15 January 2013

Liberia: Money for Verdict

The armed robbery case involving a local journalist and two others took a new turn yesterday when the court disbanded the jury and awarded a new trial because of claims of bribery.

Despite going above the 52th days jury siting in the case involving journalist Darlington Pelenah and two others, Criminal Court 'D' presiding James Zotta Monday disbanded the trial jury after defence lawyers claimed that state prosecutors attempted giving money to jurors for a guilty verdict against the defendants.

Defence lawyer Atty. David Woah contended that the failure of jurors Annie Davis and Judy Blamo to accept money from state lawyers prompted their action against the jurors.

"They went through the regular procedure in keeping with the jury law. Because they refused to accept money for a guilty verdict,forced state lawyers to accuse them of not being sanctioned by the West Point Commissioner," he pointed out.

On January 7, 2013, state prosecutors informed the court that jurors Annie Davis and Judy Blamo on the panel were not sent by West Point Commissioners in keeping with the law governing the summoning of jurors to serve in court.

They augured that the two jurors were not sent to the court to serve as jurors for the November Term 2012 by the Clerk of the Commissioner's office in West Point.

But presiding Judge Zotta order the disbandment of the jury because of the gravity of the crime - armed robbery - and not wishing to have a miscarriage of justice.

"The Court has decided to disband this jury trial. The court takes judicial notice of the fact that the February Term of Court is less than three weeks ahead. So, it is awarding a new trial of this case before a jury that would not be accused of being tempered with as it appears in this instant case.

"The court does not want to risk the miscarriage of justice because proceeding with this jury especially under this circumstance would suggest the verdict of guilt or of not guilty to suspicion, a situation which this court does not want to occur," he pointed out.

The Criminal Court 'D' presiding then ordered the court to re-docket the case, saying the case should have precedence over all others armed robbery cases.

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

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