By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Lawyers representing the legal interest of 18 men standing trial on the charge of Mercenarism into the Ivory Coast have prayed the court to drop the charge against the defendants on grounds that evidence produced by prosecution is not conclusive.
Leading defense’s argument in favor of a Motion for the Judgment of Acquittal yesterday in Criminal Court “D”, Atty Arthur Johnson, said the State failed to meet the burden of reasonable doubt to establish a prima facie case.
Atty. Johnson argued that prosecution lacked the factual and legal sufficiency to prove their case therefore there were no facts and circumstances for one to believe that the defendants are to be held liable of the crime of Mercenarism.
In his analysis, the defendants’ lawyer said all witnesses produced by the State were all hearsay witnesses who failed to establish the chain of custody. He attributed the chain of custody to the arms admitted into evidence by the prosecution.
Atty. Johnson said not one witness was able to name those who retrieved the arms or record the date and time said arms were discovered. On the issue of particularity, the lawyer said the series number and name of the arms were not given and there was no fire arm examiner to prove the last time said arms were used.
Describing the admittance of the arms into evidence as ‘mockery to the proceedings’, Atty. Johnson said, “No witness testified to the arms. Are they effective, can they be used? This is a reasonable ignorance placed before the court, your Honor,” Atty. Johnsons argued before Judge Emery Paye.
He contended that the testimonies of prosecution principal witnesses were not corroborative adding, “The court cannot answer a question the prosecution failed to answer.” He further argued that even witnesses from Ivory Coast never testified to the retrieving of arms from their side.
“The State failed with the direct evidence and cannot rely on circumstantial evidence to prove their case because even the names of the peacekeepers murdered were not disclosed by the government,” he argued.
Drawing the defense argument from Section 20.10 of the Criminal Procedural Law, Atty. Johnsons told the court to grant the motion because the laws are clear and that prosperity will judge the decision noting that the trial of Mercenarism is the first of its kind to be conducted in the Republic of Liberia since the inception of the courts.
However, prosecution in its argument led by the County Attorney for Montserrado County, Darku Mulbah, it informed that court that to grant such motion with the defendants being jointly charged would allow the State seek an appeal meaning that all defendants would rot in jail.
Cllr. Mulbah sentimentally said the trial of the proceeding cannot be continued with an appeal pending pointing to the defendants and arguing that they would all be returned to jail until the appeal is concluded before the Supreme Court which will not be the best thing to do, but that is the law.
He contended that to count 17 of defense motion for acquittal, it prayed the court to release seven of the 18 defendants whom they believe are not in connection to the crime but the prosecution admitted that of the seven, the names of five were never mentioned and said that those named would be probable and subject to a guilty charge thereby giving the court the reason to hold them all together.
Meanwhile, the lawyers representing both sides set aside the argument as prosecution began to pray that the court find all defendants guilty under the law whether they were in training or contributed financially.
The prayer of the State which was offered by Cllr. T. C. Gould was disrupted by defense while calling their colleague to order, and later erupted into argument about each other’s law credentials as well as superiority; an argument which prevented the rest of the defense counsel’s prayer from being heard loud enough by the audience.
Judge Paye who got entertained by the argument and disruption for about 20 minutes later threatened to have lawyers fined, a threat which brought calm to the courtroom while he later announced that his ruling will be handed down on the matter today at 10:00 a.m.
The 18 defendants who have all pleaded not guilty to their joint indictment included Nezee Barway alias Joseph Dweh, Morris K. Cole, alias Edward Cole/General Girl, Isaac Taryon alias Wolie Taryon, Steven Gloto alias Rmbo/Ninja, Prince Youty, James Lee Cooper, Emmanuel Say Mah alias Trainer, Moses Baryee alias Moses Sarpee, Sam Tarley alias Bull Dog, Ophoree Diah, Alfred Bobby James, Jr. alias Bobby Sarpee, Prince Barclay, Jacob Saydee, Mohammed Massaquoi, Christopher Laykpayee, Timothy Barlee, Junior Gelor, Emmanuel Pewee and Fred Ghelly.