By: Bill K. Jarkloh
In the wake of confusion attending the ‘Guilty Verdict’ brought against former Liberian Lieutenant-General Charles Julu and retired Colonel of the disbanded Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Andrew Dorbor, Solicitor General of Liberia Tiawon Gongloe says the verdict of the Jury must always be respected. Cllr. Gongloe pointed out that the jurors are judges of facts, and that their verdict is considered the result of what appeared in court during trial.
The Justice Ministry prosecutor spoke to journalists after a drama that attended the deriving of a guilty verdict against former Liberian Lieutenant-General Charles Julu and retired Colonel of the disbanded Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Andrew Dorbor. The both men were accused by the state of plotting to subvert the Government of Liberia and were subsequent indicted on treason charges.
Cllr. Gongloe indicated that unless it is proven that the judges of facts were bribe; the guilty verdict remains the outcome of the case for now. “If they were bribe, why did the defense counsel and/or judge waited until after their verdict?” Cllr. Gongloe asked.
He maintained that the state is not the custodian of the sequestrated panel of jurors that have determined the verdict. “The Jury is in the custody of the Court, and the State lawyers have nothing to do with them,” he explained. He further explained that their feeding and everything is channeled through the court by the Supreme Court which is the senior most administrator of the Judiciary of which the Jury is a party.
The Justice Ministry senior prosecutor however vowed to prosecute anyone connected to the bribery allegation, including the Jury, if the allegations were proven to be true.
Koukou wasn’t given Clemency
On the pardoning of another treason accused, George Koukou, Cllr. Gongloe said reports in the Liberian media considering pardon an executive clemency the President had granted the former Speaker, Cllr. Gongloe said the reports were in correct. He told this reporter at the Temple of Justice that the President has just ordered the Ministry of Justice to enter a nullé prosequoi to drop the case against Koukou, and not a clemency. Clemency, he said, is accorded someone who was already tried and convicted.
He said the President decided to drop the case based on a number of appeals from friends, relatives and others in favor of Koukou, saying that freeing Koukou is a step towards reconciliation. On while the reconciliation could not cover Julu and Dorbor, he said their case was already at a logical conclusion, and it was prudent to end the case so as to know convince those critics who thought Government didn’t have a case.
On whether the Government will feel defeated if the verdict was to be “not guilty, he responded in the negative. “Guilty of not guilty” the outcome of this treason trial will mean that the judiciary is independent and it will mean a victory to government. You know that in the past, people complained that the court system is not independent, so a not guilty verdict will show that this Government isn’t in the business of influencing court decision, while a guilty verdict would mean that the prosecution has worked well.”
According to Cllr. Gongloe, the Government has won most of its cases, even at the Supreme Court level and around other courts in and outside Monrovia.
‘State tampered with the Jury’ – Defense Lawyers
Meanwhile, Republic of Liberia versus Charles Julue and Andrew Dorbor treason trial has concluded at the Criminal Court “A” with a chaotic guilty verdict that sent the court into utter confusion after the empanelled jury was accused of receiving bribe from state prosecutors.
As our Monrovia correspondent who was at the court described the situation, the entire courtroom was earlier quiet when the Clerk of Court read a guilty verdict issued the court in a sealed envelope. Soon after the reading of the “guilty verdict” and the clerk of court confronted individual jurors who confirmed that the verdict was unanimous, Cllr. Joseph Constant, a prosecutor, requested the Court to discharge the jury.
In reaction to the motion requesting the Court to discharge the Jury, the lead defense lawyer, Cllr. T. Dempster sprang on his feet and accused the Jury of being tampered with. “Your Honor, the defendants say that the jury was tampered with. Defense further says that it has information that that by 8: Am this morning, County Attorney Samuel Jacobs came to ground of the Temple of Justice and promise each of the jurors $800.00.”
Cllr. Brown balked back to the his seat for consultation with other defense lawyers including Attorney Saymah Syrenus Cephus, Lofen Kanneh and Idris Sheriff who were consistently whispering in his ear, took the floor again with his gown swinging like a pendulum as he frowned at the jury, said “Your Honor! The County Attorney also admitted that he came to this building 12: mid night when every lawyer was asked to keep off this area after normal working hours.”
“This admittance by the County Attorney that he entered this building at 12:00 midnight is clear indication that he has tampered with the jury,” Cllr. Brown exclaimed, saying, “So Your Honor, defense says it is calling for full investigation, and that the Jurors should be incarcerated until these allegations are proven otherwise.”
At this point of the apprehensive and jammed packed courtroom, Prosecutor Constant tried to crack a joke with Cllr. Brown by touching him. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me I say!” Cllr. Brown reacted as the prosecutor chided the lead defense lawyer to the
Court: “You are behaving unprofessional. I cannot take court problem for my client to heart like he is taking it, Your Honor,”
Defense Counselor Brown didn’t mine, he continued to insist that the state has tampered with the jury. “Shut up, you shit,” County Attorney Jacobs demanded of Cllr. Brown who replied: “Don’t call me shit!” “You are shit! You think you will win all the cases? You
will prove these allegations; if you don’t prove them, I will lock you up,” Attorney Jacobs who was by now on his feet threatened as Judge Charles Williams and the
Sheriff of the Court were busy pounding their desks with gavels while the “boohoo, boohoo” across the courtroom echoed.
State lawyer attempted Bribe? From this, the chaos even intensified when the judge began to comment on the response by the defense lead Counsel Brown. “The allegations by the defense are well noted. They are very serious allegation. Serious because, I remembered that before the Christmas, the County Attorney told me that the Government was contemplating on giving the juror Christmas bonus of $150. After this, I called the jurors to my office and advised them that any attempt to receive the amount will be considered a bribe,” Judge Williams said.
‘Ms. Watson told me she’s Reverend But…’ – Judge Williams
With the entire court by then uncontrollable, Judge Williams continued, “First of all I told them I don’t trust them [the Jury]. Ms. Watson [that was how she addressed the forelady of the Jury] told me she’s a reverend, but her action told me that she is not a reverend. She told me any money given to them they would eat it and do the right thing.”
According to the Judge, a prosecutor, Cllr. Constant who he told about this attempt to bribe told him to investigate it because it was a serious allegation, “Then I said – to me this case is being followed by the whole world. Unless they have no conscience, the will do vise visa.”
The Judge the ordered journalists to take the photos of the Jurors, a situation with made the case more disorganized with chanting and shouting while the entire jury started to heap queries on the Judge. By then Journalists were busy taking photographs of every scene, while the defendants were conspicuously inviting cameras as though they have scored a victory.
With every one was in complete disorder in the noisy courtroom, the judge could not apparently rule on the chaotic “guilty verdict” and he was seen piloted to his pickup by UNMIL and Liberia police. Seated on steering with aggressive journalists fishing for his comment through the window, Judge Williams said, “As far as I am concerned, there is no evidence to warrant guilty verdict.”
He had earlier charged the jury that that there wasn’t evidence that Col. Andrew Dorbor was arrested by the Ivorian security as alleged by the state, saying that any slightest doubt in the case of law a should operate in the interest of defendants. The prosecution although reacted to His Honor’s charge, the trend of the case was a source of diverse opinions amongst journalist during of court that was intended for the jury to derive the verdict.
Charge of Court was to help defendants Quizzed on what he made of what transpired at the court, Prosecuting Counsel Joseph Constant said: “Why did the judge wait all this while until the verdict, if he did not trust the jury?” Cllr. Constant explained to this writer that the charge of the judge was intended to help defendants out. “The judge was on the defendants’ side. I believe he has known them long ago,” he said.
The Prosecuting lawyer explained that the Judge has the right to set the verdict aside and called for new trial, “and equally the prosecution, if not satisfied, has the right to call for new trial.” Cllr. Constant furthered that the jurors can not be incarcerated in keeping with law, as demanded by defense. He indicated that this can only happen if there is an investigation that established that they are guilty.
Asked whether prosecution intends to take defense to Supreme Court in view of the unfolding development, the aging lawyer said, “There is no ground for prosecution’s appeal to the supreme court.” He said prosecution can only seek remedy at the Supreme Court on the basis of motion to arrest judgment or on the ground of motion to pass judgment.”
Meanwhile, the families and well wishers of the defendants see the Tuesday development at the Court as a victory for defendants Julue and Dorbor. “Our God we serve will fight our case. He should go back to prison without fear. You will one day come home,” the wife of General Charles Julue said amidst songs of praises to God at the front of the Temple of Justice facing the Executive Mansion.
General Julue and Andrew Dorbor were accused of treason for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Government. The arrested along with former Speaker George Koukou, who was released yesterday following a presidential pardon in the name of reconciliation.
Conduct an Impartial Probe of Allegations
Against the Jurors
By: Bill K. Jarkloh
AT THE END of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration’s first treason trial, a controversial “guilty verdict” has set the Criminal Court “A” room ablaze with confusion amongst prosecution, defendants and the well-wishers of the two accused with treason, former Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Lieutenant General Charles Julu and retired Col. Andrew Dorbor. The confusion that engulfed the court although started with allegation of bribery against the empanelled jury that derived the guilty verdict by defense lawyer T. Dempster Brown who called for investigation of the very allegation, the insinuation by the judge that the suspicion by the defendant was true has added more tension to the chaotic situation at the courtroom.
REACTING TO A motion by the prosecution requesting the Court to discharge the Jury, the lead defense lawyer, Cllr. Brown accused the Jury of being tampered with. He said that that defense has information that by 8: Am Tuesday this morning, County Attorney Samuel Jacobs came to ground of the Temple of Justice and promised each of the jurors $800.00. The defense lawyer narrated to the court that the County Attorney also admitted that he came to this building 12: midnight when every lawyer was asked to keep off this area after normal working hours. He indicated, “This admittance by the County Attorney that he entered this building at 12:00 midnight is clear indication that he has tampered with the jury.” He then called for full investigation, and asked that the Jurors should be incarcerated until these allegations are proven otherwise.
THIS WAS THE beginning of a chaotic courtroom. The chaos even intensified when the aging Judge, His Honor, Charles William began to comment on the allegation by the defense lead Counsel Brown. He claimed that are very serious allegation. Serious because he remembered the County Attorney told him that the Government was contemplating on giving the jurors Christmas bonuses of $150 each. According to Judge William, he called the jurors into his office and advised them against any attempt to receive the amount, which he noted would be considered a bribe.
TO THE SURPRISE of jurists and other legal minded people, the judge who supposed to remain neutral crowned his attestation to the defendants’ allegation in the absence of forensic or judicial investigation and addressed the forelady of the Jury as being unchristian. “First of all I told them I don’t trust them [the Jury]. Ms. Watson [that was how she addressed the forelady of the Jury] told me she’s a reverend, but her action told me that she is not a reverend. She told me any money given to them; they would eat it and do the right thing.” From every indication, the Judge’s belief of “the right thing” the jury should do was to acquit the defendants. If this is so, the judge was then not acting neutral as it was required of him. For us, such statement by the judge threw into question his neutrality and impedes his ability to conduct impartial investigation and to render independent judgment into the bribery allegation against the jurors.
THIS OBSERVATION IS even more supported by the Judge’s statement that “As far as I am concerned, there is no evidence to warrant guilty verdict.” A gain, such statement in the absence of the court’s ruling on the jury’s verdict is understood to be an undermining instrument of the judge’s pending ruling which could confirm the verdict or set it aside for a new trial. Elementarily, it is clear that Judge Williams is to set him self aside from the Julu and Dorbor trial if there should be a retrial of the treason case. This is because he acted so fast than a judge should do. While as a judge he is required to give a legal opinion on the verdict, the timing is the problem that would haunt him. A judge that would set a verdict aside would exercise restraint until his ruling is made, at which time he would have pointed out the relevant laws supporting the ruling instead of making statements that would agitate tension in open court.
APPARENTLY IT’S AGAINST this backdrop that prosecutor Joseph Constant believe that the judge’s conduct – especially relative to his charge of the Jury was one sided, and was intended to help defendants that he may have known for a long time as friends out of the treason charges by government. Consequent to the foregoing, I am therefore prompted to call for an impartial investigation of the bribery case against the jury for an independent judgment that will affirm the integrity of the court and their judges, especially Judge Charles William. Above all, Judge Williams knows that the verdict of the jury as judges of facts must be respected, just as his ruling as judge of the law must equally be respected. It was there wrong for the trial judge to heap bribery allegation against the sequestrated jury, which has been the custody of his court, especially when neither the defense nor he raise these allegations until at such time the jury pronounced a unanimous guilty verdict.