10 January 2013

Liberia: 'Mercenary' Jurors Booked II Pelenah's Trial

In the middle of the armed robbery trial involving Liberian broadcast journalist Darlington Pelenah and two others, the Criminal Court "D" at the temple of Justice in Monrovia has suspended the proceedings to investigate how Jurors Annie David and Judy Blamo were enlisted on the jury panel.

judge James W. Zotaa's decision on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 followed prosecutors' alarm, claiming that the West Point Township Commissioner Miatta H. Flowers had declared jurors Annie and Judy "mercenaries".

Commissioner Flowers on January 5, 2013 wrote the Clerk of Criminal Court "D", disclosing that the three names were never vetted by her office neither does she have knowledge of an earlier letter from the court, requesting the township to nominate three jurors for the trial.

Journalist Pelenah and co-defendants Benjamin Bookie Gbar and William P. Randolph have been on trial for allegedly armed robbing victims Weeks Thomas, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor at the GSA Road Community on July 25, 2012, allegedly making away with US$17,000 and shooting Edwin's head during the incident.

In a communication addressed to Criminal Court "D" Clerk Ophelia Lawrence purportedly signed by Richard Tarjibo M., Clerk of the Commissioner's office on November 2, 2012, the author presented the names of Annie Davies, Jurdi Blamoh and Agatha Sekpeh for consideration [as prospective jurors] "to contribute their quota to justice."

Notwithstanding, a communication under the signature of Commissioner Flowers dated January 5, 2013 however declared the three names null and void on grounds that they were never vetted by her office, neither did she have knowledge of the letter in question.

In the wake of the emerging development, prosecutors argued that "fraudulent nature and or condition under which Jurors Annie David and Judy Blamo [got] into this honorable court is strange..."

The state lawyers earlier cited Chapter 22, Section 22.3 Page 184, Title 1 of 1LCLR, quoting that "the appropriate officer of each commonwealth district, municipal district, city, township shall submit quarterly to the clerk of the circuit court of the judicial district in which such official performs his duties a list of names of a number of persons who he believes to be qualified to serve as jurors in his judicial district..."

But prosecutors alleged that on the contrary ... when Criminal Court "D" Clerk sent out letters to various officials to summon prospective jurors to serve during the November A.D. 2012 Court Term, the West Point Township Clerk "intercepted" the communication that was addressed to the commissioner and fraudulently submitted three persons names unknowing to the commissioner.

As such, the state lawyers pleaded for the court to conduct an investigation into the two communications that came out of West Point.

Resistance to prosecutions' plead, defense lawyers representing defendant Pelenah and the two co-defendants said the state's submission is an attempt to cause mistrial of the case or to harass and intimidate the jurors, especially those accused.

Defense claimed that prosecution miserably failed to advance a legal ground for an investigation to be conducted into the issue raised, requesting the court to throw the submission "out of the window", saying its intent is to baffle and delay progression of the case.

Judge Zotaa however accepted prosecution's plead and ordered the court clerk to write the West Point Commissioner and the office clerk to attend the investigation at the time and date that will be mentioned. He also ordered that the two jurors accused should be part of the investigation.

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