The Seventh Judicial Court in Grand Gedeh County has issued a not-guilty verdict for three murder suspects after finding that there was insufficient evidence of guilt.
The verdict by Judge George Wiles cannot be appealed by the government since the case was a criminal trial, and which ruling was based on a jury verdict. The suspects, Jeremiah Appleton, Leo Williams, and Alice Davis, were being tried for the murder of Mordacious Nyemah, a motorcyclist in Maryland County, who was killed for his body parts in 2020.
The death of Nyemah, who was also a student of the Pleebo High School, led to riots in the streets of Pleebo and Harper and prompted the imposition of a dusk to dawn curfew by President George Weah.
The main prison in Harper was vandalized, causing close to a hundred prisoners to escape although many of them were later rearrested. The residence of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers in Pleebo was also set ablaze. Judge Wiles ruled that the accused were not guilty of acting as accomplices in the murder of Nyemah as alleged by ‘Moses Mlarmah’, who pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 47 years in prison.
The three could have been sentenced to a long term in prison if convicted. They have always maintained their innocence and, per court record, pleaded not guilty to the crime of murder, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation, and armed robbery.
They were indicted by the Grand Jury of Maryland County during the February 2021 term of court based on an investigative report by the Liberia National Police which claimed that they acted as accomplices to convict Mlarmah, who lured and tricked his victim to believe he was a passenger before chopping the deceased several times on his neck and the head with a cutlass and dumping his body in a swamp after extracting the parts.
But the jurors, after listening to state prosecutors and defense lawyers, voted 10-2 in majority to declare the trio not guilty during their trial, which was separately conducted from that of convicted Mlarmah . The Jurors’ decision led to Judge Wiles ruling that the accused be set free on grounds that there was not enough evidence that would have led to a guilty verdict.
Judge Wiles’ position was backed by Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, an Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, who oversees case prosecution including the trial of Mlarmah.
Cllr. Wesseh stated that the state prosecutor never really linked the accused to the case and that the evidence against them was dependent on the confession of the condemned Mlarmah.
“A criminal litigation is not to prosecute but to ensure that justice is done. Justice is done once a criminal defendant is convicted or acquitted,” Cllr. Wesseh explained. “We could not deduce a direct eyewitnesses account on the involvement of the three except what Mlamah told the police that he was sent by Co-defendant Williams to kill a human being and bring him the parts and that he met ‘Open Zipper’, who joined him and they killed the deceased and took his blood to the wife of Williams since he was not home at the time.”
“For the three that were freed, we had their trial separately but the jury freed them for lack of evidence. During the trial of the three persons, we only produced the same police officers as witnesses and we did not produce any direct witnesses," Cllr. Wesseh said in the admission of prosecutors' shortcomings after the court verdict.
Earlier, the defense lawyer, Cllr. Rodney Moses had earlier argued that the prosecution did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, nor did they show evidence against the defendants to connect them to the crime of murder and criminal conspiracy, thus praying the court to release his clients, which the court did via the juror ruling.
The defense lawyer relied on Article 21(h) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and Section 10, Chapter 10.4, Chapter 25 Section 25.5, and 25.6, respectively of the Penal Law of Liberia to plead for acquittal.