Criminal Court ‘A’ Denies Justice Scott, Others Bail -But Defense/Movants Announce Appeal to S/Court
MONROVIA: The Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice yesterday denied former Chief Justice of Liberia, defendant Gloria Musu Scott admission to bail, but the defense lawyers led by former Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh took exception to the court’s ruling and pledged to take advantage of the laws controlling. Accordingly, the court remanded into the Monrovia Central Prison Justice Scott and three of her relatives for multiple crimes the State charged them with pending trial of the case, reports Bill K. Jarkloh.
The Government of Liberia arrested, indicted and detained the four defendants, namely Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Ma Rebecca Youdeh Wisner, Gertrude Newton, and Alice Johnson for the alleged commission of murder, false reports to law enforcement officers and criminal conspiracy. The Government committed them to the Monrovia Central Prison at the South Beach of Monrovia in connection to the death of the daughter of Cllr. Scott, Ms. Charloe Musu, a graduating senior of Starz University.
Ms. Musu died when an alleged assassin visited the residence of Justice on the night of February 22, 2023. However, state investigators have held the accused responsible for the reported murder of Charloe Musu, saying that the four defendants conspired to kill the victim and raise false alarm to state security investigators, a reason for which the government arrested and held them in detention upon their indictment.
Nevertheless, the defendants’ lawyers relying on the Criminal Procedure Law Chapter 1, Section 13.1 applied for a bail bond for the defendants in a motion. The law cited provides that ‘All crimes are bailable, especially when proof is not evident and the presumption is not great, noting that in the instance case, the indictment on its very face and contents demonstrates that proof is not evident and the presumption is not great.
“For instance, the indictment charged the defendants with the commission of murder collectively; the very indictment further alleged that ‘an instrument believed to be a knife’ was used, but did not succinctly state as to who was the actual person amongst the four defendants that committed the murder. The defense lawyers also cited the Civil Procedure Law Title 1, LCLR, which they said, offers provisional remedies in Chapter 7, Subchapter ‘C’ Arrest, Section 7.45 providing for release because of privilege or lack of grounds.
The defense argued in court that the failure and refusal by the State Prosecutors to precisely indicate who did murder Charloe Musu is sufficient ground to trigger the application of the 13.1 provision of the Criminal Procedure Law, thus releasing the defendants on the strength of said provision pending the disposition of the trial.
Amongst other citations, the defense listed the Black Law Dictionary (9th Edition) which states that person recognizance is the principle which allows the release of a defendant in a criminal case in which the court takes the defendant’s word that he or she will appear for a scheduled matter or when told to appear. The defendants pointed out also that the Constitution of Liberia (1986), Article 21 (d) (i) provides that all accused shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance.
The defense counsels also pointed to the Constitution of Liberia (1986), Article 21 (h) which states inter alia that, “… in all criminal cases, the accused shall have the right to be represented by counsel of their choice, ….and shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
For the reasons stated above, amongst others, including reasons of health, the Counsels therefore submitted and prayed to the Court to grant the defendants Cllr. Gloria Muu Scott, Ma Rebecca Youdeh Wisner, Gertrude Newton, and Alice Johnson bail.
Nevertheless, the prosecution resisted the two motions. On the motion by defense that Musu Scott be placed on personal recognizance as a former Chief Justice, former Senator, who has held many positions in the country, the prosecution in resistance and further argument and motion for Bail as filed by defendants/movants told the court to deny the motion.
Prosecution, in their counter argument, relied on Article 21 (d)(i) that said, while it is true that all crimes should be bailable, there is a prepositional clause which says that once the crime being charged against the defendant or the accused is grave or capital, then the accused person should not be bailed.
According to the prosecution, this portion of the Constitution applies to Counselor Gloria Musu Scott as well as in her respective former and present statuses, and therefore prayed the court to quash the defendants’ Motion for Bail.
Passing on the arguments of both defendants and prosecution, the Court asked as to whether the defendants are entitled to bail or not. Concerning the principal argument of the defendants that the indictment did not substantively charge the defendants or charge the person who committed the crime of murder and therefore proof is not evidence and presumption is not great, the court wondered whether the statement is true that the indictment did not charge the person who committed the murder.
To these questions, the court answers ‘no’ because the court is of the opinion that the indictment named those who committed the murder as Gloria Musu Scott, Ma Rebecca Youdeh Wisner, Gertrude Newton, and Alice Johnson. The Court also noted that the proceeding before the court was not one during which the State should prove who actually committed the murder or how it was committed because the burden is on the prosecution.
According to the Court, all prosecution can do during the case is to debunk the statement that they have not proven the actual person that committed the murder
On whether the defendants were entitled to bail, the Court said “We go back to the 1986 Constitution, … Article 21 (d)(i) [which] states ‘All accused persons shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties depending on the gravity of the crime unless crimes of Capital Offenses or grave offenses as defined by law.” The Court further said that unless a foundation and that foundation is charged with a capital offense or a grave offense, you are not entitled to Bail.
On the Issue that Gloria Scott is a state woman who has served in many capacities, in the country, the court affirmed and confirmed that statement but added that the law says all persons and that the law did not distinguish who should be bailed when they commit grave or capital offense.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances, the motion to admit to bail is hereby denied, and proof beyond all reasonable doubt as required by our law will be shown when the case is assigned where the prosecution will be ordered to prove beyond all reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendants. AND IS HEREBY SO ORDERED,” the Court ruled.
To which ruling of Your Honor, one of Counsels for Movants/Defendants gave notice that it excepts and will take advantage of the statute controlling, as the court noted the exception of the accused.
Meanwhile, the movants/defendants’ counsels had earlier also moved the court for a Motion for Discovery to make the prosecution produce their evidence, which form the basis for the prosecution of the defendants/movants.
The defense counsels informed the Court that producing the evidence would inform the defense lawyers of the kind of representation that they should make for their clients, the defendants.
But the prosecution told court that the evidence would be available during the case and asked court to deny the motion, but the court granted the Motion for Discovery as filed by the defendants/movants, to which the prosecution excepted when they announced that they will take advantage of the law.