By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Many times when a high-profile person is accused of committing a crime, there are always feelings in some quarters that such person should be treated differently only because of his/her status. Many feel that such a person is not entitled to the due process, as in the case of a lay person because of their status in society. This is unfortunate because the very Liberian Constitution of this country in Article 11© states, “all persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to the equal protection of the law.”
I recall that prior to the civil conflict in this country, a then managing director of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) was charged with assault. When the matter was taken to court, the manager was found guilty and fined in accordance with the law on such matter. However, this did not go down well with some members of the public who felt that because of the man’s status, he should have been fined higher than what was done.
It is a known fact that President Sirleaf this week dismissed Mr. Darlington George, Deputy Director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS), with prime responsibility to protect the President after reported that he allegedly assaulted a lady in the Bardnersvlle Estate Field.
According to the executive Mansion release, he was directed to report to the Ministry of Justice for investigation and if found wanting shall be sent to court for prosecution in the case of assault on Ms. Esther Glain, alias Varnester Maday Kiatamba.
The release issued late Monday, September 14, 2015 has also strongly directed that others involved in the fracas that are not EPS agents should also report to the Ministry of Justice. It further said the Mansion will not condone such acts of sheer indiscipline and total lack of morals on the part of any member of State security institutions especially the EPS, which has been subject to thorough psychological reform in order to give a human face to the public service they are entrusted to perform.
Prior to the Executive Manson release information posted on a social website following the incident, Mr. George got into confusion with a group of ladies at the New Georgia Junction after he was accused of reckless driving. The information claimed that after he was accused of driving recklessly, he (George) insulted the ladies and the girls in return retaliated by insulting him. It was at that point according to report that he disembarked from his EPS vehicle and physically attacked one of the ladies, something he denied.
Unsurprisingly, the incident has engendered much public condemnations and high public sentiments against the alleged act. This, I am not surprised over should one see the appearance of the victim of the reported assault against the lady. Others are politicizing the matter. I am even told that some members of opposition parties have paid the lady a visit. I am not amazed by this, given the status of the accused and the office he was working in the time of the incident. Lest we forget the pending elections 2017
On Wednesday evening while en route home, I received calls that the accused has been arrested, apparently to face investigation by the Justice Ministry, as the Executive Mansion directed, and taken to the police station. It is said that he was arrested in the evening hours and was later denied being released to his lawyers on a matter that is bailable. That was also reported on the Truth FM morning program hosted by Solomon Ware and Abraham Wion.
It is this kind of treatment at the police headquarters that stirred me to comment on the situation, regarding the due process of law and the provision of the Liberian Constitution that speaks of all being equal before the law and should be equally protected. For me, I had hoped that he would have been subjected to face investigation, but again given the high public sentiments, the President, in her wisdom, thought the dismissal was the best to do to lessen these sentiments and condemnations.
Yes, accusing fingers are being pointed at Mr. George, who has denied the claim; there is a need to execute this probe in accordance with the due process. Besides, under our jurisprudence, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. His dismissal can in no way preclude him from facing trial for the alleged commission of assault, or can be interpreted as guilt. The law must take its course.
The due process of law refers to ‘the conduct of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for the protection and enforcement of private rights, including notice and their rights to a fair hearing before a tribunal with power to decide.“ Furthermore, it says that the accused must be informed of the charge or allegation; must have lawyer; must be provided a notice to appear, not clandestinely, before a proper forum.
I am concerned about what transpired at the police headquarters because in every investigation, the gathering of evidence or treatment of an accused is very crucial during the court trial. If proper care is not taken or if it is not done in accordance with the due process, such as having a lawyer, the “EXCLUSTIOLNARY RULE” could be invoked by the defense, thereby, affecting the chances of the prosecution of the government from prevailing.
The issue of exclusionary rule is one of the reasons why government does not prevail (win) in some cases. The exclusionary rule in Evidence Law, is “Any rule that excludes or suppresses evidence that does not satisfy a minimum standard of probative value. In criminal law, “ It is “a rule that excludes or suppresses evidence obtained in violation of an accused person’s constitutional rights.
This rule can also be likened to what is known as “Fruit-Of-The Poisonous Tree,” in Criminal Procedure which states, “…the rule evidence derived from an illegal search, arrest, or interrogation is inadmissible because the evidence (the fruit) was tainted by the illegality (the poisonous tree.)
I do understand that there is high public sentiment in this matter because of his status and previous place of work, notwithstanding, the due process must prevail, as it is said that status does not matter, as all of us are equal before the law. The accused must be treated in accordance with the law. I am not suggesting special treatment because of his former status, but that things should be done as required by the due process.
Lest we forget that public sentiment is very powerful and strong, yet, by allowing it to overshadow legal processes, may not produce the proper result. Let the due process prevail and the rule of law take its course. Let me close by saying that I support the accused facing trial, as justice delayed is justice denied.
I Rest My Case.