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A Good Beginning for Judicial Reform Process

Legal efforts by Commissioner  Beyan Kesselly and the Liberia Maritime Authority or LMA to over-turn claims against them by families of the four deceased cadets may not have proven successful. At the Temple of Justicel in Monrovia, authorities of the LMA and their Legal team walked out of the Civil Law Court, perhaps, embarrassed and dejected by the ruling of the court against them not for the amount to be paid to the families of the dead cadets, but their integrity and credibility.

In spite of the brave face and resistance staged from the beginning to the end of the trial on Monday, April 29, 2013 at the Civil Law Court, a trial jury panel handed a unanimous guilty verdict against the LMA for the death of the four Search and Rescue Cadets, while undergoing training at sea on September 27, 2012.

The families had this year sued the LMA for the wrongful death of their four children- Cadets Patrick Ansumana, Eddie Wilson, George Kaba Reed and Henry Bryant after going missing during training at sea on Musa Beach last September. But the LMA had flatly refused responsibilities of the situation, claiming that the victims died during merry-making after their training session ended at the SKD Sports Complex. The 12-man jury panel also awarded the families of the deceased cadets the amount of US$3.15m (three million fifteen thousand United States Dollars) for punitive action against the Maritime family, general damages and expenses incurred by the families, among others.

Even though Defence Lawyers representing the LMA took exception to the verdict, announcing to the court they would take advantage of statues as provided for in such cases, the assigned  judge of Civil Law Court, Boima Kontoe, ordered the clerk of court to record the verdict on the court’s records. While the LMA planned to take advantage of the available statutes against the verdict in consonance with the law, it must also see the decision as a major break-through for the ongoing  reform process in the judiciary, especially jury selection and decision.

Except for the exercise of its right to appeal, one would consider the entire trial as fair, not because the case was won by families of the deceased cadets, but the fact that the court and jurors  saw such legal  undertaking  as a test to the integrity and credibility of the Liberian court system, which has been clouded with  dissatisfaction and frustration.

With the impressions characterizing the image of the Liberian judiciary and considering this latest judgment, one can easily  assume that there are prospects for the reform in the judiciary to positively impart cases no matter   who’s involved. To Commissioner Beyan Kasselly and  Liberia Maritime Authority, it was actually a good legal battle for which its legal team must be commended-except that justice was done to all. Whether or not the appeal would be granted, one can only hope for a transparent process in the future  as was done in the Civil Law Court.

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