Liberia: State Lawyers Beg for More Time to Gather Evidence to Prosecute Ex-Defense Minister
Monrovia – State lawyers have requested Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay to grant them time in order to provide witnesses and other documentary evidence to prosecute former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and two of his former deputies – Joseph P. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorbor, former Comptroller.
Prosecution made the request on Tuesday, February 18, when the court seemed ready to receive state witnesses and documentary evidence as procedural to begin the trial.
The prosecution pleaded with the court to allow them present state witnesses and documentary evidence on February 19.
Former Defense Minister and his two deputies have been charged with the commission of the crimes of Economic Sabotage, Misuse of public Money, Money laundering, criminal conspiracy and theft of property and were indicted by the grand jury of Montserrado County on October 9, 2019.
It has been more than four months since they were indicted but they are yet to be tried by the State.
In the practice of law, after the prosecution opening statement to the court, it is follow by the qualification of its witnesses.
But Prosecution in their request pleaded with the court for time to process and present witnesses and other documentary evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants are guilty.
Excerpt from prosecution’s request reads: “Because prosecution has gathered its witnesses and is processing the presentation of those witnesses in court, which requires a study and conscious process, prosecution believes and prays court to grant continuance to tomorrow (February 19, 2020), at which time the prosecution’s witnesses to include but not limited to the names contained the Indictment as witnesses, will take the witness stand as the prosecution outlines its theory of the case.”
It continues: “The request for continuance is not a deliberate attempt to delay the trial, but done in good faith, and to also allow the prosecution’s witnesses whose testimonies are very germane to this trial to be present in court”.
In response to the prosecution’s request, the defense team also pleaded with the court to deny the prosecution request on grounds that it is made in bad faith.
The defense team further argued that the request of the prosecution is intended to delay the trial of the case and also an attempt to violate the defendants’ rights to due process and speedy trial.
Argued Defendants lawyers: “A review of record shows that the Indictment was drawn on October 9, 2019; today is February 18, 2020. Further, defense also says that the assignment for trial in these proceedings was issued out by this court since February 10, 2020-meaning seven days ago. The prosecution had sufficient time to arrange and or drill their witnesses, both material and non-material witnesses to proceed to trial.”
Defense team adds: “To request for continuance of trial today in view of the reasons cited is enough to trigger the delay in due process as provisioned by our constitution. This court should, therefore deny and reject the application made by the prosecution and order the trial proceeded with in order to ensure due process of law. Counsel says that anything other than proceeding with the case today, is nothing other than an attempt to keep the defendants.”
“Because prosecution has gathered its witnesses and is processing the presentation of those witnesses in court, which requires a study and conscious process, prosecution believes and prays court to grant continuance to tomorrow (February 19, 2020), at which time the prosecution’s witnesses to include but not limited to the names contained the Indictment as witnesses, will take the witness stand as the prosecution outlines its theory of the case.”– Excerpt from Prosecution’s Request
In his ruling, Judge Gbeisay said the request of the prosecution lacks “legal or equitable” basis.
“It is the State that indicted the defendants in the dock. It is the State that has more than 163 cases on the docket and prayed for this case; meaning that the State was prepared to proceed with this matter, with all its evidence – both oral and documentary evidence available,” Judge Gbeisay said.
Judge Gbeisay further stated that the request of the prosecution is made in bad faith and intended to waste the court’s time and hinder the administration of justice.
“The court considers the action of the State as a clear breach of duty to perform, for which they have been paid. However, be as it may, this court will again bend over and backward to accommodate the State for the very last time, and that when such frivolous excuse is attempted, the prosecution will be seriously reprimanded to include a maximum fine this court can impose together with imprisonment. Let this be the final warning to the State Prosecutor. The request of the prosecution is reluctantly granted and this matter is hereby reassigned for continuation of the trial on tomorrow, February 19, 2020,” Judge Gbeisay ruled.
However, state lawyers have been struggling to provide evidence to the court to prosecute the defendants.
On Monday, February 17, Judge Gbeisay fined State lawyers US$150.00 for their failure to provide all species of evidence to the defense team to prepare for the trail.
He, however, threatened to penalize Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edwin K. Martin if the State fails to pay the amount within 24 hours in government’s account.
However, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that Cllr. Martin has made the payment to avoid his arrest and subsequent detention by the court.