Which Judge Controls the Armed Robbery Court?

... Judge Wollor or Judge Willie

The Liberia Bureau of Corrections is known to be grappling with a congestion of inmates in its prison facilities around the country. However, its major challenge is that more than two-thirds of these inmates are detainees awaiting trial for various offenses including armed robbery which, according to Corrections sources, comprises the majority of those who have spent years in prison without their status being determined.

But, while expressing his frustration over the issue of armed robbery making up majority of the pretrial detainees, Counselor Sikijipo Wollor, the Resident Judge of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Court ‘D’, cast the blame on the Resident Judge of the Criminal Court ‘A’, Roosevelt Z Willie, for designating unto himself (Willie) the authority to perform the function of the Criminal Court ‘D’.

However, in a text message response to this allegation, Judge Willie could not confirm or deny the accusation.

“I am in Buchanan attending a judicial workshop. Accordingly, I will not be in the position to comment on such a grave allegation until I see the facts and evidence.”

Criminal Court ‘D’ was established by an Act Amending Title 17 of the Revised Code of Law of Liberia, known as the New Judiciary Law of 1973, adding thereto new chapter as chapter 24, with the exclusive original jurisdiction over the crimes of armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking.

Section 24.2, ‘Jurisdiction and Procedure’ states that, “Criminal Court ‘D’ shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over the crimes of armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking, except of justices of the peace and magisterial courts shall exercise preliminary examination, authority over said crimes, pursuant to chapter 12 of title 2 of the Liberian code of law Revised, known as the New criminal procedure law of 1972.”

It further states: “the procedure and enforcement of its mandate and judgment shall be the same as that of the circuit courts in criminal cases.”

Judge Wollor further claimed that Judge Willie is currently releasing accused armed robbers without the involvement of the Criminal Court ‘D’, which has the legislated responsibility to do so.

“Look, Judge Willie is indicting people of armed robbery and at the same time releasing them at his will. This practice of Judge Willie is wrong and contradicts the mandate of our court,” Judge Wollor claimed.

According to Wollor, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor is aware of the “illegal act being performed by Judge Willie”.

“Judge Willie is getting the backing of the Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to violate the legislated responsibility given to the court,” alleges Judge Wollor. “Look: Justice Korkpor, in one of our meetings about the attitude of Willie, openly told me that I should only handle armed robbery cases that have been approved by Judge Willie through an Indictment.”

Documents obtained from the Criminal Court ‘D’ established that since February 2021, the Criminal Court ‘D’ had managed to hear only two indicted cases.

The first case is the Republic of Liberia plaintiff vs Varney Kiazolu and other defendants; the other case is Republic of Liberia plaintiff vs Kuba group defendants.

Besides the two cases that Judge Willie indicted and forwarded to the Criminal Court ‘D’, Willie, according to Wollor, is in the habit of unilaterally releasing alleged armed robbers as he feels.

“How do you think the offense of armed robbery will not account for the majority of the pretrial detainees’ cases, [when it is] only by the authorization of Judge Willie that we will be able to hear cases? We have the same authority as circuit courts,” Wollor claimed.

“Judge Willie is now hearing all of the pretrial motions and releasing the accused as his will. I am tired of this illegal order by Justice Korkpor. Justice Korkpor is not above the Legislature, so that he would issue an order that violates the act creating the Criminal Court ‘D’,” Wollor argued.