A ruling expected to either put on trial or drop murder charges against 15 people was suspended indefinitely by Judge Yussif D. Kaba, of Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice, on Tuesday, March 18.
The men were indicted for using single barrel guns to kill then Plantation Manager of the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), Michael Bruno referred to in court document as “Bruno Nicholas,” a Belgian national on November 17, 2007, at the company’s extension site in District#3 Grand Bassa County.
However, Judge Kaba scheduled the court’s ruling on Tuesday, after he heard counter-arguments in a “Motion to Dismiss” and for “Acquittal of the Defendants” filed by the defense team.
During the arguments, state lawyers asked the court to deny the defense team’s requests and proceed with the case.
At Tuesday’s hearing, both lawyers (from the prosecution and defense) were seen seated in their respective positions in readiness to receive Judge Kaba’s ruling.
However, things did not go as expected. Instead, Judge Kaba informed the lawyers that he had postponed his ruling.
He did not say when he would schedule the next date for it, stating, “The ruling is hereby suspended until further notice. The court’s clerk will inform the lawyers about the next schedule date through a regular notice of assignment. It is so ordered.”
The case was first heard in 2008 at the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County.
It was later suspended and the jury panel disbanded by Judge Benedict Holt, based on an allegation of jury tampering.
Judge Holt said the allegation came from then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Johnnie N.N. Lewis.
According to him, the Chief Justice instructed him to stop further hearings into the matter to immediately conduct an investigation.
He claimed Cllr. Lewis informed him that he got information about the jury tampering from a “high-up.”
Based on that, Judge Holt took his decision and transferred the matter to another court, the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Court ‘A’ for Montserrado County.
It is unknown what was responsible for the case being suspended once again, this time by a different judge, who gave no reason.
A legal expert— who chose to remain anonymous— confided in the Daily Observer and said the decision is based on “political interference.”
The expert claimed this case would never be heard under President Sirleaf’s Administration.
It can be recalled that then Executive Mansion Press Secretary, Cyrus Badio said at a press conference on November 19, 2007, that the murder had “political implications" and "wasn't isolated."
He vowed that any politicians found to have ties to the murder would face justice.
Grand Bassa County, where the murdered took place, is widely controlled by the opposition Liberty Party (LP).
A Senator of the County, Nathaniel Innis, of the LP expressed condolences for Bruno's death in a radio interview when the incident occurred, but then went on to say that the murder could have been avoided if local people had been included in the LAC expansion negotiations.
The then Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party, Mr. Israel Akinsanya, had claimed that the government was actively trying to link his party to the murder and worried that party officials would soon be threatened.
He said security forces had been ordered to monitor the movement of all senior Liberty party officials and prohibit them from exiting Liberia through its many borders, sea ports, or the Roberts International Airport (RIA).