By Melvin Jackson
MONROVIA: Trial Jurors hearing the Charloe Musu Murder trial at Criminal Court “A” of Judge Roosevelt Willie on Thursday, December 21, 2023, handed down a unanimous guilty verdict against the defendants including former Chief Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Alice Johnson and Rebecca Wisner but the defense lawyers excepted to the verdict and took flight to the Supreme Court.;
By the guilty verdict, the former Chief Justice along with the three other defendants are to serve life sentences unless they obtain relief from the Supreme Court to which they have appealed the verdict of the jury.
On June 12, 2023, the defendants were charged by the Special Grand Jury of Montserrado County on allegations of Murder, Criminal Conspiracy, and giving a false alarm to law enforcement officers.
At the close of the case yesterday, the Jurors in the proceeding came down with a majority “guilty verdict” after reviewing arguments from both the prosecution and defense as well as making their determination in the deliberation room, declaring the defendants guilty for all crimes levied.
The actions by defendants, according to the charge, violated Title 26, chapter 14, section 14.1; Chapter 10, section 10.4; and Chapter 12, section 12.33 of the new penal law of Liberia, as stated in the indictment stated. The indictment charged that on February 22, 2023, at about 10:00 PM, Cllr. Gloria Musu-Scott, Gertrude Newton, Alice Johnson, and Rebecca Youdeh Wisner, “with criminal intent, armed themselves with a sharp instrument believed to be a knife and pepper spray”.
“They willfully, intentionally, purposely, and maliciously inflicted several bodily injuries on Charlotte Musu, including her chest, right hand, left thigh, and left armpit, leading to her death and thereby committing the crime of murder.”, part of the charges said.
However, accused defendants pleaded not guilty to charges against them, saying that they have been wrongly accused of a crime they know nothing about and that the state has failed to go after the main perpetrators.
According to Defense Lawyers, the prosecution has failed to adduce evidence beyond all reasonable doubt. But the prosecution noted that its evidence and the circumstances surrounding the incident clearly show that Defendant Scott and three others are liable for the death of the later Charloe Musu.
Following months of hearing of the case, eleven out of the twelve jurors voted guilty against the defendants while one voted not guilty, bringing down the three guilty for all of the three charges brought against them; but defense lawyers took exception to the verdict, taken flight to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of justice, for judicial review of the guilty verdict and ruling in the case.
Prior to the jury’s guilty verdict, the prosecution and defense presented their final arguments to the court and jury for and against the defendants.
Presenting their final argument to the court and jury, prosecution lawyers maintained that there was no sign of breaking into the residence of former Chief Justice Cllr. Scott, on the night of the incident, further stated that the prosecution had proven their case beyond all reasonable doubts and that the juror should hand down a guilty verdict against the defendants.
The prosecution counsels further claimed Cllr. Scott used pepper spray, which was applied to the victim, and noted that the use of the pepper spray couldn’t have allowed the alleged perpetrator to escape the scene had it been an intruder.
But the defense counsels resisted and said that all of the prosecution witnesses didn’t link any of the defendants to the killing of the deceased.
The defense lawyers continued that Cllr. Scott on many occasions informed the Liberia National Police that her life was threatened and someone was after her life before the day of the incident, but instead of providing her security, the police advised her to increase the private security guards at her home.
In a heated argument, the defense said the government of Liberia charged the defendants wrongly with the crime of murder, noting that the Liberia National Police must redirect its investigation towards probing Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee, Varlee Telleh, and others.
The defense said the murder weapon prosecution claimed that the defendants allegedly used was not produced in court; and noted that besides that the nine (9) wounds the victim sustained, there are extra wounds.
During the argument, the defense informed the jurors that Dr. Matthias Okoye told the court that the defendants did not kill the victim, and explained that there was a force used against the victim. Dr. Okoje displayed the DNA sample indicating that none of the defendants did the act.
The defense said prosecution witness Zion Tarr told the court and jurors that he heard a noise coming from the Former Chief Justice’s house and as a security guard assigned went to see what was happening when Co-defendant Gertrude Newton told him an armed robber jumped on them in the house.
The Defense lawyers indicated that when Co-defendant Gertrude Newton asked what the security Zion Tarr had on him, the security guard replied that it was a cutlass, which he said he used to cut the window bar. The defense questioned whether a cutlass is capable of cutting a steel without binding, which the security in question said was his intervention, saying that the particular steel had already been removed and the criminal passed through.
The defense said Dr. Okoye informed the court there was a male DNA found in the middle left-hand fingernail of the deceased Charloe Musu and reported from his autopsy examination of the body that Charloe died of blunt-force trauma as a result of multiple stabbing wounds caused by an instrument that is not a knife, but was done by a muscular male.
The defense further argued that the government of Liberia falsely accused the defendants of the crime, and charged the jurors to look at all of the evidence that were provided in court and hand down a not-guilty verdict in favor of the defendants.
“Free these people based on the evidence adduced in court because there is no evidence to link the defendants,” the defense lawyers pleaded.
After about an hour of retiring into their chambers to decide the merits of the facts as provided in court, 11 of the juror, apparently clinging onto prosecution’s argument that there were no breaking of intruder into the residence of Justice Scott, returned a “guilty verdict” except for one who was not convinced that the evidence adduced in court did link the defendants.
It can be recalled that the Grand Jury for Montserrado County indicted Gloria Musu Scott Gertrude Newton, Alice Johnson, and Rebecca Wisner, for the crime of Murder and Criminal conspiracy and giving false information to Law enforcement officials.
The defendant was placed behind bars on June 22, 2023, at the Monrovia Central Prison. The case began with the selection of prospective jurors which lasted for weeks before a 15-man panel juror was selected to serve, the after being selected was sequestrated the very day the panel was completed.
After a few weeks due to illness, two jurors were taken to the JFK hospital. Judge Willie informed the court that after the two jurors had been treated they would not be allowed to sit on the panel because they had interacted with the public. Both the prosecution and the defense lawyers produced 33 witnesses and the case lasted for four months, while the defendant had been behind bars for six months.