Judge Yussif Kaba’s public comment that the jury was corrupting the legal system was enough for Ecobank’s lawyers to ask him to sequester (isolated, quarantine) the nine jurors selected Friday, July 3, to help him decide a US$3m damages case against the bank.
Judge Kaba later postponed further hearing of the case, after two of the jurors refused to be sequestered along with their colleagues.
The Judge was openly heard saying, “You have been selected to help me decide this case. If I sit here and don’t say that you will ‘walk through the valley and shadow of death’, I would be lying to you, especially during this trial.”
Prior to Judge Kaba’s comment, there was no plan to have the jury sequestered.
The lawsuit against the bank was filed by the management of Embassy Suite Hotel, alleging the bank without authorization on December 24, 2014, closed-down the hotel, for which action they are claiming US$3m damages.
The bank’s action was based on a ruling by the Commercial Court, holding the hotel’s Lebanese manager, Anwar Saoud, liable for the amount of US$1,084,595.62 in an Action of Debt brought against him by Ecobank-Liberia.
In his statement, the Civil Law Court Judge further told the packed courtroom, “Let me confess: if people are saying the judiciary is corrupt, it is true, because you jurors have sold people’s rights indecisively by collecting bribes, which have caused people not to respect the laws anymore.”
He went on to say, “If you fail to decide this case fairly, you will be crippling the economy, because if investors lose [confidence] in our legal system, they would not invest their money in our country, which may lead them to pack up and leave.”
He added, “If you are approached by any lawyer in this case to entice you to engage you in corruption, I plead with you, for the sake of Liberia, to tell me and I am going to send that person to jail.
But if you refuse to tell me and I get to know, then I would send you, jurors, to jail for 30 days.”
“As for you, the lawyers selected you to determine the facts and to ensure that people get justice, while I am here to determine the law,” Judge Kaba clarified.
Immediately, after Judge Kaba’s statement, one of the bank’s lawyers, Atty. Arthur Johnson, raised his hand and was heard saying, “Your Honor, we would like for those jurors to be sequestered.”
Following Atty. Johnson’s request, Judge Kaba was compelled to temporarily halt the case which was in progress and ask both lawyers to join him in his office.
To everyone’s surprise, when they returned, Judge Kaba uttered these words to the jurors: “I have good and bad news for you people. The bad news is that you are not going to leave this place until the case is decided.” Judge Kaba did not say what the good news was.