Liberia: 'Lawyers Caught in Jury Tampering Will Be Jailed'

-- Judge Nancy Sammy threatens

In her efforts to regain public confidence in the Judicial Branch, the assigned Criminal Court 'C' Judge Nancy Sammy has threatened to imprison any lawyer that would contact a potential juror and attempt to influence the juror's thoughts about how a case before her should end.

Judge Sammy's strongly worded statement comes in the face of public concern that most of the cases tried by jury at that court have usually ended at the Supreme Court as a result of alleged jury tampering, an accusation which has created a dark cloud over the image of the country's justice system.

Jury tampering, a legal expert explained to the Daily Observer, is the crime of attempting to influence a jury through other means than the evidence presented in court, such as conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to interfere with a juror.

"A person commits the crime of jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror's vote, opinion, decision or other action in the case, he attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as part of the proceedings in the trial of the case," the expert noted.

However, Judge Sammy, who is the first female to preside over the Criminal Court 'C' warned that lawyers who will be practicing before her court, Criminal Court 'C', should be mindful that she would not tolerate any attempt at jury tampering.

The criminal court judge further warned that "if any of you lawyers engage in jury tempering and you are caught, be assured that you will not go scot-free", she added, "because we will ensure that you be drastically dealt with in conformity with the law, so be warned."

The Criminal Court 'C' is one of the courts that has been plagued with charges of jury tampering and where the Supreme Court has been constrained to disband those jurors based on jury tampering.

One of the cases is that which involved former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Matilda Parker and her Comptroller Christina Paelay, in which Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokolie, then Chamber Justice, was constrained to disband the jury due to accusation of jury tampering.

In that case, the government lawyers charged that jurors in the case were tampered with, following the discovery of a letter that was addressed to two of the sequestrated jurors, Melvin Neowan and Kebbeh Kollie. The two jurors denied the allegation.

However, Parker and Paelay managed to win the charges against them due to government's continued failure to try the matter.

It is against this backdrop that Judge Sammy vowed not to tolerate any attempt of jury tampering by lawyers practicing before her court.

Judge Sammy highlighted these concerns when she recently delivered her charge during the opening of the November 2019 Term of Criminal Courts, A, B, C and D for Montserrado County.

During her deliberation, Judge Sammy said: "Some politicians might try to use our courts as platforms to promote themselves by interfering in judicial decisions, and so you have to take judicial notice of that fact."

Judge Sammy reminded her colleagues that they should not allow themselves to be pressured, coerced, or to let their courts to be used as a platform by politicians to promote themselves, stressing, "Please do not allow any politician to interfere in judicial decisions you will make."

However, she said that if cases are brought before them as judges that would cause conflict of interest, then in such situation, she advised, "the most appropriate thing to do is to recuse yourself as a sitting judge from hearing such cases."

She said that it is important to do so, "because as dispensers of justice, we cannot allow ourselves to be caught in situations that would embarrass us and the entire judiciary."

The female judge (Sammy) then noted that though she and others are relatively new to the judgeship, "a core value we have upheld is to resist outside influence, and to be prompt and expeditious in handling matters that come before us."

In a nutshell, she maintained, "we shall work diligently during this term to ensure that the law takes its course in clear, precision-driven terms and in a fearless manner."

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