The controversial court verdict in a motor accident case in Ganta sparked tension, with many expressing frustration in the Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie for not convicting the perpetrator to long jail sentences and also reducing the charge from murder to manslaughter.
In March this year, one of the popular choir masters in Ganta, Bryant Meslah, was hit by a taxi and died instantly upon arrival at the Ganta United Methodist hospital in Ganta.
Immediately the owner of the vehicle, Augustine Kehweleh, who was also the operator, fled the scene to an unknown location and later took the car on the Sanniquellie highway and set it ablaze in an attempt to destroy evidence.
After some days of thorough investigation, the Liberia National Police nabbed Mr. Kehweleh, interrogated him and charged him with murder, tampering with physical evidence and reckless burning and forwarded him to court.
Prior to Kwhweleh’s appearance court, he confessed to the police of accidentally killing Mr. Bryant Meslah, but fled the scene because he was afraid of reprisal attacks from the mob, because the victim, now deceased was a popular figure.
He told police that while on his way from his house around the Jackie Guest House in Ganta, moving toward the city center, approaching the Lone Star Cell MTN office, his car light went dim, a motorcycle was in front of him and another car came from the opposite direction with bright lights.
He explained that while trying dodge or overtake the motorbike, he instantly hit Mr. Meslah, who was also coming from the opposite direction.
Mr. Kehweleh said he fled and parked the car somewhere in a corner and came back to town, but the noise and threats were too much from angry citizens. Therefore, the next day, he took the car and loaded it passengers for Loguatuo. While en route, he changed his mind to discontinue the trip and turned three passengers over to motorcyclists to complete their journey.
According to him, when passengers left he decided to commit suicide, but changed his mind and decided to destroy the car by setting it ablaze.
In Court, Kehweleh pleaded for mercy from the family of the deceased, saying it was an accident and not done intentionally.
Based on the testimony from both defense and prosecution lawyers, the charge of murder was downgraded to manslaughter and the defendant was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
The court verdict sparked tension among the citizens, arguing that the murder shouldn’t have been dropped, because the Kehweleh destroyed the evidence, which suggested that he might have killed Meslah intentionally, constituting murder.
However, the court said looking at historical facts, Ganta is noted for reprisal attacks resulting from such incidents and that, the issue of reprisal cannot be over emphasized.
“On the issue of fear and reprisal, this court takes judicial notice of historical facts that Ganta City is very notorious for reprisal attacks against people involved in motor accidents [and] some of the cases in point are before this court,” said the Judge.
“If we must adhere to the rule of law, the government of Liberia must take appropriate action to stop this kind of lawless behavior being consistently perpetrated in Ganta, wherein sometimes innocent people die and police stations get burnt.
Meanwhile, there are over 76 criminal cases on docket this May Term of court, including rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, murder and among others.