3-Day Ultimatum Strikes Cummings

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

 MONROVIA- Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) has been instructed by the Monrovia City Court to produce the original signed copy of the CPP framework document of May 19, 2020.

Handling down a verdict on Wednesday, in the prosecution’s motion of subpoena duces tecum, Magistrate Jorma Jallah ordered Cummings and his associates in this criminal matter to produce the original signed Framework document and the photocopy of the said document within the period of three days pending the continuation of the trial.

On January 18, 2022, the prosecution filed a 10-count written motion for subpoena duces tecum, contending strenuously that the original signed CPP framework document of May 19, 202 is in the hands of the respondents and that persistent efforts made up to and including the file of filing the motion have fallen on deaf ears and the defendants have ignored, neglected and refused to deliver unto them copies of the document contrary to their own internal arrangement.

The prosecution contends further that the filing of the framework document with the National Elections Commission (NEC) was done without the express knowledge, participation, and approval of the movant ALP and therefore prays the court to grant the motion mandating the defendants to produce the same document.

But this was resisted by Cummings lawyers contending that such a request will amount to self-incrimination and will be in gross violation of article 21(h) of the 1986 Constitution.

The defendants’ counsels further argued that by filing the motion, the prosecution was now looking for evidence from the defendants already charged with crimes whose evidence the prosecution must produce beyond all reasonable doubt to convict their clients as such, the motion should be denied.

He said the court holds and submits that the constitutional privilege against self-crimination as provided for under Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution does not apply to business records, public documents or political contracts that are normally executed in accordance with the parties own rules and regulation as they may deem fit.

But Magistrate Jallah ruled that the application by prosecution requiring Cummings to produce the framework document which is a public document does not and cannot be construed as an invasion of the province of self-crimination.

A subpoena seeking public records does not fall within the ambit of Article 21 (h) as such, it does not amount to self-incrimination, the Magistrate added.

Magistrate Jallah referenced a leading Canadian Supreme Court opinion on the right to silence under section 11 (c) of the Canadian Chapter of Rights and Freedoms, which held that the “right to silence is absolute and the silence of an accused cannot lead to any adverse inference against him nor be used for concluding his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“When combined and analyzed along with Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution, it becomes indisputably clear that the emphasis regarding self-incrimination is placed on the testimony of the accused either upon arrest or during a criminal investigation or at trial as the case may be and has nothing to do absolutely with the production of public records based on a court subpoena.”

The City Court Magistrate indicated that the doctrine of self-incrimination as provided for under Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution becomes apparent and may be invoked if upon arrest, or during a criminal investigation or at trial a defendant is mandated or coerced to provide a testimony that may be considered utterly reprehensible as to incriminate him.

Jallah added: “As such, this is possible if the testimony so required, violates the principle of the defendant’s right to remain silent and thereby gives the prosecution an edge to convict him at all cost.”

He holds that there must be an egregious violation or application of the law that demonstrably reveals a rather callous and brazen disregard of the rights of the defendants on trial in order to challenge an act as self-incrimination and unconstitutional under Article 21 (h) of the Constitution as done by defense counsels.

“Strangely, however, this does not obtain in the instant case which is why it is difficult if not impossible to contextualize the defense counsel’s reliance on Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution.

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