Liberia: Supreme Court Justice Denies Release of Top Opposition Politician Brother on Bail

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MONROVIA – Oliver Dillion, brother of tough-talking opposition political figure Abraham Darius Dillion will remain behind the walls of the Monrovia Central Prison as Supreme Court justice in chambers, Justice Joseph Nagbe, granted the petition for a writ of certiorari.

A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it and make determination on ruling delivered.

Dillon was on the brink of walking out of pre-trial detention after Judge Roosevelt Willie believed there were conditions under the law that permit an individual to be released on bail despite being charged for a capital offense. His charge was also to be reduced from murder to manslaughter after reviewing the circumstances surrounding alleged crime. However, Justice in Chambers, Joseph Nagbe, says Judge Willie was in error and therefore overturned the ruling. 

Justice Nagbe’s overturn of the ruling followed a petition from the prosecution for the review of the Judge Willie’s ruling.

On May 7, Judge Willie who presides over Criminal Court “A” ordered the release of Dillion on bail when he ruled into a motion filed by the Defense counsel.

Following the arguments by state prosecutors and defense lawyer, Judge Willie accepted the bail claiming that the country’s laws as enshrined in Criminal Procedure Law Section 13.1 titled the ‘Right to Bail’ subtitled criminal offenses states that a person in the custody for a commission of capital offense before conviction be entitled to the right to bail unless the presumption is not great and evident proven.

“A bail is not intended to free and Defendant but rather it enables the Defendant to be out of prison and come to court whenever he/she is needed, as in this case or any case where the proof is not evident and the presumption not great, an accused can be placed on bail,” Judge Willie explained.

In admitting Dillon to bail, Judge Willie said, Dillon should file the appropriate bond as defined by law, bring five eminent persons from his community with their photos and place of the resident to be ascertained by the Sheriff of the court where they have to stand as sureties for the Defendant

According to Judge Willie, the accused while on bail will report to the Sheriff office three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:00 to sign the attendance sheet; however, the Judge stated failure on the part of Defendant Dillon to abide by these guidelines will leave the court with no alternative but declare the Defendant as bail jumping and he will be arrested and re-incarcerated.

But Judge Willie’s order was stalled when state prosecutors filed a petition of certiorari asking Associate Justice to review Judge Willie’s decision to grant the bail.

Justice Nagbe on Wednesday in a conference said Judge Willie was in error and he ignored Criminal Procedure Law Section 13.1 titled the ‘Right to Bail’ subtitled ‘Criminal Offenses’.

Chapter 13, section 13.1 – Right to Bail “Capital offenses” states that a person in custody for the commission of a capital offense shall, before conviction, be entitled as of right to be admitted to bail unless the proof is evident or presumption great that he is guilty of the offense.

The section furthers, on the hearing of an application for admission to bail made before indictment by a person in custody for the commission of a capital offense, the burden of showing that proof is evident or the presumption great that he is guilty of the offense is on the Republic.

After indictment for such an offense, the burden is on the defendant to show that the proof is evident or the presumption not great. After a conviction for a capital offense, no person shall be continued at large on bail or be admitted to bail except in accordance with the provision of paragraph three (Illness of defendant) of the section.

Justice Nagbe said state prosecutors provided evidence on the murder charge and Judge Willie should not have granted the motion to bail.

State prosecutors cited Article 21.C, 1986 Constitution that states, “Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law.

“Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”

Cllr. Edwin Martin, Montserrado County Attorney told FPA that the Associate Justice acted in conformity of the law and it was based on state prosecutors’ argument.

“The Associate Justice acted in conformity of the law and based on the argument and justification raised as to the commission of the crime of murder,” he said.

Cllr. Wiefueh Sayeh argued that a Defendant can be admitted to bail for capital offense when the presumption is not great or the evidence is not proven as is in the case of Defendant Dillon requesting Justice Nagbe to deny the petition for the Writ of Certiorari.

Defense lawyers took exception to the ruling and gave notice that they will take advantage of the statute as requires by law.

They have 10 days to ask the Supreme Court bench to decide the fate of Dillion, and if their request is denied, Dillion will stay behind bars until his case is heard by either Criminal Court “A” or “B”.

As it is now, Dillon would remain in prison until the full bench looks into the justice in chamber’s ruling. 

Defendant Dillion was charged with murder by the police after he allegedly stabbed to death Emmanuel Kofa on April 12 in the Gardnesville Supermarket Community.

He was sent to prison Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Prior to his incarceration, he was the Coordinator for Decentralization at the Ministry of Transport.

An Act of Self-defense?

According to the police charge sheet, Defendant Dillon stabbed the deceased twice in his chest when the deceased and two others to be identified engaged him (Dillon) in the darkness with a scissor with aggression and malice intent.

The charge sheet also identified the deceased as a truck conductor, who used to be a car loader at the Barnesville Junction.

The charge also revealed that the vicinity in which Defendant Dillon encountered the victim and two others are noted for a notorious crime.

The investigation further revealed that the accused usually parked his vehicle opposite Jetty Trading Corporation in the Supermarket area along the Somalia Drive. He and his fiancée were victimized by robbers on separate occasions. On April 12, 2019, suspect Dillon parked his vehicle around 12 mid-night and went to his house.

While at home, he decided to use his computer but could not find his reading glasses and one of his cell phones and then realized that he forgot them in his vehicle that was parked.

Suspect Dillon decided to go back to his car for his phone and reading glasses. While leaving his house, he took a long knife with him,” the charge sheet said.

The charge sheet added that after defendant Dillon pulled out the knife and stabbed the victim twice on his left breast, the two others alleged accomplices fled the scene.

“The action of suspect Dillon to stab the victim twice on his left breast indicated that he (Oliver Dillon) intended killing the victim,” the charge sheet noted.

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT

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