‘Murdered’ LAC Plantation Manager Trial Resumes

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The Criminal Court “A” at the Temple of Justice has begun the trial proceeding of 12 persons involved in the alleged murder of the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) Plantation Company’s Manager Bruno Michiels since 2007.

Those standing trial are Arthur Crusoe, Isaac Zontoe, Samuel Garpu Goah, Luther M. Glayder, Richard Dardea, Kalifa Gboto, John Tuku, Moses Saymon, Musa Dubai, Matthew Cooper, Gbo-Bodeh Gedah, Rufus Quota.

The defendants who have all pleaded not guilty to their indictment when read by the clerk of court on Monday have also heard the first state witness Junior Johnson testify against them tagging them each to the commission of the crime of Murder.

Witness Johnson said the entire act was masterminded by defendants Arthur Crusoe and Isaac Zantoe whom he described as former LPC fighter. The state witness told the court that the killing of his immediate boss, Bruno was planned and carried out by the defendants.

The witness said he lived and worked with the defendants in LAC and Compound # four and knows each of them by face and name. He further testified how he heard them discuss how to execute their plans and that most of the time he fled their presence and hid in the bush and or tail them along the way.

Meanwhile, the state introduced six witnesses to be qualified as its first badge of witnesses giving notice to court that it would produce the last at a latter date but defence resisted on grounds that except Junior Johnson, all other witnesses were total strangers.

The defence team argued that the prospective witnesses were not named in the indictment and to have them take the witness stand was a strange practice under the Liberian jurisdiction to constitute requirement for notice.

However, government lawyers resisted informing the court that Chapter 14 section 14.8 of the Criminal Procedure Law that states that when an indictment is filed, the names of the witnesses or deponents on whose evidence the indictment was based ‘shall’ be endorsed thereon before it is presented to the court.

Prosecution differ with the defense team who considered the general application for notice when in fact the state saw it as a mere literary interpretation of the law.

In putting the argument to rest, the presiding Judge Yussif Kaba said the issue took into consideration two parts, the law relied on and the argument by the both parties.

The court said when the language of the statute is clear, precise and unambiguous; the plain language is what must be relied upon except where the statute contradicts the express provision of the Constitution.

He then evoke Chapter 17 Section 17.4 paragraph 1 of the statute which states that within five days after the arraignment of the indictment, prosecution shall file with a clerk a list of witnesses and shall serve a copy upon the defense.

Judge Kaba granting the inquiry of the defense team not to proceed to order the qualification of five of the state prospective witnesses, the court said the statutory period is yet to be ripe for the act of the prosecution to file within its scope since the defendants were all arraigned on Monday, March 31, 2014.