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Justice Scott ‘Tastes’ Prison Life

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: After the issuance of a Writ of Arrest from the Monrovia City Court, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, has been charged with murder, raising false alarm and criminal conspiracy, along with three of her family members who are now detained at the Monrovia Central Prison, pending court trial.
Justice Scott who is also former Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), and former Chairperson of the Liberia’s Constitution Review Committee was charged in connection to the death of her daughter, Charloe Musu, in February this year, at her Brewerville residence, outside Monrovia.

On Wednesday, the decision by Criminal Court ‘C’ to release former Chief Justice, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, from police custody generated intense legal debate involving some of Liberia’s best and brightest lawyers, representing the interest of the State and the Defendants.

The government’s legal team comprises Cllr. Sumo C. Kuku, Cllr. Aloysius F. K. Allison, Cllr. Lafeyette B. Gould, Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah, II, Cllr. Aaron Kpaklin, Cllr. Nyante Twan among others, while the former Chief Justice is being represented by Cllr. Richard J. Scott, Cllr. Augustine C. Fayiah, Cllr. Kuku Dorbor, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, Cllr. Murphy Kanneh, Cllr. Aloysius Toe, Attorney Bouwolo Taylor Kelly and Atty. N. Dixon R. Tamba who are to be joined by others counsels.

The decision to grant the former Chief Justice along with her three family members Writ of Habeas Corpus and released them from detention then, by Criminal Court “C” Judge, Blamo Dixion, also came under strong criticism by the Assistant Solicitor General of Liberia, Cllr. Lafayette Gould, describing it, then, as “Compromised murder case” that lacks necessary legal backing.

On Tuesday, Justice Scott, Getrude Newton, Rebecca Wisner, and Alice Johnson were detained by the police after honoring an invitation.

This prompted her team of Lawyers to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus before Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice.

Habeas Corpus is a legal procedure used to bring detainees before a court to determine the lawfulness of their imprisonment or detention.

But, the Assistant Solicitor General Lafayette Gould, in reaction to Judge Dixon’s decision on Wednesday, expressed dissatisfaction over the form and manner in which the matter was handled.

He said the “particular decision to grant Justice Scott and others Writ of Habeas Corpus was never on its merit. I challenge any sound legal practitioner to argue this.”

Interestingly, Justice Scott’s legal team strongly countered the claims of the Defense Counsel.

As provided for under the Liberia’s Law, according to Cllr. Gould, Justice Scott and others did not reach the 48-hour minimal threshold following their arrest and detention by the Liberia National Police (LNP) then, but they were released contrary to petition filled by their lawyers.

He argued that the Country’s Court System was again exposed to self-interest and fraud in contrast to fair adjudication of judicial matters that require judgment without fear or favor; no matter who’s involved.
Gould expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s decision, stating that Justice Scott would not have been released if she were an ordinary person.
He argued that her release at the time was not in line with the petition filed and that the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter.
Gould emphasized that serving the country did not exempt someone from facing jail time if they committed crimes.
He clarified that Justice Scott had not been placed in a cell with male inmates but was under investigation for murder, criminal conspiracy, and false reports.
“I know there are certain battles you cannot fight in this country, which is sad and bad for the system. If the murder case against Justice Scott and three others was in the same case with an ordinary Liberian, is this how the court was going to proceed? I say no! But because it is a “Scott,” she was released without any legal backing,” he averred.

Cllr. Gould believes Judge Dixon Wednesday Writ of Habeas Corpus granted to the former Chief Justice was a slap in the face of government’s prosecutors as the granting of the petition which set free the former Chief Justice.

However, in court’s arguments prior to granting Writ of Habeas Corpus, Justice Scott’s legal team cited Article 21 of the Criminal Procedure Law, emphasizing that the Writ of Habeas Corpus should protect human rights.
They argued then, that Justice Scott had been technically detained since February without being charged or brought to court within the 48-hour period as required by law. They believed the writ was necessary to secure her release then.
Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, one of the lawyers representing Justice Scott, argued then that the police and the Ministry of Justice failed to investigate and charge the former Chief Justice within the 48-hour statutory period, thus denying her rights and liberties.
Cllr. Massaquoi further argued then, that it was unfortunate that Justice Scott was imprisoned in the presence of her lawyers when she had never refused to come for investigation and had cooperated with investigators throughout.
However, Judge Blamo Dixon, in granting the writ, stated that it was legally valid.

He explained then, that the appropriate remedy when a citizen’s liberty and rights are restrained is the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Judge Dixon clarified that the Constitution did not specify “after 48 hours” but “within 48 hours” for filing the petition.

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