Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, has recused himself from the hearing and determination of the matter related to an appeal filed by lawyers representing Hans Capehart Williams and Mardea Paykue Williams, due to earlier involvement, while serving as Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Hans and Mardea were, in 2010, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, as a result of their involvement in the killing of Merideh Angel Togba, a 14- year-old girl. She had been found dead hanging in the bathroom of the Williams’ home.
Then Criminal Court ‘A’ Judge Blamo Dixon found the two guilty and sentenced the two to death.
Justice Banks recused (withdrew) himself from the matter on Thursday, April 3, when the Full Bench of the High Court was about to hear argument in a “Writ of Certiorari” prayed for by Williams’ lawyers.
A certiorari is an order a Higher Court issues to review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and determine whether its judgment its judgmentwere any irregularities.
It all started when Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, who was presiding over the hearing along with the four Associate Justices, seated themselves in their respective seats in the joint chamber at the Temple of Justice.
They prepared to listen to legal arguments between the defense team and state lawyers over the request. Surprisingly, Associate Justice Banks publicly announced “I’m recusing myself from the full bench that will hear and determine the case, because I have earlier participated in it, when I was then chief law officer, when I served as Justice Minister and Attorney General during the trial.”
He added, “I am doing this so that my impartiality in this hearing will not reasonably be questioned.”
“I have previously served as a lawyer concerning the same case and have expressed my opinion concerning its outcome. This is why I will not be on the Bench to hear and decide the case,” declared Associate Justice Banks justifying his decision.
According to legal experts, it is provided by law that justices have to recuse themselves from a case, if they have some personal bias concerning anyone or possess independent knowledge of the facts in the dispute, or if they worked on the case as a private or government lawyer.
Immediately after Associate Justice Banks’ recusal, Chief Korkpor openly said, “these are some of the reasons people will say justice delayed, justice denied, or we do not want to hear the matter. This is not so; but Associate Justice Banks’ decision sometimes leads to a tie-vote or it leads to affirmation of an equally divided court. His recusal at times could leave the court without the required quorum to hear and decide the matter so as to make a speedy determination.”
He however concluded, “I will be traveling today, April 4, and upon my return, we will schedule the date for the argument. The matter is hereby suspended.”