Liberia: Jurors Reject Criminal Court ‘B’ Judge's ‘Unanimous’ Verdict

Liberia: Jurors Reject Criminal Court ‘B’ Judge's ‘Unanimous’ Verdict

A unanimous guilty verdict announced by Judge Ceaineh Clinton of the  Criminal Court ‘B’ has been rejected by four of the 12 jurors.

The four jurors in open court accused the judge of violating Criminal Procedure Law, Chapter 20, Section 20,11(7) ‘Poll Jury." The contested recorded guilty verdict was brought against four female defendants, who the government indicted in 2021 for allegedly beating a lady identified as Fatu Wenneh in the Parker Paint Community, in Paynesville.

It all started when the 12 jurors on June 15, returned from their room of deliberation, with a sealed verdict believed to be unanimous, suggesting that all 12 had voted guilty. Under the law, whenever a jury verdict is returned and presented to the court, usually the presiding judge, before receiving the verdict, is required to openly question each juror, whether the verdict was their decision.

But this was not the case for Johnson, who requested the clerk of the court to record the verdict, and subsequently disbanded the jury panel, in total violation of the Criminal Procedure Law, Chapter 20, Section 20,11(7) ‘Poll Jury.’

The law provides that, “when a verdict is returned and before it is recorded, the jury shall be polled at the request of any party or upon the court's motion. If upon the poll, there is not a concurrence of five-sixths or more of the jurors, the jury shall be discharged and a new trial awarded.”

According to normal legal practice, whenever the jury returned with a verdict, the presiding judge allowed each juror to declare in open court his or her assent to the returned verdict, but that was not publicly done by Judge Johnson.

Immediately after being disbanded, four of the jurors, Partick Kezele, Arthur Zon, Simeon Pate, and Cornelia Konneh, openly expressed dissatisfaction with Judge Johnson’s action by not allowing them to each confirm their respective voting decision.

“How would the judge record the verdict as unanimous when we four voted not guilty, and we were never allowed to give a reason why we voted not guilty,” the angered jurors alleged. 

“She should have openly asked each of us the jury to confirm our verdict, to make sure it is consistent with what we wrote down on the verdict sheet,” the jurors added.

However, upon publicly hearing the juror's outburst, the defense lawyers, with that evidence, are expected to file for a revocation of the recorded jury's ‘unanimous’ guilty verdict before Judge Johnson.