Who ‘Fingers’ Court Documents?

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

MONROVIA-Alexander Cummings through his team of lawyers has accused government’s team of prosecutors headed by the Solicitor General Cllr. Sryma Cephus of tampering with evidence relevant to acquitting their client (Cumming) from the criminal case.

Alexander Benedict Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and two other Executive of his party are facing criminal trial for the crimes: forgery and criminal conspiracy, a second degree felony under the law.

Cummings and the two officials were accused of tampering with the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) framework document of May 19, 2020, hence, he was dragged to the Monrovia City Court by Theo Momo, National Chairman of the All Liberian Party (ALP), one of the four constituent parties within the CPP.

During last Friday’s trial, Cummings’ lawyers called the attention of the court to the extortion of portion of a text message exchange that was submitted by the states and subsequently admitted into evidence by the court.

Cummings’ legal team linked the extortion of this message to Liberia’s Solicitor General Cephus of master-minding such, and prayed the court to have same place back in the discoveries.

The alleged extortion of said message was noticed by defendant Cummings.

According to Cllr. Abraham Sillah, there were so many documents (discoveries) submitted by the states at the court of the trial, so they could not go through all of those, hence, Cllr. Cephus allegedly took advantage of that to extort the message in question.

The lawyers now believed that Cummings’ fate lies in this particular test message.

At the same time, Magistrate Jorma Jallah who is currently presiding over the trial has launched an investigation into the matter to establish the truthfulness of the allegation made by Cummings’ lawyers.

However, Office of the Solicitor-General on March 19, 2022 issued a release wherein he described as absolutely shameful, but not surprising, a rather willful and deliberate misinformation campaign contained in   a press statement purportedly written and signed by a certain Jonathan Dolakeh said to be the Deputy Secretary General of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), accusing state prosecutors lead by the Solicitor-General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus of alleged “prosecutorial misconduct.”

The press statement alleges that during the cross-examination of the All Liberian Party(ALP) National Chairman, Theodore Momo, the state prosecutors, allegedly  aided by ALP’s Political Leader, Benoni Urey have criminally extracted several pieces of evidence, establishing the innocence of, and  exonerating Mr. Alexander Cummings and  his  Co-defendants from WhatsApp messages exported from the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) National Advisory Committee(NAC) chat-room which were  presented to the court and given to Co-defendant Cummings’  lawyers as   part of discovery records submission.

The statement which has now become an ANC press release further noted that the intentional omission of any piece of evidence that speaks to the innocence of the accused amounts to misconduct on the part of the prosecution, stressing that in all criminal matters, the state is duty bound or has legal obligation to submit to the accused all the species of evidence the state has in its possession related to the allegations, and this includes evidence of inculpatory and exculpatory nature.

The ANC’s release further added that such alleged misconduct is in violation of Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral Code and Ethical Conduct which inhibits lawyers from surprising and secreting information and evidence capable of proving the innocence of a defendant, noting “the ANC says Cephus and team’s conduct is grossly unethical and criminally unprofessional.”

However, the office of the Solicitor-General says even though the information contained in the press statement is absolutely misguided and utterly appalling and does not even  worth denying, but the fact that it is being quoted from  a purported submission of  the legal team of  Alexander B. Cummings  led by Ibrahim Sillah, a member of the Liberian  Supreme Court Bar,  makes it mandatory for the prosecution to respond.

The  office of the Solicitor-General speaking for and on behalf of the prosecution says the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct  as alleged  by the defense team     is shameful   and very unfortunate for the defense team  to make such an application   on the records of the court  and  to put out such misinformation in the public domain through the media    that the evidence that should have exonerated their clients from the crimes charged  has been  extracted from  the prosecution’s own   evidence that is   being used to prosecute Co-defendant  Alexander B. Cummings and others.

The office of the Solicitor-General describes such media campaign as an asinine slander by men of limited vision and courage,   and a clear manifestation that the defense team led by Cllr. Sillah has absolutely   no evidence to counter what the prosecution is producing   as evidence in court, and is instead, depending on what it feels and thinks the prosecution has allegedly excluded, although without any proof, as evidence to exonerate their clients.

The release said such a third grader argument does not only   debase whatever is left of the standards of the defense team’s argument but it also defeats the purpose of a competitive trial which the prosecution had anticipated, but which is  now found wanting,   giving the misinformation surrounding the arrests and prosecution of the defendants for the crimes of forgery and criminal conspiracy.

The office of the Solicitor-General says only a person who  does not understand elementary trial  practices and procedures, will make for the sake of undue publicity,  such a frivolous and unfounded  allegations that the prosecution has excluded evidence intended to exonerate a criminal defendant without producing a counter  or superior evidence to disprove  what has already been presented  to court, testified to, identified,  and confirmed by the witness on the stand  and then  marked by court without any objection from the defense team.

The Solicitor-General   vehemently denies and dismisses any prosecutorial misconduct    and cals on   Cummings’ defense team led by   Cllr. Ibrahim Sillah, to look for other  appropriate means  in seeking “weekends tips  and other incidental fees” from the clients for  the crisis the headache the team is  facing in court  to  defend  the criminal misconduct of their  clients   rather than  designing  fake  stories  as a means to justify their demands  for pecuniary gains  and  to distract public attention  and  disrupt the trial.

The release issued today says though things are tough and the defense team  has every legitimate reason to make demands upon its clients but the prosecution cannot and should be  used in such a game of undue extortion and  blackmail and has  therefore described  as blatantly   reckless and  irresponsible  an  ill-fated media campaign  embarked upon  by the defense team to mislead the general  about the quality of evidence that is being presented in court  by the Prosecution against    Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his partners in crimes.

The release further described   the prosecutorial misconduct allegation   as a pale reflection of the poor quality   of the type lawyering that is being provided the defendants who are very much prosecution’s   hooks,   and noted that such hapless posturing by the legal team led by Cllr. Sillah    is a clear demonstration of a complete lack of understanding of elementary trial practices and procedures in this jurisdiction.

As a form of a workshop, the  office of the Solicitor-General clarifies that the object and purpose of a discovery at trial  dictates that  the prosecution presents to the defense all pieces of evidence relies upon that  form the basis for charging or indicting a criminal defendant,  and which may be used or  introduced at trial.

The rules of procedure of evidence governing  all trials in  the  Liberian jurisprudence, the prosecution noted   instructs that when  a discovery is had, and then a witness is placed on the stand, and begins to give testimony, every piece of evidence testified to,   identified by  the witness,  and before  the said evidence  is presented to the court for a mark of identification, it must first and foremost  be presented to the adversary lawyer to be  verified  and   to make sure whether such  an evidence is part of the discovery submission.

The release said once the adversary lawyer confirms and affirms that the piece of evidence being introduced for mark of identification is  part of the discovery in its possession, the court will then proceed to grant prosecution’s application and there and then ordered the document to be marked as requested.

Explaining the trial  rules  and procedures further, the office of the Solicitor-General noted that once  a mark of identification is placed on the document being testified to and identified by the witness on the stand, the witness will again be asked to look at the court marked document and say whether it is the same document that he/she has just  testified to and identified and when the witness answers in the affirmative, the prosecution will  then proceed to make an application for the  court to place a mark of confirmation on the same document,   if and only if  there is no objection from the defense team.

The release  noted that in the instant case,  the two documents in question are WhatsApp messages which were downloaded, provided at discovery to the defense team,   and   have been duly  marked by the court as Exhibits “P/6 and P/13”  because they were testified to, identified, and confirmed by the witness on the stand without any objection from Cummings’ defense team, meaning the defense team had  duly verified that the two documents  in question and were convinced that they  were part of the discovery submission by the prosecution.

The release further noted that the evidence in question belongs to the prosecution, and therefore, it is inconceivable as to how the prosecution can extract documents from its own evidence that is being used to prosecute the criminal defendants but which the defense team alleges should have exonerated their clients.

The office of the Solicitor-General says it is a disgrace that the legal defense team appears not to know that once   all of the documents have been testified to, identified, confirmed and   marked by court, and when the prosecution or defense rests with  a witness on the stand under direct examination, all of the pieces of evidence used during the examination  which have  already marked by court  will be turned  over to  either the defense or prosecution to be used  for cross-examination purposes.

The release added that once an adversary lawyer decides to cross-examine a witness on the stand it is only the court marked documents that were never objected  to  during the direct examination and already marked by court at the  trial   that will be used to test veracity  and materiality of the witness’ testimony.

The release describes  as extremely irrational, but not surprising  the defense diversionary strategy of falsely relying on prosecution’s  evidence to determine the purported innocence of Alexander B. Cummings a criminal defendant charged with the crimes of  forgery and criminal conspiracy.

The office of the Solicitor-general accuses the defense team of running out of ideas and options to the extent that they do not know how to procure and present a valid and superior evidence to counteract the incontrovertible evidence being presented by the Government of Liberia against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummins and his lieutenants.

The release said the prosecution is not easily deterred or  intimidated by the trite tactics of   Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings behaving like a  “jack-rabbi, and  running helter-skelter with a ton of doomed  excuses simply to evade facing  former Vice President Joseph Boakai or Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence in court , and for this, has been making irrelevant travel  demands  raging from his own purported medical condition to  the  sudden illness of his 92 years  mother without any medical records, a purported planned trip to  US State Department to hold talks with US officials, a fake  invitation from US Congress,  among others,  in apparent attempt  to frighten the prosecution  and the court  with  US sanctions  and thereby  blackmail the court  the court to drop charges against him but  with little success because of the quality of the evidence against him is so  compelling than his wishful thinking.

It is elementarily offensive, the release added, that   Cummings legal team  and the masterminds of this latest  vicious media campaign  do not understand  the rudiments of our  trial practices and  procedures as recorded in the famous Supreme Court opinion, in the case: “Gibson v Williams   33 LLR 193 (1985) 193, syllabus 7  which  states: “All documentary evidence which are relevant and material to the issues of fact, and which are received and marked by the court shall be presented to the jury.” Rev. Code 1: 25.4; Walker v. Morris, 15 LLR 424 (1963).

The release advised the legal team of defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his supporters to mount appropriate legal challenges to the quantum of evidence being presented by the prosecution on a  solid legal  foundation to make their client proud and to justify their legal fees rather than hatching an ill-fated ploy to blackmail the prosecution and distract the  general public from closely following  what will eventually end up with the  criminal conviction of  Co-defendant Cummings his lieutenants because of  the preponderance of evidence the prosecution has against them.

The office the Solicitor-General says the false claims of alleged “prosecutorial misconduct” is a poor try and error  method designed and unleashed by  Co-defendant Cummings and his legal team led by Cllr. Sillah    as part of the wider negative media campaign against the prosecution and the government of Liberia while Cummings is out of the bailiwick of  the Republic to   baffle and hijack the trial and thereby escape facing the soon-to-be a barrage of prosecution’s subpoena witnesses that includes the likes of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai,  Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence,  Unity Party Secretary-General Mo Ali among others.

The office of the Solicitor-General reassures the public that the evidence against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his co-conspirators is compelling and incontrovertible   that they are now “smelling the rat” with a possible conviction in the offing,   and therefore maintains that the prosecution will neither   be distracted by any negative media campaign   and lies nor deterred by what seems the “last cry of a drowning man.”

The release calls on the defense team of  Alexander Cummings and his  supporters  to stop blaming and vilifying  the prosecution for the missteps and poor judgment  of their leader in allegedly  conspiring with his subordinates to forge the CPP framework document of May 19, 2020  for  his personal ego  which ultimately landed him in the dock as a criminal defendant  and should blame himself  and “cry his own cry” for not demonstrating an astute quality of leadership to take blames and resolve the matter amicably   for which he is now   tasting the rawness of the law.

Meanwhile the Solicitor-General office further speaking for and on behalf of the prosecution  categorically denies violating Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral Code and Ethical Conduct and   maintains that   the prosecution team  cannot and must not  be held accountable for Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings own poor judgment  and  for  developing a “bruised ego” in his  seeming blind pursuit  to outsmart his colleagues  in the CPP   as well as his   apparent arrogance and  unbridled failure to demonstrate     to resolve the crisis  internally   short of litigation.

The release concluded that the prosecution will ensure that Co-defendant Cummings and his lieutenants are given a fair and free trial without any hindrance and the opportunity to face their accusers, where applicable, as a matter of law, but noted that no amount of negative media campaign or inflammatory comments and false allegations will distract the prosecution from proceeding with the trial.

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