Liberia: Matilda Parker Case: Prosecution Lawyers Somersault, Withdraw Request for Court to Accept Testimonies in Absentia

Defendant Parker in red dress stands with lawyer Johnson

Monrovia – Prosecution lawyers trying the former Managing Director and comptroller of the National Port Authority (NPA) on economic sabotage charges have withdrawn request for the court to accept witnesses’ testimonies in absentia.

In October 2018 during the trial of the two former NPA officials at the Temple of Justice, prosecution lawyer and Solicitor General Cllr. Daku Mulbah requested the court to accept the testimonies of six witnesses who had earlier testified in the case when it first resumed at the same court in 2015.

Cllr. Mulbah had further told the court that his request was based on the fact that some of the witnesses who had earlier testified in the case were out of the country and those in the country were not willing to come out to testify again.

Therefore, he prayed the court to accept testimonies of the previous trial, as it is acceptable under the law.

Defense lawyer Cllr. Arthur Johnson then rejected the request and asked the court to deny and dismiss the request because accepting it means that the two former officials will not get free and fair trial as the current case before the court is being handed at new with a new judge.

Despite the plea of the defense counsel Johnson, the Judge of the court Boima Kontoe ruled and granted the prosecution’s request stating that the Supreme Court opinion cited by the prosecution in support of their argument in the case called for the acceptance of a witness testimony who could not be available when the same case has resumed for the second time.

His ruling to accept the prosecution’s request was again rejected by Defense Counsel, who filed a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court Justice-In-Chamber Sie Nyene Youh.

The writ of certiorari filed by the Defense Counsel is normally filed to the high court to correct decision a party deem incorrect from the lower court judges.

On Tuesday, November 20, 2018 during the hearing of the writ of certiorari by the Associate Justice Youh, prosecution lawyer Cllr. Jerry Garlawolo called on the high court that the state was withdrawing its response to the petition from the Defense Counsel so that the Defendants can get speedy trial in line with Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution which calls for a speedy trial of an accused person.

“Your honor the respondent (prosecution) begged this court to lift the alternative writ issued by the court in this case at the lower court to allow the court to proceed with the case,” pleaded Cllr. Garlawolo, claiming that the prosecution was willing to put on the witness stand its witnesses in the case contrary to the request made in the lower court last month.

In response, Defense Counsel Johnson interposes no objection to the prosecution lawyer. This means, he was in agreement with the submission made by the prosecution lawyer.

Following the submission from the prosecution and response from the Defense Counsel Associate Justice Youh ruled that the court did listen to the two lawyers but indicated that when the Supreme Court mandated the lower court to resume jurisdiction in the case the mandate was for the court to hear the case at new (de novo).

Said Justice Youh: “This case when the Supreme Court mandated the lower court to resume jurisdiction on October 4, 2017 the mandate was that this case must be heard as though it has not been heard before.”

Associate Justice Youh then ordered that the alternative writ issued in the case was lifted but the Judge should allowed the prosecution witnesses to take the stand where they will be directed and cross-examine by the Defense Counsel.

The Defense Counsel Johnson received the ruling of Associate Justice Youh with joy; he and Defendant Parker were heard saying outside the court: “good judgement long live the court!”