22 January 2013

Liberia: Jury System 'Tainted' - As Atty. Feika Craves For Imperative Reform

Attorney-at-law Ousman Felka is calling for reform of the jury system, which he and many others say is not helping Liberia's judicial process that is being heavily supported by the government and its international partners.

In an exclusive interview with this paper, he did not rule out the fact that the country's jury system is tainted in its entirety, but said the system should be reformed in such a way would-be jurors can be acknowledgeable of the subject matter during a trial.

Atty. Feika who acknowledged that there are criteria set out in section 18.2 of the Jury Law of Liberia, said there was an imperative need to revisit said law in order to meet present day reality.

The young lawyer did not say exactly what section 18.2 of the Jury Law said, in more cases, jurors have lesser knowledge of the crime for which the accused is being prosecuted.

"For an example, you are prosecuting an accountant who is allegedly involved in finance malpractices. You definitely need accountants who are peers of the accused person that will understand the accounting language to be able to look at the evidence that will be adduced at trial to hand down a verdict that is in line with the evidence adduced," he said.

He said due to the failure of officials of the judiciary to put in place measures, most of the time it is discovered that trials go on and when a verdict is handed down, the presiding Judge at some point in time overturned the jurors' verdict because said verdict is not in confirmative with evidence produced in the trial.

Commenting on the issue of would-be jurors considering their services to the Justice System of their own country as an employment, he said it is unfortunate, adding "said service is not an employment rather an opportunity provided for citizens to provide service when they call to do so."

"It is (Jury service) not an employment. This is an opportunity provided for citizens of the Republic (Liberia) to provide service when you are called to do so and when you are called to serve as a jury, you are compel to do so under the laws of Liberia."
Speaking further, Atty. Feika said the jury system strongly needs reform, stating that people who serve as jurors most often do not understand the issues that are before the court for hearing.

"These individuals (Jurors) are most often at time not peers of the persons that are been tried. These individuals are involved into so many malpractices to the extent that there miscarriage of justice to disadvantage of the parts that are involved in the matter."

"With these serious prevailing situations within our country jury system, we need to revisit the Jury Law in order to bring it up to present day reality and so that it will also be in line with changing time to prevent miscarriage of justice for justice to be delivered properly to the individual or individuals who have been inflected to get justice."

"Selection of jurors is very important in our jurisdiction, however, the jurors must have or must be of an appreciable level of education to understand the subject matter that is before the court and be able to understand the questions be  the Court so that they(Jurors) will help the court to answer those questions."'

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