Liberia: Govt Hands Tied?

analysis

-To Prosecute Varney Sherman, Tyler, Others; Plays Continue Delay Tactics

Government of Liberia seems unprepared to prosecute indictees in the Sable Mining Bribery Case thus persistently requesting the court for delay in producing her witnesses to testify against the defendants.

Government lawyers has on several occasions pleaded with the Court for continuance either due to difficulties in getting her witnesses to appear before the court to testify or lack of sufficient evidence to proceed with the matter against the indictees or because some of those indicted play key roles in bringing this Government to state power.

Cape Mount County Senator H. Varney G. Sherman, Former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Kool FM CEO Christopher Onanugua, Richard Tolbert, E.C.B. Jones, Eugene Shannon, Morris Saytumah and Willie Belleh where indicted in 2016 by the Government of than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for receiving bribe from a British company Sable Mining in the tone of US$950, 00.00 to change the PPCC Act of 2015 and other concession laws of Liberia in favor of the Company.

Since the move by government to prosecute these individuals for alleged corruption, government lawyers have continually plea with the court to delay the matter from one reason to the other with the recent being June 17, 2019.

During the appearing of both government and defendants, on Monday, June 17, 2019, Prosecution prey for jury trial even though the case is a bench trial.

This was denied by Judge Peter Gbeneweleh after the defendants through their legal counsels waived their statutory and constitutional rights to jury trial citing section 20.2 of the criminal procedural law of 1973 that provides for waiver of trial by jury.

This provision provides that "In all cases, except where a sentence of death may be imposed. Trial by a jury may be waived by a defendant who has the advice of counsel or who is himself, an attorney. Such waiver shall be made in open court and entered of record."

Article 21(h) of our 1986 constitution provides "That no person shall be held to answer f or a capital or infamous crime except in cases of impeachment, cases arising in the armed forces and petty offenses, unless upon indictment by a grand jury; and in all such cases, the accused shall have the right to a speedy, and impartial trial by a jury of a vicinity, unless such person shall, waive appropriate understanding, expressively waive the right of jury trial."

Judge Gbeneweleh noted that both the statutory provision of 1973 and the constitution provision of 1986 give the defendants their rights to waive jury trial where a sentence of death may not be imposed since the multiple offenses are noncapital offenses.

In another word, where sentence may be imposed in a criminal trial, a defendant cannot waive a jury trial. In this case, the multiple offenses are noncapital offenses, and the defendants have their statutory and constitutional right to waive jury trial.

According to Judge Gbeneweleh, consistent with section 20.3 of the criminal procedure law, he shall sit as jury De Facto and judge to decide this matter.

To which ruling prosecution excepts and says it will take advantage of the statue controlling.

Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh requests the court for another delay into the trial to Wednesday, June 19, 2019 so as to allow government time to produce its first batch of material witnesses. Prosecution says, its submission for delay is not intended to baffle in these proceedings but same is made in good faith.

But lawyers representing the defendants reluctantly agreed with prosecution for another delay but want the court warn government to desist from making applications that are not supported by law.

From all indications, it would be very difficult for government to prosecute these indictees as one of the defendants in person o J. Alex Tyler is a major party and force behind the coming into being of the George Weah led-Government.

It is further alleged that the current Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean also represented one of the defendants in person of Cllr. H. Varney Sherman senator of Grand Cape Mount County at the initial stage of trial in these proceedings something that make it even difficult to prosecute individuals.

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