Liberia: Govt Demands Judge's Recusal in Trafficking Case

The prosecution here is demanding Criminal Court "B" Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson's recusal from a trafficking in person case, accusing the judge of allegedly demonstrating "lack of cool neutrality that is required of all Judges for their fair and impartial trial of cases."

Part of the reasons behind the government's demand for Judge Johnson's recusal is a claim that during hearing on Tuesday, 8 October, she denied a prosecution question directed at its witness, Police Detective Zebedee Saywrayne.

In the motion filed by State lawyer Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, the prosecution indicates that it had asked its witness Detective Saywrayne whether or not he ever interacted with or had any information concerning defendant Marian Morgan, but the judge denied the question.

Defendants Marian Morgan, Edwin Walker and Ernest Urey are on trial at Criminal Court "B" for alleged trafficking in person.Five witnesses have been produced in the case as at the time the prosecution had filed its motion for the Judge's recusal.

The State argues that the denial of its question by the judge clearly suggests her "impartiality and the discredit brought to these proceedings."Movant contends that its question is in the pale of the direct examination whose office is to solicit from the certain knowledge of the witness.

The judge having allegedly denied prosecution's question whether witness Saywrayne had interacted with defendant Morgan, Cllr. Wesseh alleges that Judge Johnson "was heard asking questions that suggested" that she was "already preempting the acquittal of the Respondents."

Further, the State lawyer says the judge is allegedly thriving on rumors, narrating how the she allegedly queried one of the prosecuting attorneys after the Tuesday session on 8 October.

In Judge Johnson's alleged query with the prosecuting attorney, the Motion details how she stated that a government witnesses Marthaline Johnson had remarked that some of the defendants to include Edwin Walker and Marian Morgan had boasted that they had money and could influence the judge's decisions.

The government believes that this annoyed Judge Johnson to the extent that she allegedly remarked that she and the prosecution would "rub shoulders".

According to Cllr. Wesseh's motion, prosecution once tried to place on the records of the court that its witness Mathrline Johnson complained of being assaulted by co-defendant Morgan after one of the court's sessions, but Judge Johnson allegedly denied the prosecution's request.

Besides, Cllr. Wesseh claims that Judge Johnson did nothing to investigate the complaint.

"That all of these unwarranted actions, pre-judicial statements and Your Honor's refusal to sign the minutes of the last sitting, despite prosecution's attempt to get the said minutes have summed up the interests of Your Honor in these proceedings and demonstrates your lack of cool neutrality that is required of all Judges for their fair and impartial trial of cases," he says.

Citing Judicial Connon 10 of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Wesseh says a judge should be temperate, attentive and impartial since the judge is to administer the law."This motion is being filed in good faith and not merely for delaying and baffling these proceedings," he concludes.

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