12 March 2019

Liberia: Senators Grill Prosecution Witness WESSO

Two prosecution witnesses in the ongoing impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh were discharged from the stand last week, but not until Representatives Acarous Moses Gray and Kanie Wesso were grilled by both prosecution and respondent lawyers , and jurors of the trial.

Rep. Gray, the first prosecution witness, told the hearing that the property belonging to Mrs. Anne Yancy Constance was illegally purchased by then Mr. Ja'neh in 1996 from Constance Jr., who was then 40 years old (born 1956, and legitimized in 1960 at age 4.) Justice Ja'neh joined the Supreme Court in 2006.

But Rep. Gray argued that the rightful person to the property and from whom Justice Ja'neh could have acquired it was Mrs. Constance, who is the immediate next of kin. He said that the whereabouts of Mr. Constance is not known since the end of the wars.

In an attempt to resolve the land issue brought to his attention by Mrs. Constance, witness Gray recalled that he offered from his personal money the amount of US$3,000 to Justice Ja'neh for the return of his constituent (District #8) member's property, but he refused, and eventually evicted her from the same land by using his influence as Supreme Court Justice.

Coming under intense grilling by the Jurors (Senators) on Friday, March 8, Rep. (witness) Kanie Wesso answered a question from Pro Tempore Albert T. Chie, confirmed that the writ that was issued by Justice Ja'neh obstructed the collection of the Road Fund in the amount of US$27 million.

On the question by Senator Chie as to what might have been the motive for the obstruction, witness Wesso answered that "the companies that were involved in the collection used the money for their personal benefits, and to some extent, there is a high probability that some of that money was going to be shared by Justice Ja'neh, (now a respondent).

Senator Chie then disclosed that from information received recently, from the Road Fund managers and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) of the amount of US$27 million, "only US$285, 645 has been paid so far, so the Liberian people's money has been consumed, and it will be difficult to get it back. So you are telling us today that the writ that was issued by Justice Ja'neh obstructed the collection of the money?" To answer your question, the answer is yes, witness Wesso said.

Questioned by Senator Conmany B. Wesseh on the rules used for the impeachment of Justice Ja'neh, which he observed did not carry any signatures, and same sent to the Senate, witness Wesso said; "to answer your question, we conducted an investigation and the investigators report was signed by majority members of the Ad Hoc Committee, and that report was sent to the Senate."

Meanwhile, like the first witness, Rep. Wesso confirmed that the needed document that passed the title to Justice Ja'neh for the land was in the name of Constance Jr., "but in the mind of the House Ad Hoc committee, it should have been Mrs. Constance as the surviving heir; presumably at the time of the transfer of the deed Mr. Constance had died, because after the war, the widow told us that she did not see her husband up to the time this business was consummated."

The over four hours grilling by the jurors was closed by a question from Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor thus: "Honorable Cllr. Wesso, you are a lawyer and a member of the Supreme Court Bar; a writ of prohibition was issued to the House of Representatives at the time you had been appointed on a special committee to look into the petition filed by two members of that august body concerning the impeachment of Justice Ja'neh. Did you advise the House of Representatives not to respond to the petition for writ of prohibition?"

Rep. Wesso: "If I advised the House of Representatives as to whether they should not respond to the prohibition that was filed by the respondent, I did not advise them to not file any response. On the day of the argument as to whether or not we should go to the Supreme Court to answer to the writ of prohibition, the records are there. I stood up and said it was prudent for us to have gone; and beside, I went all out to do research... but the general decision was that we should not go."

Chief Justice: "I thought you would have advised correctly; because as I recall, there was a letter from the House of Representatives saying that they will not appear before the Supreme Court. In my mind, right or wrong, if a writ was issued wrongly, the place to raise that issue is in the court, and not to stay away; I thought you as Counselor of the Supreme Court would advise the House of Representatives not to appear before the High Court, but I got the answer, thank you," and with that, and no more prosecution witness for that day's hearing, Chief Justice adjourned the proceedings.

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