LIBERIA: Justice Ministry, Judiciary Should Be Blamed For Lingering Threats From Notorious Criminals Like Kesselly Mulbah

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THE NEWS of notorious armed robber Kesselly Mulbah alias “Kezo” reappearance in the community despite his previous arrest has renewed an unending debate about the flaws of Liberia’s criminal justice system.  Kezo was again taken down by police in a fire exchange in Dixville after one of his robbery sprees that led to the death of a community watchdog member, but the well-known armed robber who survived the bullets is yet to be forwarded to court by the police.

THE LIBERIA NATIONAL POLICE through its spokesman claims the suspected armed robber was injured during the shoot out and is now undergoing treatment at the JFK Hospital. The apprehension is not just about “Kezo” but how many other recidivists are roaming the streets and reigning terror on peaceful citizens as the system fails to put them away.

FROM RAPE TO MURDER, from armed robbery to auto theft, re-offenders are often allowed to slip through the cracks of our criminal justice system. The number one excuse by state actors is: “There are challenges — lack of resources to hasten prosecution.” Spare us this cliché, we also know that failure to properly gather evidence and adduce same during trial would see a very notorious criminal walk free. So, how difficult is it to remedy these age-old challenges? This, we think, is at the fulcrum of the many problems dogging our criminal justice system and one of the reasons why crime persists.

THE STANDARD FOR ADJUDGING an accused person guilty is that government lawyers leading the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did commit the crime. It is not based on public sentiments or mere conjecture. Court are no party to a suit, according to the jurisprudence of this nation, and so the onus is always upon the government to show that criminals like “Kezo” get punished based on the law.

WE ARE ALSO AWARE, like most Liberians, that many criminal cases are irritatingly messed up by Police investigators who, according to the criminal justice system of this country, are at the first layer of criminal prosecution. So, it is obvious that once police investigators are incompetent, bias or corrupt in responding or investigating a crime, successfully prosecution of an indicted criminal would be improbably.

WHILE WE REMAIN COGNIZANT that the law gives a plethora of rights to an indicted criminal, we are convinced that once the Ministry of Justice is more meticulous when prosecuting “Kezo” and his likes, criminals will not be allowed to walk free. We see this as a deliberate attempt to disregard the service of justice to the families of victims of these criminals.

THIS IS A RECIPE FOR VIGILANTE JUSTICE because it is a known fact that once communities are not assured that criminals will be effectively prosecuted by the government; they would adopt other means of attaining justice albeit very violent.

AMID CONCERNS about the social ramifications stemming from the government’s repeated failures to adequately prosecute notorious criminals, there are also lingering inklings about a judicial system that is marred by alleged corruption. These allegations of corruption lift accusing fingers to be pointed at either the Justice Ministry that supposed to prosecute criminals or the judiciary that supposed to interpreter the law the indicted criminal violated and the punishment thereof. We, like many other Liberians and our foreign partners, are often saddle with the task of determining who is responsible for these failings.

BASED ON OUR READING of Liberia’s Criminal Procedural Law, it is easy to state here that the burden is upon the Ministry of Justice to show why a person must be adjudged guilty and its failure will render the person free. Failure to also indict the criminal opens the gate for that criminal to walk free as well.

SECTION 18.2 of the criminal procedural law states: “Unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss a complaint against a defendant who is not indicted by the end of the next succeeding term after his arrest for an indictable offense or his appearance in court in response to a summons or notice to appear charging him with such an offense. Unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss an indictment if the defendant is not tried during the next succeeding term after the finding of the indictment. A court shall dismiss a complaint charging a defendant with an offense triable by a magistrate or justice of the peace if trial is not commenced in court in response to a summons or notice to appear.”

HOWEVER, based on the facts we have gathered from the Kezo case, it seems he was never qualified under the abovementioned section of the law but a Writ issued by Criminal Court’ D’ Judge Sikajipo A. Wollo dated March 11, 2019 and submitted to the Justice Ministry ordered his release.

“YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to release the living body of Kesselly Mulbah to be identified of the city of Monrovia charged with the offense of armed robbery and criminal conspiracy who has been charged by due process,” the writ said.

THIS MEANS, Kezo was released on bail. Our law provides that a defendant, who is not indicted for Capital offense may be released on bail as stated in Section 13.2 (2): “Any person charged with the commission of an offense not capital shall be entitled as of right to be admitted to bail, whether before conviction or pending appeal, and any person charged with commission of a capital offense who has been convicted of a lesser offense shall be entitled as of right to be admitted to bail pending an appeal.”

ARMED ROBBERY IS NOT A CAPITAL offense or death penalty because 15.34 (2) of the Panel Law of Liberia states that a person convicted of armed robbery “shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen (15) calendar years, nor more than twenty (20) calendar years where personal injury is sustained and/or valuables taken away as a result of the act of the felon or felons”. However, the law is also very clear that “In the event death ensues” during armed robbery, the accused convicted shall be sentenced to death by hanging in a public place designated by the trial court.

WITH ALL the facts about the terror Kezo has reigned and the lives that have been lost due to his menace, we find it hard to believe that the both the State and the Court could not see reason to keep away from the community.

THE TEXTUAL MEANING of these laws aforementioned, will not trump the common rationale of any criminal jurisprudence, which object is to uphold the sanctity of society by instituting legal means to ensure retribution and deterrence of criminals. This makes it even more mind blogging to ascertain why a Judge accepted a bail bond for a notorious criminal and why the Ministry of Justice delayed in sending such criminal case to court? The answers seem to be the reasons we still have more crimes happening in our communities.

WE THINK THE COURT and the Justice Ministry is responsible for the cracks which is too easily blamed on the written text of our laws. Common sense tells us the ultimate purpose of criminal law; so, if we will continue to allow criminals walk free because of mishaps or age-old challenges, we are not a civilized society. This is shambolic of our system.   

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