A 60-year-old man who, because his family could not afford bail in the amount of US$70, left in a prison cell at the Monrovia Central Prison, on Wednesday, January 27 appeared at the Temple of Justice and explained his unfortunate ordeal to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.
Isaac Weede, chairman of the Lakpazee Community in Monrovia, was on Monday, January 25 arrested by the Monrovia City Court based on a complaint filed by a Nigerian national, John T. Yougie of the Love House Chapel International.
The court document claims that Yougie informed them how defendant Weede went to his church with cutlasses and other deadly weapons and threatened to kill him and in the process the defendant broke and damaged the fence of the church that cost US$550 to build.
It was based on this complaint that defendant Weede was arrested and charged by the court with terroristic threats and criminal mischief, which crimes are bailable offenses.
Weede said he went to the court to ask the judge to assign the case because Yougie had failed to continue with the matter.
“My imprisonment was very fast because after I told them that I could not afford the money and one of my daughters was rushing to get the money from my house, they were not willing to listen to me. And, Magistrate Ben Barco demanded that I go to jail,” Weede tearfully said.
During an interview with journalists at the Temple of Justice where he had gone to pay a fee of US$10 to ask for the assignment of the case, defendant Weede recalled that his imprisonment was a nightmare to him.
“It’s so horrible in there, because we were about ten persons in our a small room.”
He continued: “I was handcuffed by the court officer and they walked with me from the Temple of Justice building to the Monrovia Central Prison. That was the disappointing moment in my life to be handcuffed and publicly made to walk on the street.”
Weede further explained that after the arrest, the officers took him to the court, without allowing him to contact a lawyer.
According to Weede, when he arrived at the court, which was his first experience, Magistrate Barco asked him whether he was accompanied by a lawyer to the court, and he responded in the negative.
After that, Weede claimed it was when Magistrate Barco asked him to post a bond of US$70 to allow him to get back home and to await his court appearance.
“I told my lawyer, Attorney Bleh that the money with me was not enough to reach the US$70, but I have told one of my children to go back home and bring me additional US$50,” Weede recalled.
Atty. Bleh told the Daily Observer that he immediately contacted the court via mobile phone and admitted representing Weede during the trial, but does not remember whether Weede was detained.
“I was his lawyer when he was asked to pay the US$70, but he told me he never had that amount, so I left him with the court and went to attend to another important schedule for that day,” Atty. Bleh told this reporter.
In most recent times, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor had warned magistrates throughout the country to avoid illegal detention.
“It appears that you are no longer exercising the criminal procedure law 13.5 and you are still sending people to jail and the people are crying from this. You have to stop that; don’t keep people in jail who are not to be there,” the Chief Justice then emphasized.
The statement came after the Chief Justice made an impromptu visit to the Monrovia Central Prison to acquaint himself with activities there.
There, he told Magistrates who had come from various magisterial courts across Montserrado County that the Judiciary instituted the Magistrate Sitting Program at the Monrovia Central Prison in a bid to fast track cases that involve pre-trial detainees.
The statement came after people have repeatedly accused judges and magistrates of setting excessive bail without considering defendants’ ability to pay.
Even though his charges were not so major that only US$70 was enough to prevent him from going to prison, Weede does not have a violent criminal history that he could be jailed for not paying a US$70 bond.
And like so many poor people before him, Weede was sent to his cell to await trial while wealthier people who wer accused of similar crimes walked free.