Drama unfolded in open court on Thursday, March 20, when a government lawyer demeaned Criminal Court ‘D’ Judge Emery Paye, by challenging him. The lawyer asked, “What will you do, if we (state lawyers) fail to produce new evidence, we are relying on to prosecute 17 Liberians on trial for being mercenaries?”
Judge Paye is presiding over a case in which the government accused the defendants of staging cross-border raids from Liberia into neighboring Cote d’ Ivoire between 2010 and 2011. Several persons, including seven United Nations peacekeepers, were killed from those incursions.
The defendants have denied the allegation each time they appeared in Court. However, prosecution has maintained that they committed the crime—which they intend to prosecute. Surprisingly, the case has been held in abeyance at the Criminal for almost two years now.
It all started, after the prosecution and the defense teams agreed to qualify and empanel a nine-member jury that would help Judge Paye decide the case.
Minutes, after the jurors were selected, a member of the defense team, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, pleaded with Judge Paye to question the prosecution as to whether there was any new evidences they were relying on to prosecute his clients.
And, if they had, then they (prosecution) should make such evidence available to them (defense team) as is required by law.
It was this request, that prompted Judge Paye to ask state lawyers, whether they had any new evidence in their possession.
But, Cllr. Theophilus Gould, one of the government lawyers and president of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), responded: “Yes, we have additional evidence in our possession.”
In response, Judge Paye once again asked Cllr. Gould, where is the new evidence?
He again replied, “We do not have it with us now, but we want you to give us until Tuesday, March 25, at which time we will make it available to the defense team.”
That response prompted Judge Paye to demand the government lawyers to produce the new evidence immediately.
Following the order, Cllr, Gould angrily replied, “What will you do to us if we don’t present you with new evidence? I say tell me what you will do!”
Judge Paye answered Cllr. Gould, “Who are you asking? And what do you want me to do?”
After the bitter exchange of words between the lawyers, Judge Paye wondered why—for a trial that commenced last Monday, March 17, had the prosecution not produced the records to the defense team, knowing full well that such was a practice of law governing criminal cases.”
“The court will grant the request with a modification that prosecution makes available all pieces of evidence not in the possession of defense lawyers on or before Monday, March 24.”