Wednesday, March 6, 2019, intermittent electric power failures accompanied by intense heat in the Senate Chamber, caused Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor to adjourn the first trial-day proper in the impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh.
For three times in three hours, the Senate Chamber was plunged into power failures, causing the dozens of party litigants (House of Representatives and Justice Ja’neh), and spectators to seek remedy through the use of handkerchiefs and pieces of papers as fans.
Yesterday’s proceedings started with opening presentations by lawyers representing the House of Representatives (Managers), and the Respondent lawyers for Associate Justice Ja’neh with the outlining of the theory of their case, which they rely upon to proceed with their case.
House lawyer, Cllr. Cyrenius Cephus, started the presentation of documents that will be used in the trial on behalf of his clients by introducing the first trial witnesses, Representatives Acarous Moses Gray and Kanie Wesso, and the secretary of the Senate, J. Nanborlor F. Sengbeh, immediately administered the oath to them.
Cllr. Cephus then commenced the submission of instruments that would be used in the trial to his first witness, Rep. Gray, for identification and to testify and were subsequently ordered by Chief Justice to be marked as exhibit; a copy given to Ja’neh’s lawyers.
Among documents presented to witness Acarous Gray and marked as exhibit included the alleged illegal purchase of property belonging to Madam Annie Yancy Constance by Justice Ja’neh; the alleged prohibition placed on the usage of the Road Fund, etc.
The moment that finally prompted Chief Justice Korkpor to adjourn the trial was when Cllr. Cephus attempted to place on exhibit a document, which Ja’neh’s lawyers, led by Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, argued that they were not furnished with as requested earlier during the preliminary proceedings.
But Cllr. Cephus persistently maintained that the document, which shows, among other things, the method used by the House to prepare the impeachment, including the aspect of the House’s own rule used, were submitted to the respondent.
The filing paper showed that the contested document was indeed presented to the Senate secretariat, but was not received by Ja’neh’s lawyers. With the proceedings at a standstill, coupled with the intense heat, Chief Justice announced adjournment of the case until today, Thursday, March 7, at 2:00 p.m. in the Chamber of the newly constructed annex of the Capitol.
Earlier, Chief Justice Korkpor dismissed a motion by Ja’neh’s lawyers requesting the recusal of Senator Varney Sherman, a lawyer by profession and Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie, for the former’s recent attempt through a raised hand to make interjection during a preliminary hearing.
Meanwhile, in a press briefing shortly after the adjournment, Cllr. Johnson declared that the theory outlined by lawyers representing the House of Representatives in their opening statement, “showed that all of what they say are not impeachable offenses; that this would have been something that they would have come out to say they are impeachable offenses, but in reality, they are not.
Cllr. Johnson said that his team will immediately commence cross examining witness Acarous Gray today after the House (Managers) lawyers rest their testimony.
The respondent’s opening statement will come up after the House Managers shall have completed production of the testimonies of their lawyers.
Johnson said the document that was rejected by the respondent was a resolution that talks about the promulgation of procedure that governs impeachment of President, Vice President and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
“We have been saying that all throughout the trial that has been the key issue, there has been no rule for the proceeding, so maybe they are trying to do the damage control so that, at the end of the day, which in fact we are already in the trial; that was not part of the discovery instrument, and it is a violation of the discovery rule.”
Cllr. Johnson recalled that when the proceedings started, they made a submission to the court to the hearing officer that, “as far as we are concerned we filed a motion for discovery and these are the items that they have turned over, but they did not give us the summary of the content of the witnesses testimonies that appeared before the House of Representatives. And they did not turn over to us the House Rules or the standing rules or the procedure governing the impeachment proceeding, we made it as a matter of records.”
“So subsequently, for them to appear and bring something they have concocted to say that it was the rule governing the procedure at the level of the House of Representatives, is unfortunate.”
With respect to the Chief Justice’s statement that the document the respondent was debating over was in the file, Cllr. Johnson argued that the law stipulates that when one files under the service doctrine jurisdiction, “you must serve simultaneously to the other party; if you do not serve you do not meet the requirement.”