A decision by state lawyers to seek further help from the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment of Judge George Smith that declared Abbas Debes not guilty and subsequently freed him from detention has been challenged by his the defense team.
Judge Smith, who presides over the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Bomi County, on August 1, dropped charges against Debes, a Lebanese businessman, after he was indicted for allegedly trafficking 14 Liberian women to his home country.
Some of the charges were human trafficking, gang rape among others, crimes Judge Smith ruled the government failed to establish thereby denying the prosecutors’ request to appeal against his ruling to the Supreme Court.
In their challenge, Debes’ lawyers argued that the rationale behind their action was based on Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution.
The article, they said, provides that “no person shall be subjected to double jeopardy.”
Debes’ lawyers also argued that the law denies the state from appealing against a final judgment on a merit entered in favor of a criminal defendant.
They agreed with the prosecutors’ argument that Article 20 (b) of the very Constitution provides the right of an appeal from judgment, decree, decision or ruling of any court or administrative board or agency, clarifying this by saying “except the Supreme Court should be inviolable.”
The lawyers went on with the argument that the constitution limits the right of the state to appeal from final judgment on the merits adjudging a criminal defendant not guilty.
However, State lawyers contend that an appeal is a duty imposed on a judge by Article 20 (b) of the Constitution.
Again, Debes’ legal team argued that allowing the prosecution’s request would be a violation of Article 21 (b) of the Constitution, which provides that “no person shall be subjected to double jeopardy.”
“Challenging the application of an existing law by a trial judge in proceedings as being unconstitutional has no foundation in law, practice and procedure hoary with old age in this jurisdiction,” the lawyers contended, adding,” Under the law, procedure and practice a trial judge is to apply and enforce all constitutional and statutory laws of the land.” Accordingly, they argued that the application of an existing law by a trial judge cannot be a subject of a remedial proceeding, and as such “the state request should be denied and dismissed.”
But, the State argued that “any statute enacted by the Legislature therefore which seeks to limit the right granted to all including the Petitioner under Article 20(b) only to criminal defendants in a criminal action is inconsistent with Article 20(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia (1986) and is void.” They also cited Section 24.3 of the Criminal Procedure Law (1972), which specifically limits the Petitioner’s right of appeal in criminal cases, to back their argument.
This is the argument and counter argument that the Supreme Court will shortly be deciding.