In an unusual move, the judge overseeing the trial of a Kenyan security guard accused of killing American teacher Jennifer Brown asked the defendant to cross-examine witnesses during this morning’s hearing.
The main issue discussed during the session was the school’s stance on male visitors to the employee accommodation in Al Sadd where the 40-year-old woman and several other teachers of the English Modern School’s Al Wakrah’s campus lived.
The second day of witness testimony was nearly postponed on Tuesday after the defendant’s publicly appointed lawyer failed to appear. A replacement quickly arrived, but told the court he had not had time to review the case.
Meanwhile, several witnesses who were scheduled to testify this morning were also absent, including the psychiatrist who examined the defendant.
The medical professional has failed to appear before the court three times, adding delays to a trial that began in June 2013 – seven months after Brown was killed in November 2012.
When reached by phone in Pennsylvania, Brown’s father, Robert Brown, said he was angry to hear that several witnesses did not show up to court and became emotional as he spoke of his daughter:
I don’t know what to say. My head is still spinning. Everything is going so slow, I can’t understand – is this the norm? Can someone answer me that much?
The pace of this trial sharply contrasts to that of Lauren Patterson’s, a British teacher whose murderer was sentenced to death last week – five months after he and his accomplice were arrested. Patterson’s family has expressed concerns about whether that sentence will actually be carried, as Qatar has not executed anyone in more than a decade.
The man accused of killing Brown, who Doha News is not identifying pending the verdict, also faces the death penalty if convicted. The security guard was arrested and reportedly confessed to the crime a few days after Brown’s body was found in her apartment, half-naked and wrapped in a comforter on her bed, according to previous witness testimony.
On Tuesday, the finance officer at where Brown had worked for two months told the court that only residents and a school contractor overseeing the accomodations have keys to the teachers’ apartment building in Al Sadd.
A teacher who worked with Brown and lived on the same floor testified that they were allowed visitors, but that all guests had to sign in with security.
Under questioning, the security guard said the school had not informed him of any policies governing access to non-residents, and that he had to purchase a sign-in book himself.
“(They) didn’t tell me anything,” he told the court.
Earlier in the hearing, the judge scolded school officials for allowing security guards to perform repairs inside the residential units, suggesting such tasks should be undertaken by separate individuals.
The school’s headmaster was not given an opportunity to respond in court. He told Doha News after the hearing that he planned to write a letter to the court’s clerk “clarifying” the issue, but declined further comment.
However, he was overheard speaking to a lawyer that the school has rules requiring visitors to sign in and that male guests are prohibited.
In response to questions from the judge, the teacher who worked with Brown testified that she did not know if any guests had ever been denied entry to the building and was not aware of whether men had ever paid the guard to visit the building’s residents.
The teacher also denied that she had ever heard Brown raise concerns about men being allowed into the apartment.
Moments later, the defendant was given an opportunity to question the witnesses and reminded the finance director that he had previously complained about men visiting the female teachers.
He said he was angry about it because, in his view, it violated Qatari customs and he didn’t want to break the law.
The finance director agreed that the security guard had voiced these concerns and, under questioning from the judge, said he told the guard to raise the issue with other members of the school’s management.
The connection between men visiting female teachers and Brown’s murder was not articulated, though the court may have been suggesting the school was partly responsible for what happened.
The accused started to discuss the night Brown was killed, saying he saw the teacher around 6pm, and that she had requested a taxi, but the judge cut him off and said he had read his account in a statement and adjourned the hearing shortly thereafter.
The trial is scheduled to resume April 21.
“Earlier in the hearing, the judge scolded school officials for allowing security guards to perform repairs inside the residential units, suggesting such tasks should be undertaken by separate individuals.”
fair enough if its against school policy and contributed to her death then the school is partially responsible.
what is annoying me is why aren’t witnesses showing up to court? i understand when a defendant uses delay tactics but what benefit does a witness gain from delaying things?
And I wonder why there is no penalty for no-show? Isn’t it delaying the court proceeding and consequently increasing the cost?
The judges are salaried employees, a number of them are expats, so what’s the big rush…
Seems the school failed to provide its staff with safe accommodation … But that doesn’t mean the confessed murder blame should be shared … Pretty clear cut case…
This headline is utterly irresponsible, the wording suggesting that ‘male visitors’ are an issue. This is subliminally suggesting that the teachers themselves or the School are somehow to blame for the murder of this woman and that having ‘male visitors’ is immoral. Why not just report accurately- please don’t start reporting like the sensationalist media I try to avoid by reading this page,.
The headline reflects what was discussed in court. It didn’t make much sense to our reporters why this was the focus of the hearing, but we have to accurately depict the topic that was focused on.
yes accurately depict.. keep on depciting ya depictors…
thanks for reporting this story at least !
The focus seemed to be about the security issues, not about ‘Male Visitors’.
again… very typical sensationalism .. don’t expect much.. i too thought along the same lines..
Sounds like a complete fiasco not a murder trial in a court of law!! How can anyone believe that justice will be done when lawyers and witnesses don’t turn up, when the defendant gets to cross examine and then is cut off when giving his own testimony? Something fishy, or just a total farce of a legal system? I guess we’ll never quite know what happened – whatever the verdict. My deep sympathies to her family.
One thing I question here is the relatively quick confessions that have been given in some of the recent high profile cases. What do they do to these people that cause them to admit everything so quickly and face the death penalty, and are these confessions made under some kind of extreme interrogation?
Why was the accused’s statement cut short by the judge? Seems a little fishy when they say he has already confessed to the crime and the statement starts off like that.
Are most court cases here a bit of a circus or just the high profile ones? Surely they must go through a lot of vanilla cases without the mess. I feel a bit sorry for Qatar as they are being pulled from all directions trying to update a country that in my view was built on and designed for a very small possibly tribal way of life. Suddenly they are on the world stage (by their own will) and have to try and jump forward 100 years. I can see a lot of comparisons between here and my country 100 years ago.(This is not an insult) It all takes time and encouragement but it also needs will power and the ability to say that there are better ways of doing things.
Mail visitors or who handle repairs are only a distraction to this case, witnesses not showing up? How irresponsible; the accused confessed, death penalty is what he deserve for killing a beautiful soul, hopefully no more delays for the sake of the Brown’s family, may her should rest in peace !!!
Totally agree. Doesn’t matter whether she had men in her apartment or not. Did not give the guard the right to rape and kill her.
Regardless of whether men were or weren’t should or shouldn’t be allowed in the property, she was murdered. Her life was taken. Someone has to pay. Justice must be served. It’s such a shame that this woman’s trial hasn’t been treated with he same sense of urgency as Lauren’s. My heart goes out to the family.