MONROVIA: The Government of Liberia (GOL), through its prosecutors, has filed a motion before Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill in Monrovia for a change of venue in the impending murder trial involving former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Gloria Musu Scott, and three members of her family.
This followed her detention along with three of her family members there on Thursday, June 22, 2023, on murder and other charges.
Justice Gloria Musu Scott, 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 Brewerville residence, outside Monrovia.
The government, through the Ministry of Justice, had earlier filed a motion for a change of venue to relocate the murder trial of Cllr. Scott and others from Monrovia to a nearby county, citing fear of local prejudice due to widespread public sentiments.
On Wednesday, August 2, 2023, the prosecution filed a motion for a Change of Venue, stating that the within-named defendants, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Rebecca Youdeh Wisner, and Alice Johnson; were arrested, investigated, and charged by the Crime Services Department (CSD) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for the commission of the crimes mentioned.
That, before and during the hearing of the aforesaid Petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus first at Criminal Court ‘C’ and also before the arrival of the defendants, for the first time, the entire courtroom was filled with spectators including supporters of the Defendants, while others were in the courtyard discussing the merits of the case as said acts are legally unacceptable and counterproductive to the conduct of an impartial trial; and that, when the defendants were expected to appear at the Monrovia City Magisterial Court at the Temple of Justice and the Criminal Court “A” for Montserrado County, on June 21, 2023, and July 4, 2023, respectively, a large crowd of people gathered at the Courts mentioned above to witness the aforesaid proceedings and they were repeatedly discussing the merits of the case which is totally against practice and procedure.
The government also argued that when the defendants were denied the right to bail at the Monrovia City Court on June 21, 2023, and when they were committed to jail for the first time at the Monrovia Central Prison,( South Beach) located on UN Drive, hundreds of unidentified people stormed the aforesaid prison in an unusual and or irregular manner, a situation which is not healthy or conducive for both the within defendants and other inmates, including staff/prison guards at the aforesaid prison facility.
The prosecution contended that, during these pre-trial periods and the three different times the defendants appeared on the grounds of the Temple of Justice, groups of people with mixed reactions, singing, chanting slogans, and dancing, with the anxiety of desperation, were often seen in the Courtyard discussing the aforesaid case and at the same time awaiting the outcomes of the proceedings, a situation which poses threat and uncertainty for all the parties in the aforesaid matter.
The government said for the consideration of the above facts and circumstances, there is a reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be possible within this jurisdiction (Montserrado County), where the aforesaid prosecution/trial is pending.
But barely a week after that motion was filed, the government, in a rather spectacular shocking twist, on August 7, 2023, withdrew its petition for a change of venue.
Now, less than a month after the state withdrew the first petition for change of venue, its lawyers have run to the court to refile the petition at the time it was widely expected that a full trial of the murder case would have started Monday, August 28, 2023.
The government’s latest (second) motion for change of venue was surprisingly filed on Friday, August 25, 2023, citing the very reasons (grounds) for which the first petition was filed.
This latest action by the state has not gone unnoticed by many interested parties, including the spokesperson of the Musu family, Mr. Nathaniel Toe, who described it as delay tactics intended to unnecessarily prolong the case and keep the defendants languishing in jail without the necessary and required speedy trial.
Mr. Toe said the family is painfully following the developments surrounding the case, praying and hoping for nothing less than the required due process and speedy trial in keeping with the law.
Meanwhile, defense lawyers have filed their resistance to the government’s refilled petition for change of venue, citing several legal reasons to wit:
That the state’s action is intended to delay and deny the Respondents/Defendants’ rights to a speedy and impartial trial in keeping with Article 21(h) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia which provides that “no person shall be held for a capital or infamous crime except in cases of impeachment, cases arising from the Armed Forces and petty offenses, unless upon indictment by Grand Jury; and in all such cases, the accused shall have the right to a speedy, public and impartial trial by a jury of the vicinity, unless such person shall, with appropriate understanding, expressly waive the right to jury trial. In all criminal cases, the accused shall have the right to be represented by a counsel of his choice, to confront witnesses against him, and to have a compulsory process of obtaining witnesses in his favor. He shall not be compelled to furnish evidence against himself and he shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. No person shall be subject to double Jeopardy.”
The defense lawyers termed the state’s change of venue petition as a mere recital of the criminal procedure code, thus raising no traversable issue, and needs not to be traversed.
They argued, among other things, that the grounds stipulated by the state are not grounds for a change of venue for prosecution in the wisdom of the criminal procedure statute.
Meanwhile, the Defendants, through their lawyers, have filed a motion before the court for the conduct of a second autopsy on the body of Charloe Musu, for an alternative forensic and medical opinion.
The Movants told Criminal Court “A” that they have hired certified forensic experts to conduct an autopsy and medical examination on the remains of Charloe to provide adequate defense because the prosecution has included the findings of the March 21, 2023 autopsy as part of its evidence for the impending trial.