4 December 2012

Liberia: Jury Quarter Delays Palenah's Case

Liberian broadcast journalist Darlington Palenah's alleged armed robbery case is deferred for Wednesday at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia on grounds that a "damaged jury quarter" has not been renovated to select and sequestrate jurors there.

Palenah and co-suspects Benjamin Bookie Gbar, and William P. Randolph were granted jury trial mid last month after they were arrested on July 26 and 29, 2012, respectively by the police over claims of armed robbing victims Weeks Thomas, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor at the GSA Road Community.

On Monday, Criminal Court "D" Judge James W. Zotaa said the 'well-conditioned' jury quarter is being occupied by jurors serving in an ongoing trial at the Criminal Court "C", making it impossible for other jurors to be sequestrated there.

Besides, he said plumbers and carpenters could not pass through or around the first jury quarter already being occupied by other jurors to install the doors and commode (a toilet) on the damaged jury quarter.

"Not even the Chief Justice or the President of Liberia can go around the jury quarter that is already being occupied by selected jurors; it's only the jury bailiff that goes around there to serve them food, buy their water - besides that, nobody else goes there," said Judge Zotaa.

Judge Zotaa said he expects that by Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the jurors from Criminal Court "C" would have left the quarter, at which time doors and commode will be installed at the damaged jury quarter where jurors will be kept for Journalist Palenah's trial. Palenah and the two co-defendants were returned at the Monrovia Central Prison or South Beach after being told the case would be heard tomorrow.

On 25th July 2012, Journalist Palenah and co-defendants Benjamin Bookie Gbar and William P. Randolph were accused of allegedly armed robbing victims Weeks Thomas, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor at their (victims') GSA Road residence at about 10pm, minutes after they left their Forex Exchange Bureau said to be located in the Paynesville, Joe Bar Community area.

The indictment said the defendants allegedly rushed on Edwin and Chris into their yard with single barrel guns, pointing guns at the private prosecutor[s] and shooting in the air as well.

After ordering the victims to lie down on the ground, the indictment said the suspects then grabbed and made away with a plastic bag from Weeks Thomas' green pickup containing $17,000.00, while still firing in the air and over Edwin's and Chris' heads.

In the process, victim Edwin Thomas allegedly turned around and recognized two of the defendants, including journalist Darlington Palenah, prompting the later to slap him (Edwin) in the face.

Further, victim Edwin Thomas was allegedly shot in the head by one of the defendants, and was subsequently rushed at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital on the Old Road.

Additionally, Chris Kettor allegedly recognized one of the defendants, who had earlier gone at the forex bureau in Paynesville "under the pretext of wanting to exchange US$10.00."

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