Liberia: Ministry of Justice Faces Backlash Amidst Witness Sneaking Scandal

Flashback: Former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott, who is facing charges of murder, leaves Criminal Court ‘A’ after losing her bail request in July 2023.

The Ministry of Justice finds itself mired in controversy for clandestinely introducing a witness into the ongoing trial of former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott, who is facing charges of alleged murder along with three other defendants. 

The shocking revelation came to light during a Court proceeding on September 15, after the Ministry had requested Judge Roosevelt Willie to call Tarnue Kerkulah, a police commander of Zone Six Police Depot, in the Township of Brewerville, as the prosecution’s fourth witness.

Kerkulah, whose testimony the Ministry has considered key to its drive for a conviction, was brought into the trial through clandestine means, prompting the defense lawyers to vehemently object to what they perceive as a blatant violation of due process.

The defense lawyer had argued that the Ministry’s sneaking of a witness who was not listed in the prosecution indictment, as one of the witnesses, was intended to undermine the principles of transparency and fairness upon which the justice system is built and compromise their ability to prepare their case adequately.

“The prosecution’s witness name is not on the list in the indictment that was presented to the defense counsel. Therefore we object to his qualification and pray this Court not to qualify and testify on behalf of prosecution,” defense lawyers argued.

Willie, having listened to the argument for and against, ruled in favor of the defense lawyers and requested the Ministry to pass through the appropriate channel if they intend to have Kerkulah still testify. 

“The objection filed by the defense lawyers against the qualification of witness Kerkulah is sustained, and the particular witness will not be allowed to testify,” Willie ruled.

“Notwithstanding, if the prosecution still decides to use the witness, they must file the appropriate instrument relating to this witness with the court and the defense lawyers,” the Criminal Court ‘A’ judge added.

The defense lawyers had cited Chapter 17, Sub-section 17.4 of Title Criminal Prosecution Law, titled, ‘names, and addresses of prosecution witnesses’ to be furnished as the legal backing to have the judge reject the Ministry’s application for Kerkulah to testify. 

“Within five days after arraignment on the indictment, the prosecuting attorney shall file with the Clerk of Court a list of witnesses intended to have testified at the trial together with their last known addresses and shall serve a copy of the list upon the defendant,” the defense lawyers quoted the law. 

The Scott trial, which has garnered significant public attention, centers around the alleged murder of Chaloe Musu, a relative of the former Chief Justice, who was allegedly stabbed to death in the home of the legal luminary in the early hours of February 22, 2023. 

Scott and three other family members have been implicated in the murder and now face other charges of criminal conspiracy and lying to law enforcement officers. 

The latest shortcoming by the Ministry of Justice comes just in a few days after last week’s Court proceeding, when one of its key witnesses, Eric Odumoegwu, provided conflicting accounts about his knowledge of the crime.

Odumoegwu, a neighbor of Scott, and the three other co-defendants forced Willie to sparingly intervene legally in his cross-examination to ensure the accuracy of his testimony.