By Landing Ceesay
The lawyer representing Bubacarr Keita (Bob Keita), Lamin S. Camara has on Tuesday cross-examined Assistant Superintendent of Police Francis Jatta, who has taken the blood samples of Bob Keita (the accused), baby Muhammad (deceased), and Pa Modou Johm (the alleged victim’s ex-boyfriend) to Ghana for DNA test.
In his testimony, ASP Jatta told the court that he is not a DNA expert and that he has never handled DNA samples outside the country before; but told the court that he is familiar with the rules of preservation of biological samples for DNA examination outside the country.
He confirmed to the court that he is also familiar with the mode preservation of biological samples for DNA examination; but said he is aware of the authenticity and verification of samples, which is a condition precedent for the accuracy of the DNA examination.
“You said you are aware of the rules of preservation of biological samples for DNA. Can you tell us what these rules are?” Bob Keita’s Lawyer L. S. Camera asked.
“(The) rules depend on the types of biological samples that you are collecting. For instance, wet blood should be collected in blood tube containers, and storage is very key in terms of preservation here. That’s why if you collect it, it should be in a refrigerator to freeze it. For it not to change form. If it is dry blood samples, you have to preserve them in a paper bag” he Jatta responded.
Lawyer L. S. Camara then asked what would be the best option for preservation in the context of the samples collected from the accused (Bob Keita) and Pa Modou Johm; and the witness said it should be frozen for long storage.
“Now, for authenticity and verification, is it correct that the blood samples of the accused person were not taken in your presence?” Lawyer L.S. Camara asked.
“That’s correct,” the ASP Jatta responded.
“And the blood samples of Pa Modou Johm were not taken in your presence, either?” Lawyer L. S. Camara asked.
“That’s correct,” ASP Jatta responded.
Lawyer L. S. Camara: “The blood samples of baby Muhammad was not taken in your presence. As well.”
“That’s correct,” ASP Jatta responded.
ASP Jatta further told the court that he does not know who extracted the blood sample of Bob Keita; and that he does not know too, who extracted the samples of Baby Muhammad (deceased) and Pa Modou Johm (the ex-boyfriend of the alleged victim).
“It is correct that you were given containers, purportedly containing the blood samples of Bob Keita, Pa Modou Johm and Baby Muhammad?” L. S. Camara asked.
“I was given blood samples collected by the hospital staff. The first thing they did was to confirm whose names were written on the blood tubes.” ASP Jatta responded.
Lawyer L. S. Camara: “The names of the blood tubes were the respective labelling right?” ASP Jatta; “Yes it is,” ASP Jatta responded.
ASP Jatta told the court that he does not know the individual who labelled the blood tubes; but said he is aware that the blood samples of the accused person (Bob Keita), and Pa Modou Johm were taken on the same day, but he was not present at the time.
“Would it be correct to say ASP Jatta, in connection to this, all you did was to collect the samples and take them to Ghana?” Lawyer Camara asked.
“After confirmation, they were handed over to me and I took them to Ghana,” ASP Jatta responded.
“And your confirmation was the names that were allegedly written on those containers?” Lawyer L. S. Camara; “Yes,” ASP Jatta responded.
“Apart from what is written on the containers of Bob Keita, Pa Modou Johm, and baby Muhammad, what was written? You cannot say with any degree of certainty that it was their blood because you did not ask them.” Lawyer L.S Camara asked.
“I did not ask Pa Modou, or Bob Keita,” ASP Jatta responded.
The witness said that it is true that since he did not ask Bob Keita and Pa Modou Johm, he cannot say with any degree of certainty that it is their respective blood samples.
“Are you aware ASP Jatta, that professor Ogun, did not extract any blood samples from Bob Keota, Pa Modou Johm, or baby Muhammad?” Lawyer L. S. Camara, and ASP Jatta responded positively.
“Since professor Ogun did not, he wouldn’t know how the blood samples of the accused person and Pa Modou Johm came into custody?” Lawyer Camara asked.
“I wouldn’t know, but all I am saying here is that the blood samples were in a store not with Professor Ogun. When we reached the store all that Professor Ogun did was, (to) check on the blood samples to confirm whether those are the actual blood samples from the refrigerator,” ASP Jatta told the court.
ASP Jatta confirmed to the court that he did not know who put the blood samples in the refrigerator; and he did not know either who was in control of the blood samples at the store.
“Do you know how many people have access to that refrigerator?” Lawyer L.S. Camara ,and ASP Jatta responded in the negative.
Lawyer L.S Camara: “When you arrived with Professor Ogun at the refrigerator, was it locked or was it just opened?”
“It was locked and opened by one of the security (guards). I can’t ascertain whether he is a security, but he is an officer there,” ASP Jatta told the court.
“In your evidence in chief, you said only 3 of you went to the children’s ward. Professor Ogun, Alasan and yourself went to collect the samples,” Lawyer Camara said and ASP Jatta responded in the affirmative.
ASP told the court that Alasan is a senior state counsel, and that the blood samples were put in a small cooler with ice bags on it.
ASP Jatta told the court that he took 3 wet blood samples to Ghana., and that he spent almost 12 hours collecting the blood samples until his arrival in Ghana.
“ASP Jatta, you did not take the blood samples of Bob Keita, Pa Modou Johm, and baby Muhammad. You were not present when they were taken, you did not preserve them in the refrigerator, the only thing you did was to check the labelling. Therefore, ASP Jatta, you are not in the position to say, if those samples were not actually contaminated,” Lawyer told ASP Jatta.
“I am not in the position to say if the blood samples were not contaminated,” ASP Jatta responded.
ASP Jatta further told the court that they found other blood samples in the refrigerator when they arrived there; and that he handed over the blood samples to Superintendent Edward Kofi Abban when he arrived in Accra at the lab, which was around 11am on 7thSeptember 2022.
ASP Jatta said he did identify the various labelling on the 3 blood samples to Superintendent Kofi Abban; but he did not tell Kofi Abban that a DNA test is required because the administrative works were already communicated through the Ghanaian IGP from the Gambian IGP, and that all he did was to hand over the blood samples.
ASP Jatta testified that as far as he knows, the command in Ghana has been briefed by the command in the Gambia to conduct an analysis of the samples and all the biological samples he took.
ASP told the court that the DNA result was given to him in a brown A4 size envelope, addressed to the IGP of Gambia Police Force, with a Ghana security lab seal, from a Ghana Police forensic lab with a logo.
ASP Jatta said he returned to the Gambia on 16thSeptember 2022 but handed over the DNA result 3 days after his return (19 September 2022).
The case would continue today.