By Melvin Jackson
MONROVIA: As the Criminal Court ‘A’ Judge Roosevelt Willie denied prosecution’s motion for ‘change of venue’ of the murder trial involving former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott and others to another county, Justice Scott along with her three relatives accused of murder have pleaded not guilty, thereby joining issue with the state to prove their charges brought against them.
Our Judicial correspondent has reported earlier that the case involving Justice Scott and her relatives was starting yesterday after the Grand Jury for Montserrado County formally indicted the former Chief Justice, Gloria Musu Scott and her relative including Ma Gertrude Newton, Alice Johnson, and Rebecca Youdeh Wisner for allegedly killing Charloe Musu, a daughter of the Justice, at her Brewerville residence.
The court sitting in its August term is being presided over by its resident Judge Roosevelt Willie began hearing yesterday as was earlier reported at 11, at the temple of justice.
Immediately upon reading the indictment in open court on Monday, August 28, 2023, by the clerk of the court, the defendants Justice Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Rebecca Youdex Wisner and pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes of murder criminal conspiracy, and making false statements to law enforcement officers.
The law provides that after the not-guilty plea the defendants authentically join the issue with the state, wherein the prosecution will prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt provided that the defendants do not admit guilt in court.
Meanwhile, Judge Roosevelt Willie has denied the prosecution’s motion requesting the court for a change of venue to another county circuit following arguments of the pros and cons of the motion by the prosecution lawyers and the defendants’ legal representation.
In their motion, Prosecution says, “Now comes Movant the Republic of Liberia by and thru the Ministry of Justice/Plaintiff in the entitled cause of action prays you and this Honorable Court for a change of place/venue of prosecution of the case.
According to the Prosecution’s motion, “The named Criminal defendants, Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Rebecca Yonder Wisner, and Alice Johnson were arrested, investigated, and charged by the Crime Services Department of the Liberia National Police for the commission of the crime mentioned hereinabove.
“Consistent with Chapter 15 subsection 15.5 of the Criminal Procedure law of the Republic of Liberia, the Special Ground jury for Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia upon their oath and after careful deliberation, found, established, and indicted the defendants for the commission of the aforesaid criminal offenses or crimes,” the state lawyers said in their motion.
Further, they maintained, “That movant says and avers that since the gruesome murder of Charloe Musu on the 22nd day of February 2023, the case is being discussed publicly and critically within Montserrado County to the extent that almost every media outlet prints or electronic has been discussing the merits of the case which is yet to be tried.”
The prosecution pleaded, “That movant application or submission for change of place/venue of prosecution is in line with Chapter 5 section 5.7(b) of the Criminal procedure law and statutory laws of the aforesaid republic.
“Wherefore and given the foregoing facts and circumstances and legal citations stated supra, movant most respectfully prays your Honor and this Honorable court to:
“Change the place or venue of the aforesaid case or trial for the reasons stated above; that having the aforesaid case or trial transferred to another jurisdiction outside of Montserrado County,” concluding with the request, “Grant unto movant all and every singular relief that equity and justice demands in these premises.”
During the hearing of the motion, the prosecution lawyers amongst other things further argued that the protective jurors who would be selected to sit on the case are knowledgeable about the case, and would not be well suited to impartially listen to and decide for the case in normal circumstances. The argument furthered that in such a case there could be prejudice in deciding the case unless there is a change of venue.
Countering their prosecution’s argument for change of venue, the defense lawyers however argued that the prosecution wanted to delay the case, forgetting to know that the crime was committed in Montserrado.
The defense further argued that the prosecution did not provide any proof concerning the publication of the newspapers which they claimed, stating that the prosecution failed to realize the personality in the case is the former Chief Justice and anywhere they take the case journalists will follow, both arguments on which Judge Will ruled by denying the Change of Venue motion filed before the court by the state lawyers.
Meanwhile, a hearing into the alleged murder case involving the former chief justice continues today, Tuesday –August 29, 2023 with jurors’ selections taking center stage.
Earlier following a notice of assignment served by the court, the prosecution lawyers have again filed a motion praying the court for a change of venue to hear the matter.
On August 2, 2023, state prosecutors had filed the first motion for a ‘Change of Venue’ on grounds that the case has been widely discussed everywhere by locals and that it is not safe for the prosecution side if the case was not transferred from Monrovia.
But they later withdrew the motion on August 7, 2023, for unknown reasons.
Notwithstanding, lawyers representing former Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott sees this attitude of the prosecutors as a delay tactic to have the former state woman who has been lingering behind bars.
In another development, it was said that state prosecutors are demanding one hundred and thirty thousand United States dollars before prosecuting former chief justice Gloria Musu Scott and the three others.
According to the New Public Trust online, prosecutors in rural Liberia usually receive US$1,000 to prosecute cases, something that has posed serious challenges to them.
The online institution adds that rural prosecutors would usually struggle to get finance and sometimes they can go to the expense of using their own money to facilitate the prosecution of government cases.
The government prosecutors have over time complained that the US$1,000 is insufficient to prosecute more than one case taking into consideration the challenges posed, according to the outlet. It can be recalled that the Grand Jury of Montserrado County issued an indictment against Justice Scott and some relatives in which they explained that on February 22, the Defendants with criminal minds and intent, armed with a sharp instrument believed to be a knife, and pepper spray, willfully, intentionally, purposely, and maliciously inflicted several bodily injuries on the person of Charlie Musu, including her chest, right hand, left thigh, and left armpit, which led to her death, thereby committing the crime of Murder.
According to the indictment, it was on the night of February 22, after the family had eaten and was all in the house, when the security guards assigned to the home of Co-Defendant Musu-Scott, heard a crying sound coming from inside the house.
As the sound got louder, the indictment said, Security Guards Anthony Musu and Zion Tarr approached the room window of Co-Defendant Scott and in that process; they saw Co-Defendant Gertrude Newton slide the bathroom window glass of Co-Defendant Scott.
Upon seeing them, the indictment furthered, she [the victim] started screaming for help saying “that the people on us in the house!” Also seen in the bathroom with Co-Defendant Newton was Charloe Musu, now deceased.
“After hearing from Co-Defendant Gertrude that someone was on them in the house, the indictment furthered that Security Guard Zion Tarr left to call Security Guard Moses Wright who was their commander, and told him that someone was in the house on the occupants based on what Co- Co-Defendant Gertrude Newton had told him.
The indictment maintained that when the security guards, Wright and Tarr returned, they left security guard Anthony Musu at the bathroom window of Co-Defendant Scott, and they went to the back of the house to Co-Defendant Wisner’s room.
“When they got to the window of Co-Defendant Wisner’s room, Co-Defendant Gertrude Newton came and told Zion Tarr to break the window bar if he had anything [to do so], allow them to come outside.
As instructed, Tarr broke the window bar with a cutlass and aided three of the Defendants to get outside through the window,” the indictment accounted for the incident.
“After the three Co-Defendants came outside and being very concerned and apprehensive about the alleged armed robber, the security guard, Zion Tarr, decided to remain at the window with his cutlass to see whether the alleged intruder would come outside through that window since there was no other entry or exit at the time,’’ the indictment explained.