MONROVIA – After securing a significant legal victory at the Supreme Court, where the government’s petition was denied by the Justice In Chambers, the legal team representing Justice Gloria Musu Scott and her family has taken further action by filing a motion before Criminal Court ‘A’ to “advance the case on the trial docket.” The motion is based on the constitutional doctrine of the right to a speedy and fair trial.
The motion, submitted on Friday, July 14, 2023, states, “And Now Come Movants, in the above Cause of Action, most respectfully pray the Honorable Court and Your Honor to grant the Movants’ Motion to Advance the Case on the Trial Docket for speedy trial for the factual and legal reasons showeth the following to wit:”
The Defendants, represented by the Movants, were indicted on June 23, 2023, by the State for the alleged crimes of Murder, Criminal Conspiracy, and Making False Statements to Law Enforcement Officers. They were arrested on a Magisterial Writ for the alleged capital offense of Murder and subsequently incarcerated by the Monrovia City Court.
The Defendants further state that prior to their incarceration by the Monrovia City Court, they had been detained by the Liberia National Police (LNP) from June 20 to 21. They were released from any further detention by Criminal Court ‘C’ after their lawyers filed a successful petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which was granted on June 21, 2023.
The Defendants now move the Honorable Court to advance the case on the trial docket to ensure their right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by Article 21 (f) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. This constitutional provision under Chapter III, Fundamental Rights, Article 21, Right to Speedy Trial, mandates that every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. If the court determines the existence of a prima facie case, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest, set out the charge or charges, and provide for a speedy trial. Preventive detention is prohibited.
The Defendants argue that this request is in accordance with the laws, practices, and procedures of this jurisdiction. Granting the motion is necessary to ensure the due process clause of the law, which calls for a speedy trial and an impartial hearing.
In light of the foregoing, the Defendants request the following from Your Honor and this Honorable Court:
i. Granting the Defendants’ Motion to Advance the Case on the Trial Docket; and
ii. Granting any other relief that is fair, just, and legal, as set forth above.
According to legal experts, this motion signifies the Defendants’ desire for a full trial before the court and jury, without further delay, in order to receive a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The motion also aims to compel the state to present all of its evidence in court, if any exists.
This legal maneuver seeks to prevent the government from keeping the suspects in jail without pursuing a trial. The Defendants’ belief is that the evidence either does not exist or is insufficient for the case to proceed to trial and secure a conviction.
It should be noted that following the arrest and incarceration of Justice Scott and three members of her family, their lawyers filed two previous motions before Criminal Court ‘A’: a Motion for Discovery and a Motion to Admit to Bail.
The Motion for Discovery aims to grant Justice Scott’s lawyers access to and review all material evidence and information on which the charges and indictment were based. It includes requests for the coroner’s examination report, autopsy report, minutes of the grand jury’s meetings, deliberations, and conclusions that led to the indictment, as well as the weapon or instrument allegedly used in the murder. This motion is in line with legal requirements and enables the defense lawyers to prepare their clients’ defense.
The Motion to Admit to Bail seeks to persuade the court to grant bail to the accused/defendants while the trial is ongoing. The defense lawyers rely on the constitutional doctrine that presumes every accused person to be innocent until proven guilty. They also invoke the statutory provision of the law that allows the court/judge to grant bail in capital charges/offenses when presumption is not evidence and proof is not substantial. The judge can also use discretion to grant bail on Personal Recognizance, especially when the suspect is a prominent person with no risk of fleeing.
In his ruling on Tuesday, July 4, 2023, Judge Roosevelt Willie denied the Motion for Bail but granted the Motion for Discovery, requiring the state to provide Justice Scott’s lawyers with all their evidence.
However, the state’s lawyers refused to comply and appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn Judge Willie’s decision. On Wednesday, July 12, 2023, Justice-In-Chambers, Yarmie Q. Gbeisay, heard the state’s petition and denied it, ordering the lower court (Criminal Court ‘A’) to resume jurisdiction over the case. This ruling compels the prosecution/state to surrender all evidence they have against Justice Scott and the other defendants.
With the recent motion filed by the defendants through their lawyers, it is evident that they are not only seeking the submission of all material evidence by the state but are also determined to expedite the case on the trial docket for a speedy trial, in accordance with the doctrine of due process as provided for under Article 21 of the Liberian Constitution.