Home Governance Lawyers’ ‘Missteps’ Engulf Cummings Trial

Lawyers’ ‘Missteps’ Engulf Cummings Trial

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By: E. Geedahgar Garsuah, Sr.

MONROVIA: The Solicitor General (SG) of the Republic of Liberia, and Chief Prosecutor, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, who is also the Government of Liberia (GoL) lead lawyer in the ongoing Forgery and Criminal Conspiracy trial of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) Political Leader, Alexander Benedict Cummings, has strongly denied the allegation made by the defense team.

On Friday, March 9, 2022, ANC, in press release, accused SG Cephus and his prosecution team of “unethical conduct” with ulterior motive of omitting series of conversations from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) National Advisory Council WhatsApp Chat-room that could be used to prove Mr. Cummings’s innocence.

The ANC statement said: “Mr. Cummings’s lawyers have discovered during cross-examination of All Liberian Party (ALP) National Chairman, Theodore Momo, that state prosecutors, aided by ALP’s Political Leader, Benoni Urey, have criminally extracted several pieces of evidence, establishing the innocence of, and exonerating, Mr. Cummings and his codefendants, from WhatsApp messages exported from Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) National Advisory Committee (NAC) chat-room they presented to the court and Mr. Cummings lawyers as a part of discovery records submission.”

ANC, in its press release, contended that the alleged coordinated and willful extraction of evidence from the CPP National Advisory Council online conversation that could point to Mr. Cummings innocence by the prosecuting lawyers with the help of the ALP Political leader runs contrary to the rules of moral and ethical deportment governing the conduct of lawyers under Liberia’s jurisprudence.

“The intentional omission of any piece of evidence that speaks to the innocence of the accused amounts to misconduct on the part of the prosecution. In all criminal matters, the State/Prosecution are duty bound or have a legal obligation to submit to the accused all the species of evidence the State has in its possession related to the allegations, and this includes evidence of inculpatory and exculpatory nature”.

The release also stated that: “Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral and Ethical Conduct governing the behavior of lawyers in Liberia forbids lawyers from suppressing and secreting information and evidence capable of proving the innocence of a defendant.

The ANC says, Cephus and team’s conduct is grossly unethical and criminally unprofessional.

Rule 7 states: “The primary duty of the lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict, but to see that justice is done. The suppression of facts or the secreting of witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is highly reprehensible and utterly unprofessional.”

But in response to ANC’s claim, Cllr. Cephus pointed out in a Saturday, March 19, 2022 press release that the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct emanating from ANC is “absolutely misguided utterly appalling”.

Cllr. Cephus expressed dismay that ANC’s allegation of misconduct as captured in the statement under the signature of its Assistant Secretary General, Johnathan Dolakeh was only grounded on a mere application filed to by the defense team to the court.

He termed Mr. Cummings’ defense team led by Cllr. Ibrahim Sillah action unfortunate. He added that the move is only intended to take advantage of the gullible state of the country by using the mass media.

Cllr. Cephus: “The office of the Solicitor-General described such media campaign as an asinine slander by men of limited vision and courage, and a clear manifestation that the defense team, led by Cllr. Sillah has absolutely no evidence to counter what the prosecution is producing as evidence in court, and instead, depending on what it feels and thinks the prosecution has allegedly excluded, although without any proof, as evidence to exonerate their client.”

According to the prosecution’s press release, under the signature of Cllr. Cephus, the current allegation of “prosecutorial misconduct” emanating from the defense team is “laughable as such falls below the belt of rudimentary reasoning of legal practices and procedures.”

He added in the statement that Mr. Cummings defense team’s attempt of wanting to bring the prosecution team to uncalled-for ridicule is only intended to seek underserved publicity.

“The office of the Solicitor-General says only a person who does not understand elementary trial practices and procedures will make for the sake of undue publicity, such a frivolous and unfounded allegations that the prosecution has excluded evidence intended to exonerate a criminal defendant without producing a counter or superior evidence to disapprove what has been presented to court, testified to, identified, and confirmed by the witness on the stand and then marked by court without any objection from the defense team,” the SG statement pointed out.

Cllr. Cephus strongly refutes claims that evidence from the CPP National Advisory Council WhatsApp Chat-room that could have proven Mr. Cummings not-guilty in the on-going Forgery and Criminal Conspiracy trial was excluded by the prosecution as claimed by the defense side.

He denied and dismisses ANC allegations of prosecutorial misconduct while cautioning Cllr. Sillah to find another means of seeking what he considered “weekends tips and other incidental fees” from their client.

According to Cllr. Cephus, it is the legal rights of Cummings’ defense team, headed by Cllr. Sillah to implore any tactics that is aimed at demanding cash from their client, but averred that the prosecution will not sit idly by and be used as conduit for extortion and blackmailing their client.”

“The release says though things are tough and the defense team has every legitimate reason to make demands upon its client but the prosecution cannot and should not be used in such a game of undue and extortion and blackmail and has therefore described as blatantly reckless and irresponsible an ill-fated media campaign embarked upon by the defense team to mislead the general public about the quality of evidence that is being presented in court by the prosecution against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his partners in crimes.”

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