-Cllr. Augustine Toe, former LACC commissioner, cautions government’s lawyers
Minutes after government’s lawyers (prosecution) that are pressing to convict Oliver Dillon asked the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Margibi County to postpone the case, Dillon’s lawyer, Cllr. Augustine Toe, who is a former commissioner of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), is arguing that the request is a complete violation of the fundamental rights of his client and meant to keep him silent. Defendant Dillon is currently in jail.
“If you want to kill Oliver Dillon because of his brother, you should first allow him to go through a due process,” Cllr. Toe said openly, during an argument as to whether the prosecution‘s request should be granted by Judge Mardea Tatt-Chenoweth or not.
Oliver Dillon, who is the coordinator of Decentralization at the Ministry of Transport (MoT), was charged with murder by the Liberia National Police (LNP) after he allegedly stabbed to death Emmanuel Kofa on April 12, 2019 in the Gardnersville Supermarket Community. Since then he had been detained by the government despite efforts by his lawyer and Judge Roosevelt Willie to release him on bail to wait his trial, but that has so far not materialized.
Oliver had admitted to commission of killing his victim Kofa in self defense because, according to him, Kofa and a group of his followers attacked him in the area. He alleged that Kofa and two other guys had tried to rob him around 12:00 a.m. and that the area in which he allegedly stabbed Kofa is considered a criminal area where he has been robbed before.
During Friday’s argument, which Judge Chenoweth denied the state lawyers’ request for postponement, Cllr. Toe argued that the prosecution has no case against defendant Dillon, but they are interested in keeping him in jail, which he believes is a violation of the law.
Cllr. Toe further argued that the prosecution’s application for postponement is in bad faith and is not supported by any law, but only meant to keep the defendant in prison; stressing, “Your Honor, do not allow yourself to be used by the government’s lawyers to violate the action that is not backed by logic and the law.”
Before Cllr. Toe’s accusation, Margibi County Attorney, Deddeh Wilson, argued that their request for postponement is because all of the lawyers at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) were engaged and, as such, she alone could not proceed with the matter, even though she (Cllr. Wilson) personally handled cases as county attorney.
Besides, Cllr. Wilson argued that all of their material witnesses that are to testify in the matter were not in the country and they have to look for them before they can commence the trial, though, the Supreme Court has mandated Judge Chenoweth to speedily decide the case.
In swift a reaction, Judge Chenoweth wondered whether or not Wilson was interested in defendant Dillon’s continued detention until her witnesses, whom she claimed were outside of the country could return. In response, Cllr. Wilson blamed the bureaucracy at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), wherein any high-profile cases should first be handled by lawyers from Montserrado County alone, an argument that Judge Chenoweth did not accept.
“What does that have to do with this court handling this case?” Chenoweth asked in response.
On Cllr. Wilson’s contention that all of the MoJ’s lawyers were engaged, Chenoweth said, “It is worrisome for Cllr. Wilson to say that all of their lawyers were engaged with different cases throughout the country that she could not go ahead with the trial.
“I wonder, since all of the lawyers at the ministry were engaged, then it means the defendant remains in jail without being tried until the lawyers are less busy?”
Thereafter, the judge replied in the negative that “Because justice delayed is justice denied, the application to postpone further hearing into the matter is denied,” Chenoweth said, reassigning the hearing of the case for March 12.
Before Cllr. Wilson’s contention for postponement that was subsequently rejected by Judge Chenoweth, the case was first handled by Judge Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice.
Judge Willie did not have the opportunity to continue with the case because he was asked by the very prosecution to recuse himself from the trial on ground that he had granted defendant Dillon bail.
Afterward, Judge Willie accepted that request and later turned the case over to Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson of Criminal Court ‘B’ also at the Temple of Justice.
Surprisingly, when the matter reached Judge Johnson, the prosecution again asked the judge for a change of venue, this time at the 5th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Cape Mount County.
According to the indictment, Dillon who usually parks his car on the premises of Jetty Trading Company in Gardnersville was attacked along with his fiancée by robbers on two separate occasions. On the night of the alleged murder, Dillon apparently realized he had forgotten his reading glasses and mobile phone in his parked car. He then left for the area he parked his car to retrieve the items, taking a knife for his safety.
The indictment further states that there were three men near the parking area, including the victim. One of those men was also carrying a pair of scissors with him. Observing the men to have some evil intent, Oliver Dillon took his knife and stabbed Kofa during a scuffle.