There are mounting public concerns over the apparent delay by the Supreme Court of Liberia in adjudicating defense lawyers' appeal against the death sentence handed Hans Williams and fiancée, Mardea Paykue after they(Hans and Mardea) were convicted of murdering 13-year-old Angel Tokpa.
The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in the country. Over the weekend, several Liberians, particularly students expressed disdain and repugnance over what they described as the prolonged delay by the country's High Court in passing a ruling in the case. Against this backdrop, they called on the High Court to speedily pass judgment in the case for justice to prevail.
"I think the Supreme Court has abandoned the case because it has taken long time since the defense filed the appeal against the final verdict in the case," remarked student Samuel Toe of the D. Tweh Memorial High School in New Kru Town. "When Justice is delayed, justice is denied. We need justice in this one case. What kind of country is this, it takes longer time before a case is adjudicated," asserted Mr. Gabriel Wilson, a resident of Sinkor, Monrovia.
Prior to the filing of their brief to the Supreme Court, former Chief Justice Johnnie N Lewis expressed disappointment over the failure of state prosecutors to file their brief timely to the bench to hear defense lawyers' appeal against the death sentence handed Hans and Mardea. Former Chief Lewis described the action by state prosecutors as "bad practice in keeping with law".
Former Chief Justice Lewis: " Your excuse to the high court that virus ate the document from your computer clearly shows your failure to begin this proceeding and your failure to take this case seriously, (and) we will make you take it seriously". After prosecution counsels filed their brief upon arrival for the hearings, Associate Justices queried them for belated presentation.
Government lawyers blamed "technical breakdown" for the late filing of their 18-count brief but their excuse could not convince the former Chief Justice Lewis' bench which deemed it as "weakness and bad practice in keeping with law". But the Bench rescheduled the hearings after bombarding the prosecution lawyers with several questions. The former chief justice insisted that the failure of the state to file its brief on time forced the Bench to reschedule the hearings since the Associate Justices need "enough time to peruse and digest the document."
It could be recalled that on Friday, March 10, 2010, the Judge Blamoh Dixon of Criminal Court "B" at the Temple of Justice sentenced Hans Williams and Mardea Paykue to death. The judge gave the ruling following months of legal battle, which was occasioned by protests by women's groups and students sympathizing with the little girl. According to the ruling, Madea met his boyfriend Hans sexually abusing the 13 year-old in a bathroom in their Duport Road home in Monrovia, when she lost her temper and strangled the girl to death.
To cover up the crime, the couple hanged the girl and lied that she had hanged herself. The concealment was discovered by a Cuban pathologist, who informed the court that the girl was sexually molested before she was murdered. He contended that it was not possible for little Angel to hang herself from the height she was seen hanging. According to the ruling, the two should have been hanged on March 26, 2010 at one of the beaches, but their lawyers took an appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdict.
If the Supreme Court upholds the appeal, the death sentence, however, has to be approved by the President. But since Liberia is a signatory to the treaty abrogating the death sentence, Madea and Williams may end up having their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.