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Liberia: Judge Chenoweth Speaks of Negative Effects Social Media Is Having on Cases in Court

Resident Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Margibi, Judge Mardea Tarr Chenoweth

Kakata, Margibi – The Resident Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Margibi County has alarmed that the increasing level of prejudicial comments in the media particularly on social media is fast becoming prevalent in the country.

Judge Mardea Tarr Chenoweth said that almost every major case before a court is nowadays being discussed in the media with no regard to the rights of defendants as enshrined within the Constitution.

Judge Chenoweth stated: “Article 20(a) of the constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in the Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under court-martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.”

The       Margibi County 13th Judicial Circuit Court Judge speaking on the theme: “The Effect of Prejudicial Comments on the Delivery of Justice in Liberia” averred that prejudicial comments are unfair and unreasonable and are formed not on the basis of hearing of facts but on opinion or feeling which are not consistent with due process.

Judge Chenoweth reading her formal charge at the opening of the August Term of Court on Monday, August 12, stated that in awful criminal cases that can only be proven by circumstantial evidence, jurors are likely to draw their verdict on prejudicial comments by the media and public, adding that such situation might lead to the conviction of an innocent person.

She at the same time admonished jurors to base their verdict on facts and not what is being read on Facebook or hear on radio stations and what is being told in community, noting that “Only bring down a verdict based on the facts and circumstances presented before you in court.”

“Lawyers are particularly requested to advise their clients not to discuss cases that are sub judice. Such discussions confuse the jurors and lead them to the wrong conclusion.” Judge Chenoweth averred. She asserted that lawyers are armed of the court and as such, should at all time help the court to properly dispense justice.