By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-Over Government’s alleged failure to prosecute pre-trial detainees, Criminal Court “A” is to release 37 prisoners who are yet to be tried since 2016 to present.
The court’s decision is predicated upon a July 5, 2022 motion to dismiss same as filed by the office of the Public Defense.
On July 5, 2022, the office of the Public Defense through one of its Counsel, Cllr. Sennay Carlor, filed a motion before Criminal Court “A” to dismiss alleged offenses committed by accused persons charged by the Ministry of Justice, who have remained at the Monrovia Central Prison between 2016 to 2022 without being indicted and brought to court. These offenses ranged from murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault and arson, amongst others.
Cllr. Carlor further argued that besides the state having no evidence against these accused persons, they have remained beyond the statutory term as provided by law in section 18.2 title “dismissal by the court for failure to proceed with prosecution, on grounds that some of the accused persons have stayed in prison between 10 to 20 years terms when actually the law provided only two terms.
In resistance to the motion, prosecution argued that a motion of this nature should not be consolidated, but be accompanied by an affidavit.
Moreover, prosecution argues that some of the files of the accused cannot be located, hence, indictment could not have been drawn, and therefore prayed the court to grant them another term of court to enable them draw the indictment.
The court says that even though some of the crimes include murder, manslaughters among others, the argument put forth by Government is not backed by law, as stipulated in section 18.2
The law says “unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss a complaint against a defendant who is not indicted by the end of the next succeeding term after his or her arrest for an indictable offense or his appearance in court in response to a summon, or notice to appear charging him or her with such an offense. It also says, unless a good case is shown in court shall dismiss an indictment if the defendant is not tried during the next succeeding term after the findings of the indictment.
A court shall dismiss a complaint charging a defendant with an offense triable by a Magistrate or Justice of the Peace if trial is not commenced in court is response to a summon or notice to appear.”
On this basis, Judge Roosevelt Willie noted that since some of these defendants have stayed in detention for more than the stipulated term by law, these defendants are entitled to some sort of freedom.
The court ordered that those involved with murder and manslaughter are to be placed on bail and produce three human sureties to secure their release from the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP).
While, the second group to include: burglary, theft, arson, forgery, counterfeiting, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, robbery, simple assault, and aiding a crime, should be dismissed without prejudice to the state, meaning the Republic can at any stage go after them.
The third category which include nine prisoners who have been awaiting indictment since 2020, will be placed on bail whether or not the crimes are billable, that is if the state fails to meet up with the August Term grace period given it by that honorable court to draw an indictment against them.
At the same time, the court has also mandated defense lawyers to file a bill of information to that court over government’s failure to meet up with its responsibility which will entitle them to dismiss the cases without prejudice to the state.