By Lincoln G. Peter
Supreme Court of Liberia Chamber Justice, Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, on Monday, December 11, 2023, granted the writ of subpoenas prayed for by defense lawyers in the murder trial of Justice Gloria Musu Scott and three family members that were earlier denied by His Honor, Roosevelt Z. Willie of Criminal Court “A”.
The decision of the lower court Judge was overturned by the Chambers Justice after a petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by the defense against the Judge and the prosecution.
Judge Roosevelt Willie on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, denied the request by defense lawyers to subpoena Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee and two others to appear and testify in the ongoing Chaloe Musu murder trial at the Temple of Justice, calling the application a “fishing expedition.”
The decision by the defense counsels was an attempt to take an exception and file a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court of Liberia for the high court to review the ruling of the Criminal Court “A” judge into their motion.
The motion requesting the court to subpoena Mayor Koijee was made after the testimonies of Monrovia City Police Commander, Varlee Telleh, to his telephone numbers, for which he was subpoenaed.
It was after the examination of Witness Telleh that defense lawyers commenced their application, noting that “At this stage, one of the counsels for defendants prays for a subpoena ad testificandum to be issued on the wife of Varlee Telleh, believed to be using cell number 0776632470 to testify to a call made to number 112001407, on February 22, at the hour of 7:00pm.”
The defense counsel also prayed for a subpoena ad testificandum to be issued on Moses Wright, owner of mobile number 112001407, one of the private guards of Cllr. Gloria Scott, to testify to a call made on February 21, 2023, to the same number 112001407 that was called on February 22 by the wife of Moses Wright, while at the same time requesting for Subpoena duces tecum to be served on Orange GSM Company to provide the call log of Moses Wright’s and the wife of Varlee Telleh from February 20, 2023, to February 24, 2023.
Additionally, the Defense counsel further prayed to subpoena Mayor Jefferson Koijee, to go to court to testify in the proceedings, as it relates to allegations made against him by Cllr. Jerome Verdier, and further prayed for subpoena duces tecum to the issue of numbers owned by Mayor Koijee which were read to as 0776407696 and 0886407696, besides requesting the court for additional subpoena duces tecum to be issued on Orange GSM Company to produce one Mohammed Kieta.
To these applications, prosecution issued a three-point resistance in which State lawyers argued that testimonies of defendants in the dock to the murder charges referred to without particularity, materiality, and specificity as to any participation or involvement of the purported individuals, saying that the same should be set aside and denied by the court.
In its ruling, the Court having listened to the defense application and resistance thereto by State Lawyers denied the defendants motion, saying that the application was made before the testimonies of Witness Telleh, who had testified in court and agreed that the application is not specific; neither does it present any evidence upon which the individuals should be subpoenaed.
However, in his ruling, Judge Willie said the defense had not shown the court any documentary evidence or by witness testimony that Mohammed Keita with whom Koijee communicated was part and parcel of the case.
The judge further ruled that because the wife of Varlee Telleh communicated with someone is not sufficient to bring her to court to testify, adding that the defense counselor’s application is not specific and particular, as to her connection to the case involving Koijee for which he should be subpoenaed.
“It is not specific because the defense counsel has not presented to this court physical or documentary evidence [concerning] the call between Telleh’s wife and the person who is named,” judge Willie added.
In Judge Willie’s mind, the “defense is on a fishing expedition” as the court continuously said that the defense has the number that was testified to and even has the number of Mayor Koijee.
“But to invite those individuals here without evidence to show means those individuals are coming here to testify against themselves”, which the judge said the law does not allow.
But in resistance to His Honor’s ruling, defense lawyers have taken Judge Willie on a writ of Certiorari at the Supreme Court of Liberia, for denying their petition to have Mayor Koijee and others testify in the ongoing murder case.
In a 10-count petition, the defense lawyers say Civil Procedure Law, Section 16.21.1 provides “certiorari is a special proceeding to review and correct decisions of officials, boards, or agencies acting in a judicial capacity, or to review an intermediate order or interlocutory judgment of a court”.
The defense also quoted their reliance on Civil Procedure Law, Section 13.4 which provides, “where the person to be examined is not a party or a person who at the time of taking the deposition is an officer, director, member, or employee of a party, he shall be served with a subpoena.
They added that unless the Court orders otherwise, such subpoena must be served at least ten days before the examination. “Proof of service of a notice to take a deposition as provided in section 13.3(3) or (4) constitutes a sufficient authorization for issuance by the clerk of the court of a subpoena on the persons named or described therein and for production by them of designated books, papers, and portable things as authorized in Section 13.5”, the defense lawyers continue.
The Petitioners noted that Witness Varlee Telleh was subpoenaed to testify to numbers submitted by him to the Liberia National Police (LNP) during the criminal investigation regarding the murder of Charloe Musu; and while on the witness stand, he testified that the mobile number (0778)-371-222 is being used by him, and the mobile number (0776)-632-470 is registered in his name, but managed or is used by his wife.
Petitioners further say, based upon witness Telleh’s testimony that the mobile number (0776)-632- 470 is being used by his wife, they prayed the court to have the wife of witness Telleh’s subpoenaed to testify to the mentioned number, and particularly to a call made to cell number 112001407 between February 20, 2023 to February 24, 2023, and relationship between Mrs. Telleh and the person to whom the calls were made.
Accordingly, the defense lawyers said their request is predicated upon the call log submitted, to which Witness Telleh said it is the prosecution which showed that the number 112001407 is being used by his wife, Mrs. Telleh, pointing out that they also had called interaction with Moses Wright on February 21. 2023, the eve of the day Charloe was murdered.
Petitioners say the Orange GSM company was also subpoenaed to produce the call logs of Moses Wright and the wife of Varlee Telleh who is believed to be the owner of the mobile
The defense lawyers said that Judge Willie also denied the application of Petitioner and that the subpoena is not specific.
But the defendants noted that the denial of their application for the subpoenas by the Judge deprives Petitioners/Defendants of the opportunity to adequate representation, and the right to proffer evidence on their behalf.
Meanwhile, the defense lawyers have said the petition for a Writ of Certiorari will review and correct the error made by the Respondent Judge herein, while praying that the Supreme Court issues a Writ of Certiorari, directing the Respondent Judge Willie to grant the application to have the named individuals subpoenaed to testify, and the mentioned call logs be subpoenaed.
But during the conference hearing, Chamber Justice Wolokolie provided time for both prosecution and defense to argue and prove their case.
Prosecution in its argument said that the Justice should deny the request on grounds that those people have been investigated by the Liberian National Police and their statements are there.
According to the prosecution, the request made by the defense is not in good faith, rather it’s intended to delay the trial.
But, the defense in resistance, termed the request of the prosecution as scare tactics.
According to the prosecution, they are just requesting the court to grant the subpoenas to enable those individuals show their relationship with the testimonies and clear themselves.
After listening to the argument, Justice Wolokolie granted the defense request and denied the prosecution’s prayer to trash the writ of certiorari.
The Chambers Justice ruled that it is Defendants’ Right to produce evidence that exonerates them.
“After listening to the various arguments, we now grant the writ of certiorari prayed for to this Chamber Justice. We now order the Judge of Court A to execute and continue trial in the case”, she mandated.
Based upon that, the Chamber Justice now orders that Mayor Jefferson Tamba Koijee testify to his relationship with Mohammed Keita, Varlee Telleh and others, and his phone interaction with them from February 20 -24, 2023.
Lastly, it means Orange GSM Company is to produce and testify to the call logs of all of Jefferson Tamba Koijee’s Orange numbers from February 20-24, 2023; Moses Wright’s Orange Number from February 20-24, 2023 and Mohammed Keita’s Orange Number from February 20-24, 2023, respectively, while Lonestar GSM Company is to produce and testify to the call logs of all of Mayor Jefferson Tamba Koijee’s Lonestar numbers from February 20-24, 2023, accordingly. Editing by Jonathan Browne