Liberia: Justice Ministry Sweeps Justice under Carpet in Police Regional Commander Murder Case?

The Late Alexander Saye, Liberia National Police Regional Commander

MONROVIA – The Liberian Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for dispensing justice fairly, has slipped litigation regarding the murder case of the Police Regional commander in Zwedru Grand Gedeh County, Alexander Saye.

Commander Saye was allegedly murdered by another state security officer, Sampson Pennue in December of 2020 at the Bartehjam gold mining camp in Grand Gedeh. Sampson Pennue is a brother of Senator Zoe E. Pennue.

Since the tragic death of Police Officer Saye, the case has experience a series of twist and turns, with the Justice Ministry and the court itself appearing to be fumbling with it.

In the court, the presiding and assigned Judge Sikajibo Wollor some months ago released defendant Pennue on bail and shifted blame to the police for wonderful investigation.

After the defendant was released on bail in line chapter 13 of the Criminal procedure law of Liberia, the Ministry of Justice through Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephas filed what was seen as an “eye servant” writ of Certiorari at the Supreme Court. But said writ was allegedly swept under the carpet by Cllr Cephas.

“Back door deal”

Again at the call of the case on August 18, 2021, the defendant pleaded not guilty to his murder charge, thereby joining issue with the state, while defendant Pennue requested for bench trial. Informed sources close to the case say this was because of “their back door deal” with both Cllr. Cephas and Judge Wollor.

The state was expected to begin producing their witnesses on August 23, 2021, when some police officers were dispatched from Monrovia to Grand Gedeh County to testify. But when the police officers arrived, they got information that state prosecutors had compromised the case in which they prevented Cllr. Adolphus Kanuah, a state prosecutor from sitting on the case and police officers did testify in said matter.

After the police officers alleged that state prosecutors compromised their colleague’ murder case, they returned to Monrovia and informed the national Plice Inspector General of what occurred in Grand Gedeh County. And based upon said information, the police IG wrote a complaint to the Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean for the case to be transferred or have Judge Sikajibo Wollor recuse himself from the case on grounds that he connived with both the state and defense lawyers to compromise the case.

But that complaint was never taken serious by the Justice Ministry, after both the police officers who went to testify on behalf of their colleague, Alexander Saye, including the presiding judge Sikajibo Wollor who had also accused state prosecution of going to his house in Margibi County to have the defendant place on bail.

These grave allegations against state prosecutors were never investigated by the Ministry of Justice, neither did the Ministry write a complaint against Judge Wollor to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

On December 24, 2021, the Judge presiding over the 7th Judicial Circuit Court Sikajibo Wollor, who had earlier granted the defendant bail, dismissed the murder charge against defendant Sampson Pennue. That followed a motion to dismiss filed by the defense lawyer who Cllr Cephas was allegedly passing through to get his deal done.

The motion for dismissal was filed without notifying state prosecutors through it County Attorney. The Ministry of Justice and state prosecution were never represented when the case was dismissed.

The motion was recently filed based on Chapter 18 section 18.2 of the Criminal procedure law which states,

18.2. Dismissal by court for failure to proceed with prosecution

Unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss a complaint against a defendant who is not indicted by the end of the next succeeding term after his arrest for an indictable offense or his appearance in court in response to a summons or notice to appear charging him with such an offense. Unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss an indictment if the defendant is not tried during the next succeeding term after the finding of the indictment. A court shall dismiss a complaint charging a defendant with an offense triable by a magistrate or justice of the peace if trial is not commenced within fifteen days after the arrest of the defendant or his appearance in court in response to a summons or notice to appear.

The judge dismissed the case without prejudice to the state meaning they can still re-file their case against Sampson Pennue provided if he will still be in country.

But Cllr. Cephas on numerous occasions has denied trading the police regional commander case for money and he has being of accused also receiving money to connive with defense lawyers to release murder defendants.

Some Police officers and family members of the slain Police Regional Commander Saye are asking: “Justice where are you under the administration at the Justice Ministry?”

How did defendant Sampson Pennue get released on bail on June 10,2021?

The assigned Circuit Court Judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit Court in Zwedru City, Sikajipo Wollor Grand Gedeh County exposed how they released defendant Pennue on bail.

Judge Wollor revelation came as the result of a motion for recusal filed by state lawyers on ground that he (Wollor) will not be neutral.

State prosecution’s motion

The state motion for rescusal filed on Wednesday August 25, 2021 says the prosecution feels that it is vividly clear that your neutrality in this case, you started in yours holdings neutral because while, granting the defendant bail in this case as a judge will be far from that the presumption is not great  and the proof is not evident.

Count two of the state lawyers’ motion for rescusal says:

“Your Honor having listened to the evidence in this case from the state by holding that the presumption is not great is a clear indication that your cannot be impartial also prosecution further told Judge Wollor that you are the presiding Judge who granted the defendant bail and also ruled that there is no presumption to hold the defendant that a neutral judge hear this case.”

 The prosecution cites the case Republic of Liberia vs Harmon 5LLR page 300, Syl.5 the case victor Logan vs Republic of Liberia 33LLR page 434,Syl. 8.

In resisting the prosecution motion for recusal, one of Counsels for the defendant strongly resists the application made by prosecution because of the legal and factual reasons as showth to writ.

That the defendant in these proceedings had been arraigned before court and that the indictment has been read to the defendant.

 That is clear during the hearing of the motion to admit defendant to bail the presumption was not great and evidence is not proof  and as such the bail was granted.

 That the application fielded by the County Attorney is intended to buffer and delay the trial of these proceedings and as such, the defendant will suffer for nothing.

The defense therefore, requested court to earnestly, respectfully prayed court to deny the motion filed by state lawyers and proceed with the hearing of the case.

 Judge’s ruling

In his ruling on the motion filed by state lawyers, Judge Sikajibo A. Wollor said, HE WHO COMES WITH EQUALITY, MUST COME WITH CLEAN HANDS.

According to his ruling, Judge Wollor said during the February 2021, A.D term of Court, imminently after the receipt of his assignment for the May  A.D 2021, term of Court, Atty. Isaac B. Williams County Attorney and his deputy Joseph G. Suah both of the 7th Judicial Circuit Court for Grand Gedeh County visited his house in Margibi County.

The purpose of their visitation was to place the defendant on bond and his answer to them was, before he place the defendant on bond, the charge must be changed to manslaughter and upon the resumption of the May term of Court, both the public defenders and County Attorney emeritus Cllr. Adolphus Karnuah assembled in his Chambers that he should place the defendant on bond Judge Wollor added.

Judge Wollor further narrated that he went through the resistant of Cllr. Karnuah especially to count three of that resistant made reference to the court file.

And his question to Cllr. Karnuah was, you want for defendant Sampson Pennue to And his question to Cllr. Karnuah was, you want for defendant Sampson Pennue to be placed on bond and in count three, you made reference to the court file but it was defense lawyer Morias Waylee who told Cllr. Karnuah that since you want the defendant Pennue to be placed on bond, delete the portion that made reference to the case file, hence, because of the delectation of count three in the resistance that made reference to the file; hence Defendant Pennue was placed on bond Judge Wollor narrated.

Further to his ruling, Judge Wollor said, County Attorney, you knew that my neutrality has been questioned why, you allow this court to arraign the defendant before court and the defendant pleaded not guilty to the indictment; and if you knew that my neutrality was questionable you should not have allow the defendant to be arraign before court.

Court said that when there is a reading of the indictment and the defendant told court that he is not guilty, it closes all motions. Therefore, the County Attorney suffers waiver and laches.

Narrating further, Judge Wollor explained that the County Attorney after he had made the motion for the reading of the indictment and the defendant said,”I am not guilty” that stands serves as a denouement to all motions.

The 7th Judicial Circuit Court Judge said hence, the motion made for the judge to recuse herself after the indictment has been read to the defendant and pleaded not guilty, it closes all motions, hence the county attorney suffers waivers and laches, hence the case is hereby ordered proceeded with.

But prosecution took exception to the ruling and gave notice to court that it will take advantage of statute controlling.

State prosecutors also requested court for continuance into the matter and said it couldn’t proceed with the case because it has been practically impossible to get prosecution principle witnesses to come to Court especially the police forensic Investigator and those witnesses named in the indictment which includes DCP Emmanuel D. Jlikan, Abu B. Daramy and ACP Moore A. Dennis who did the forensic investigation.

Prosecution said those are key witnesses to the case and their testimonies will relevant and material in deciding the case and the state will be unable to proceed without the attendance of those witnesses.

For his part, Cllr. Karnuah said he was prevented from being part of state prosecutors on ground that he has taken part something that he accepts and stay away after went as state lawyer to join the County Attorneys to prosecute the matter.

Meanwhile, authority of the Liberian National Police said, they are set to writ the Ministry of Justice for the rescusal of Judge Wollor or to have the matter transfer.

Police authority dispatched their police investigators who investigated case to testify into their colleague murder case but they didn’t testify today on ground that the case has been tempered and they can’t sit and allow their colleague for free.

State witnesses were expected to start testifying today August 25, 2021 into the Police Regional Commander Alexander Saye murder case but they refused to appear in court based on alleged tempering with their colleague murder case.

As for the Liberia’s Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephas was has been accused of being the mastermind of the released of defendant Sampson Pennue, when this reporter engaged him on the allegation, he said to hell with the person who gave me the information.

Now, the biggest questions are: What will the Judiciary do to Judge Wollor? And what will the Ministry of Justice do to their prosecutors in the midst of this confession by Judge Wollor?