. . .The Culture of Impunity –Vs-Rule of Law
By: Bill K. Jarkloh
If rule of law is really important, one would wonder when character like Charles Julu had begun to know this. The bare fact that Julu was never a respecter of rule of law explains why he should be appreciative that he was even taken to court after he was accused of trying to overthrow the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration. Wasn’t Julu and others the ones use to trample upon the rights of the sitting President at the Post Stockade merely because she didn’t want to be Senator in a Samuel Doe-led administration characterized by abuses? Maybe he forgot. But let us periscope some of his activities.
For sure, it has been long ago that the person Charles Julu has lingered into the act of impunity as of atrocities committed in the country. For instance, retired Army General Julu have lingered in impunity for atrocities he committed in Liberia during the regime of his kinsmen, slain President Samuel K. Doe, and for his involvement with treasonable acts.
General Julu – known as ROCK during the Samuel Doe regime of the 1980s - was reportedly responsible for the dumping of more than 500 children in Yekepa in Nimba County when he was the Commander of the Plant Protection Force (PPF) prior to his promotion to the rank of Lt/Gen of the AFL by President Doe.
Beside, Julu was a dreadful General of the Army, and his role in the AFL as a General of the Krahn tribe of President Doe is recorded to be highly atrocious. He participated in the notorious Nimba Raid masterminded by the ruling Krahns against their rival Gios of General Thomas Quiowonkpa who and general Doe Doe were fighting for control of the Liberian Army.
The Nimba Raid was used by the Krahns to slaughter innocent Nimbaians. During the Liberian Civil War when the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was armed to the teeth, Julu was braved to have seized the Executive Mansion, and it took a military bombardment by the regional forces to chase him out of the Liberian State House.
Is the Judge expressing sectional sentiments?
Now that the dust has settled, Julu again is linked to plot to overthrow the first postwar Government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and was therefore indicted. Although the Jury derived a guilty verdict against him and his kinsman Dorbor, a retired army colonel who too was accused of plotting along with General Julu, the Judge has set the guilty verdict aside and ordered a new trial.
The presiding judge at the Criminal Court “A”, Charles K. Williams yesterday set the verdict of the trial Jury aside and ordered a new trial. Judge William said the evidence adduced before his court contradicts the verdict that brought down guilty the accused, Rtd Lt/Gen. Charles Julu and former AFL Col. Andrew Dorbor. Both men were charged with plotting to subvert the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration.
The Judge’s ruling was in response to a motion filed before the court by the Defense Counsel representing the legal interest of the accused. In their motion, Defense Counsel led by human right lawyer T. Dempster Brown asked the Criminal Court “A” for retrial of the treason case. Cllr. Brown maintained in the motion:
i. That in the event of a guilty verdict against defendant(s), the court may grant a retrial based on a motion by defense within four days.
ii. The defense lawyers argued that the empanelled jury that were judges of the fact in the case misconstrued the facts presented by parties during the trial, a reason for which the defense lawyers said the jury came with a guilty verdict.
iii. The lawyers also insisted that the state has no case to warrant a guilty verdict against the accused, saying that the prosecution has tendered no evidence to the court to prove beyond every reasonable doubt that their clients did plot to overthrown the government.
iv. Cllr. Brown further said for Defense Counsel that the prosecution didn’t prove that Dorbor and Julu went to Ivory Coast to purchase weapons for the alleged mission to overthrow.
v. That from the beginning to the end of the case, prosecution lawyers did not provide a rebuttal witness to testimonies by rtd. Col. Dorbor. Dorbor said he was arrested in the Ivory Coast by Liberian Security and that he went to the Ivory Coast to his family and not for the purpose of acquiring weapons to overthrow the government, even though he consented that he was arrested in a military barracks in the Ivory Coast with the assistance of personnel of the Ivorian army.
The defense counsel therefore prayed the court to grant the defendants a retrial on the grounds stated which are supported by law. In its counter argument, prosecuting attorneys led by Montserrado County Attorney Samuel Jacobs requested the court to set aside the defendants’ motion for retrial, deny it and confirm the verdict of the jury by pronouncing sentence. The prosecution lawyers maintained:
vi. That the jury’s verdict was in keeping with the facts and evidences adduced before the court during the course of the trial.
vii. He furthered that defense lawyers’ failure to prove their allegation of jury tampering and bribery case raise after the verdict was announced is a whip on their back by which the verdict should be confirmed and sentence pronounced against the defendants.
After the “guilty verdict” brought against the defendants, the defense lawyers supported by the judges, Charles Williams, alleged jury tampering and accused the County Attorney of bribing the jury. But during investigation of the matter at the court, the defense lawyers could not provide proof to substantiate the allegation of bribery and jury tampering thereby leaving the very judge with no alternative by to scrap the allegation and dismiss same.
Having listened to the pros and cons of the arguments on the motion for retrial, Judge William – the resident circuit Judge of River-Gee County who is assigned at and now presiding over the Criminal Court “A” said it would be a miscarriage of justice for him as a judge to confirm a verdict that contradicts the evidence adduced before the court during trial. He therefore set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial during the February Term of Court starting next week.
However, the prosecution has taken exception to the judge’s ruling. It is not known whether the retrial will hold, even though there is no record available pointing to the determination of the Prosecution lawyers to seek Supreme Court Opinion. The exception is in a right direction. This is because the Judge – from River-Gee next door to Grand Gedeh from where Julu hailed – has take side. In fact this judge must recuse himself from the case on ground that he has prejudice justice when he chided the trial jury, heaping allegation of bribe taking which he later agreed could not be proven.
Remedy to sustain guilty verdict or otherwise independently
Anyway, from the operation of the Liberian jurisprudence, the Prosecution may file a Writ of Certiorari alleging error of the lower court judge before the Justice in Chamber at Supreme Court, which would obviously put halt to a retrial until the high court can determine otherwise in support of or against the ruling of the Judge of the lower court, in this case the Criminal Court “A”. A certiorari is a legal instrument in which an party appeal to the Supreme Court for remedy of error of a circuit court judge.
Not knowing whether or not the Prosecution goes to the Supreme Court for remedial action, what remains to be known is whether the Judge, Charles Williams will remain to sit and retry the treason case in the wake of his misconduct of earlier siding with defense in making jury tampering allegation unsubstantially or whether the authority controlling will bring a neutral judge.
Judge William was not independent as required of him. he, in fact, went against the judicial cannon that forbids photographing and recording in the courtroom by ordering journalists to photograph the jurors for the guilty verdict against the Grand Gedeans accused.
Whatever is the case, there are speculations that Judge Williams is siding with the defendants because they are from the same Grand Gedeh area. Some said he is Grand Gedian while others say he is from River-Gee County which was originally part of Grand Gedeh. Notwithstanding the truth of the matter, Judge William is the Resident Circuit Judge for River-Gee.
Call to Respect “Guilty verdict”
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry through the Solicitor General of Liberia recently cautioned parties to respect the “Guilty Verdict” of the Jury prior to the Court ruling setting it aside. Solicitor General Tiawon Gongloe furthered that:
viii. The jurors are judges of facts, and that their verdict is considered the result of what appeared in court during trial.
ix. Unless it is proven that the judges of facts were bribe; the guilty verdict remains the outcome of the case for now.
x. He argued legally that “If they were bribe, why did the defense counsel and/or judge waited until after their verdict?” and 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.
xi. He said 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.
Indeed, Cllr. Gongloe’s points are right. If a verdict is derived, a judge must respect it. For the fact that the judge commented on the verdict sarcastically and exposed the jury to danger and ridicule, he is supposed to be dealt with and the verdict itself respected in the absence of evidence to substantiate the bribery allegation brought against the jury.
In any case the need to investigate was inevitable and this is why the Justice Ministry senior prosecutor vowed to prosecute anyone connected to the bribery allegation, including the Jury, if the allegations were proven to be true. But investigation was conducted and the defense lawyers did not prove their allegations.
At the Conclusion of the treason trial when the Jury derived the guilty verdict against defendants Charles Julue and Andrew Dorbor the defense lawyers accused empanelled jury of receiving bribe from state prosecutors. In reaction to the motion requesting the Court to discharge the Jury, the lead defense lawyer, Cllr. T. Dempster accused the Jury of being tampered with. But were exactly the allegations against the jury? How did it influence the ruling? In his words, the lead defense counsel said:
xii. The defense had information that that by 8: Am on the eve of the verdict, County Attorney Samuel Jacobs came to ground of the Temple of Justice and promise each of the jurors $800.00.”
xiii. Cllr. Brown who frowned at the Jury’s Guilty Verdict also said the County Attorney admitted that he came to this building 12: mid night when every lawyer was asked to keep off this area after normal working hours [the County Attorney said he was always there to work on legal papers in the evening].
xiv. He alleged that by “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.”
It was because of these claims that Cllr. Brow herefore called for full investigation, and requested the Judge to incarcerate the Jurors until the allegations against them are proven otherwise.”
The Judge’s reaction to the allegation
The Judge reacting to the prosecution lawyers claims declared outside a judicial ruling that the allegations by the defense were very serious because:
xv. He alleged, “I remembered that before the Christmas, the County Attorney told me that the Government was contemplating on giving the juror Christmas bonus of $150.”
xvi. He called the jurors to my office and advised them that any attempt to receive the amount will be considered a bribe.” Judge Williams further said, “First of all I told them I don’t trust them [the Jury],”
xvii. He chided the forelady of the Jury who, the judge claimed had told “me she’s a reverend, but her action told me that she is not a reverend.”
xviii. According to the Judge, a prosecutor, Cllr. Constant who he told about this attempt to bribe the jury requested him to investigate the attempt because it was a serious allegation, but he refused saying -“Then I said – to me this case is being followed by the whole world. Unless they have no conscience, the will do vise visa.”
xix. The Judge then 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 him, the Judge.
From all fairness, the Judge should not have to make comments on a verdict he had not ruled on. He should be as neutral as possible instead of siding with a party and especially humiliating a trial jury for their verdict that was still pending before him.
The judge in my opinion should be impeached. It doesn’t take a legal mind to understand that what he did was a miscarriage of justice. In fact, he should not have been the one to investigate the defense lawyers’ bribery allegation against the jury.
In this new dispensation, any wrong on the part of any justice, judge or magistrate and other court officials that has the tendency to miscarry justice, tamper with rule of law and infringe on the rights of others, especially during the search for justice should not be allowed to go free, but should be punished. This is why Judge Williams should be impeached for serving as pseudo jury and at the same time judge.