… For fear of ‘activities of his older brother, Senator Darius Dillon’
The Coordinator for Decentralization at the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Oliver P. Dillon, who was accused of stabbing Emmanuel Koffa twice in his left breast with a long knife that caused Koffa’s death, will no more have his case heard at Criminal Court ‘B,’ in Montserrado County.
This is because the government has won an argument, wherein they expressed fear that the activities of Dillion’s older brother, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, could make it impossible for them to obtain a fair trial. The government, therefore, is suggesting the 5th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Cape County as the new venue.
The incident occurred on April 12, 2019, at 12 midnight in the Gardnersville Supermarket Community, along the Somalia Drive.
The prosecution had argued that they have the belief that an impartial trial will not be held, predicated upon diverse local biases and the activities of Senator Dillon in Montserrado County.
Senator Dillion is one of the executives of the Council of Patriots (CoP) that staged two successful protests against the government of President George Weah, one of which ended into chaos on January 6.
He is also a stalwart of the opposition Liberty Party (LP).
Though Judge Ceaineh D. Clinton-Johnson accepted the change of venue request, she later transferred the matter to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, in Kakata, Margibi County, instead of the 5th Judicial Circuit Court, in Grand Cape County, where the prosecution had asked for.
In a counter-argument, Oliver Dillon’s legal team said the government lawyers have not provided any evidence to show the fact that Senator Dillon’s activities would undermine justice.
They also argued that without the production of any additional proof of local prejudice, there is no reason to accept the change of venue as requested by the prosecution.
In her acceptance, Judge Johnson said, the prosecution’s request is consistent with the law; however, cardinal to an impartial trial is an impartial jury.
Johnson also said that her court wonders as to why does the prosecution feels that the 5th Judicial Circuit Court, in Grand Cape County is the best place for defendant Dillon to be tried.
Citing portion of the law on change of venue, she said: “An application for a change of venue is addressed to the discretion of the trial judge, but, that the judge may act arbitrarily in the matter and that the judge’s discretion is judicial in characterizing sound discretion that is guided by the law.”
Judge Johnson, however, accepted the change of venue demand, and likewise said that there is no law provided by the prosecution that they have the right to determine the change of venue or that the right is at the discretion of the state.
Johnson explained that the law says: “It is only the court that has the authority to change venue from one county to another and not to a specified county, as being demanded by the prosecution.”
“Since this court has not been mandated by law to grant the change of venue at the discretion of the state, that discretion solely lies within the court to decide and all the parties interested will be protected by sending this case to another county in accordance with the law,” Johnson reiterated.
She continued, “In the exercise of my discretion as circuit judge in balancing public justice and the rights of the defendant, this case is ordered transferred and the venue changed to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County in accordance with the law.”
The court’s document quoted an officer of the Liberia National Police (LNP) that on April 12, 2019, defendant Oliver Dillon parked his vehicle opposite the Jeety Trading Corporation in Via Town, Bushrod Island, around midnight and went home.
While at home, the record says, Dillon decided to use his computer, but could not find his reading glasses and one of his cell phones, but noticed he forgot about the items in the car.
Later, he decided to go back to collect his items.
The document claimed that, as Dillon was approaching his car, he encountered three men, including Koffa (victim). One of them was in possession of a pair of scissors.
The three, the document alleges, engaged Dillon in the darkness with aggression and malicious intent, but in the process, Dillon pulled out a knife and stabbed Koffa twice in his left chest.
Immediately after stabbing him, the record claimed that Koffa’s two colleagues fled the scene, but later gathered an angry crowd, who decided to pursue Dillon, taking him for a rogue. Dillon escaped from them.
The court document claimed that Dillon remained in hiding until the police arrived and took him into custody along with the knife.
The court document also quoted the police as saying, “there was no history of quarrel or misunderstanding between the deceased and Dillon,” adding, “And there was also no arrangement for Dillon and the deceased to meet at the crime scene, where he allegedly stabbed Koffa.”
“The action of Dillon indicates that he intended killing him, and so, he is charged with murder,” the police investigation report claimed.
“The question remains, based on the analysis of the police, why would they not charge Dillon with manslaughter,” a lawyer has questioned.
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation or so-called “malice aforethought” (an evil intent prior to the killing). It is distinguished from murder, which brings greater penalties by lack of any prior intention to kill anyone or create a deadly situation,” the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.