Home Governance Justice Scott Murder Case Transferred …As 30 Veteran Lawyers Represent Defendants

Justice Scott Murder Case Transferred …As 30 Veteran Lawyers Represent Defendants

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: The Stipendiary Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, L. Ben Barco, has dismissed a motion filled by Justice Gloria Musu-Scott’s legal team to release her along with three others on bail from the Monrovia Central Prison, known as ‘South Beach Prison,’ following their detention there on Thursday, June 22, 2023.

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 along with Gertrude Newton, Rebecca Wisner, and Alice Johnson were charged and detained for murder, raising false alarm and criminal conspiracy relative to the killing of the Ex-CJ’s daughter, Charloe Musu, in their Brewersville residence, outside Monrovia.

This prompted her team of Lawyers to file a motion praying the Monrovia City Court over the weekend to grant Justice Scott and other defendants right to bail.

The accused, Gloria Musu Scott, is also former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia; former Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC); former Chairperson of Liberia’s Constitution Review Committee and former Senator of Maryland County.

It followed an 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. Lafeyette B. Gould, Cllr. Nyante Twan, Cllr. Sumo C. Kuku, Cllr. Aloysius F. K. Allison, Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah, II, Cllr. Aaron Kpaklin, Atty. J. Dexter Puiyou, among other veteran lawyers.

Former Chief Justice Scott and family members are being represented by Cllr. Francis Johnson Allison, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia; Cllr. Kabineh Ja’neh, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia; Cllr. T. Negablee Warner, former Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia.

Other defense lawyers are Cllr. J. Laveli Supuwood, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Augustine C. Fayiah, Cllr. Gerald G. Appleton, Cllr. Gedu Johnson Sarvice, Atty. Addy Weady Kerkulah, Atty. Faciah Harris, Cllr. Richard J. Scott, Cllr. Kuku Dorbor, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, Cllr. Murphy Kanneh, Attorney Bouwolo Taylor Kelly and Atty. N. Dixon R. Tamba among others.

The defendants were accordingly arraigned when the case was called on Friday.

The defendants, thru their legal counsels, filed a motion to be admitted to bail, stating that the law, hoary with age, is instructive to the fact that when a criminal charge is made, defendants are entitled to bail and the legal maxim applies to all charges, citing chapter 13, sub-section 13.1, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the criminal procedure law.

The imprisonment of Justice Scott, her legal team argues, the laws extant in this jurisdiction may allow for personal recognizance, most especially for officials who are known not to be flight risk.

The defense counsels narrated that, in such instant case, Gloria Musu Scott, former Justice Minister, former Senator and former Chief Justice is under no threat whatsoever to circumvent her appearance before the court at any time and/or date that the court will cite her to appear.

The defense lawyers further argue that under such legal maxim, it is prudent for the court to grant the accused personal recognizance to be signed for by her lawyers.

Following the movants’ counsels, prosecution lawyers resisted and requested the court to ignore and dismiss the defense motion on grounds that, as to the clause in the criminal procedure law that calls for a charge or charges against an accused to be one which is considered to be a subject of proof not be evident and presumption not being great.

Prosecution indicated that the facts and circumstances in said matter or proceeding should be clear and legal; therefore, the court should deny and dismiss the request for bail bond in these proceedings in that the crime of murder, including other crimes with which defendants are being brought before the court is a capital offense by law.

The prosecution lawyers argued that Article 21 (d) of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia provides that “All accused persons shall be bailed upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties depending upon the gravity of the charge unless charged for capital offenses or grave offenses as law”.

The state’s legal team further argued that said constitutional provision empowers the court to deny, ignore and dismiss for bail bond by a defendant or defendants accused of the commission of the crime of murder which, “according to the penal code of the Republic of Liberia is a capital offense.”

They (State lawyers) said in such instant case, the accused persons are charged with the crimes of murder, criminal conspiracy and providing false reports to law enforcement officers; therefore, the crime of murder is defined by law as a capital offense, and as such, the court is prevented by the statue and constitution to grant bail bond to the accused.

They further dismissed the maxim referred to by defense lawyers “derogatorily and erroneously”, stating that if presumption is not great and proof is not evident, the accused should be granted bail bond.

“In the instant case, there has not been any effort to show or exhibit to the court. That the court cannot surmise from the blue sky that presumption is not great and proof is not evident,” prosecution further told the court.

In his ruling, Magistrate Barco, said the defendants were charged with multiple criminal offenses to include criminal conspiracy, false reports to law enforcement officials, and murder which is a first-degree felony and classified as a capital offense, consistent with chapter 7, section 7.3 of the new judicial law as amended, the jurisdiction of magistrates courts in criminal proceeding only extends to 1st, 2nd and 3rd degrees misdemeanors and not to felonious offenses.

Misdemeanors are crimes usually punishable upon conviction by a small fine or by a short term of imprisonment.

Hence, Magistrate Barco ruled that the Monrovia City Court has no trial jurisdiction over the crime of murder with which the defendants are charged, noting that the only actions the court can take in a matter brought before it over which another court has original trial jurisdiction is to conduct a preliminary hearing, particularly if requested by the defendants upon their appearance in court, but in the event where the defendants waive their rights to said hearing by failing to request same, the next available option to the court is to have the matter venue before the appropriate forum having trial jurisdiction over the offense or offenses charged.

“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing facts, laws and law analysis, this court is inclined to rule denying the application of the defense counsels and the said application is hereby denied.

This court also not having subject matter jurisdiction over the crime of murder, orders the clerk of this court to have the matter immediately transferred to the first Judicial Circuit Court, Criminal Court Assizes “A” of Montserrado County for the appropriate actions to be taken,” the Monrovia City Court Magistrate ruled.

Therefore, the matter was transferred to the First Judicial Circuit for hearing.

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