, the exhibit was forwarded to the Police Forensic Laboratory for examination.
It tested positive for cocaine with a net weight of 1.018kg.
On September 4, 2008, the accused was put before the court on charges of possession of narcotic drugs.
The accused was then remanded into police custody.
After several adjournments, she was granted bail on November 11, 2009 by a higher court.
Nana Ama, however, succeeded in jumping bail and escaped to the United States until the bail bond was executed on the surety who later lured the accused back into the country and facilitated her arrest.
On July 25, 2011, she was re-arraigned before the same court with fresh charges.
While she was still standing trial, the defence counsel made an application at a High Court presided over by Justice Mustapha Habib Logoh who granted her bail on September 16, 2011, in the sum of GH¢60,000 with two sureties, one of whom to be justified.
On September 27, 2011, the investigator in the case gave evidence in court where he tendered in the exhibit in evidence.
Both the court and the defence counsel, after inspecting the exhibit, were presumably satisfied that the seal and label were those of the forensic laboratory officials because no objection was raised.
The seal was then broken by the court and the exhibit kept by the court thereafter, indicating a change of custody.
On the next day, September 28, 2011, the defence raised an objection that they did not trust the police so the judge should order a re-examination of the substance after it had been kept in the custody of the court for a day.
Upon examination at the Ghana Standards Authority, the substance tested negative for cocaine.
Where and how the cocaine turned into baking soda has been the contention of the police who suspect the stuff might have been switched at the court and not at the CID Headquarters.
Source: Rocklyn Antonio & Fidelia Achama/D-Guide
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