11 December 2012

Liberia: Judge Cautions Jurors

Presiding Judge James Zotaa of Criminal Court 'D' has warned jurors hearing the case involving local journalist Darlington Pelenah of King's FM and two other persons indicted for armed robbery to be fair in their verdict.

He also warned them not to appear indecently dressed in court or risk serious legal action.

"These three accused men are good citizens of Liberia despite being allegedly charged with armed robbery. You are here to hear this case without favor. You are not here to take side for either prosecutors or defense lawyers. Be attentive and listen well. Moreover, no indecent dressing will be allowed here during this trial," Judge Zotaa warned Friday after the panel of jurors were selected to hear the trial. They are presently being sequestrated at the basement of the Temple of Justice.

He said the jurors were crucial in this trial because they were judges of the facts. "The court is highly dependent on you for a transparent trial and your appearance in court will tell us how serious and ready you are for the case."

Family members and spectators at the trial, who jam-packed the courtroom, hailed the judge for his early warning to jurors against being tampered with during the trial.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors produced thir first witness, Edwin Thomas, who Monday tsfified that journalist Darlington Pelenah was the person who shot him in his head on the day of the incidence.

He told the court that the suspects were many during the day of the incidence, but he recognized defendant Pelenah pointing "that single barrel pistol on my head before he shot at the back of my head when our US$17,000 was taken away."

When quizzed as to whether he knows defendant Darlington Pelenah if he were asked to identify him in the dock, the victim quickly recognized the Liberian journalist among the three defendants, thus laying to rest speculations that he did not know Mr. Pelenah.

Edwin Thomas continues on cross examination today at the Criminal Court 'D' at Temple of Justice.

The state indicted Pelenah, William Randolph and Benjamin Bookie Gbar last August for armed robbing a businessman, Weeks Thomas, at his GSA Road residence on 25 July 2012.

In the 12-count indictment, Weeks said at 10:00 pm, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor picked him up from his Foreign Exchange Bureau in Paynesville Joe Bar Community bound for home.

He said when they entered their yard, the defendants rushed on them with several single barrel guns and shot in the air.

According to him, the defendants grabbed his plastic bag containing US$17,000 from his Green Nissan pickup and made away with it while still firing in the air.

He claimed that he recognized two of the defendants including journalist Pelenah who slapped him in the face during the day of the incidence.

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