Liberia: Defense Lawyers in US$100m Cocaine Case Oppose the Admitting of Defendants’ Cellphones into Evidence


Monrovia -Lawyers representing several foreign nationals and a Liberian in the ongoing US$100m cocaine case at Criminal Court “C” have protested against the display and introduction of two Samsung phones as additional evidence to prove the the defendant guilty.

By Victoria G Wesseh

Counsels for the defendants on Monday, March 27, 2023, prayed Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court “C” to deny the application that the phones be displayed in open court via a projector that has been brought forward by prosecution to clarify and enlighten the mind of the fact finder of the case (the jurors).

The defense team said that  the  phones said to be displayed in court constitute a violation of the rights of the defendants against self-incrimination and therefore is unconstitutional.

“The defendants say that said phones subject of this application has never been display, or paraded or brought to the knowledge of the defendants throughout the processing of investigation, the preliminary at the City Court, the discovery proceeding in this court, and as such the said phone constitute a surprise to the defense which is contrary to the Criminal Procedure Law,” stated defense lawyers. 

They argued that according to the testimony of state witness in person of Larry S. Brown, said phones were seized from defendant Malen Conte on October 1, 2022.

They indicated that from that date till now, the phones have been in the custody of the witness on the stand in person of Mr. Brown, that is to say he has exercised uninterrupted control over the phones which therefore constitutes a bridge in the chain of custody.

The defense lawyers revealed that in this case, there is not determination as to the witness or any other person of the Prosecution may have broken the passcode of the defendant’s phones and gain access to said phones and may have inserted whatever material they decided to insert in order to implicate the defendants.

The defense Lawyers  also argued that if the phones had been presented to or share with the defense prior to now, the defendants could have moved to suppress evidence because the said evidence was gathered unconstitutionally against the interest of the Defendants.

The Defendants maintained that to display the contents of the phones to reflect photograph showing association between the defendants and Mr. Augustavo Henrique, the Brazilian national who is now beyond the bailiwick of the Court and has been separated from the defendants, and is to be tried separately from the defendants, the same would work prejudice and injury to the right and interest of the defendants and should therefore be disallowed.

Meanwhile, Judge Dixon has granted the request of the prosecution for the display of the contents of the two phones and denied the resistance from the defense team.