Demands evidence for trial in 5 days
By Lincoln G. Peters
The magistrate at the Monrovia City Court, Jomah Jallah, has rejected prosecutors’ request to conduct a televised trial in the case involving Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) standard-bearer who stands accused of alleged forgery and criminal conspiracy.
The government here has levied the charges based on Mr. Cummings’ fellow opposition leader, businessman-turned-politician Benoni Urey’s claims that the accused had allegedly tampered with the framework agreement of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and unlawfully attached his (Urey’s) signature to a photocopy version.
Urey heads the opposition All Liberian Party (ALP), one of the four constituent parties that make up the CPP. Cummings’ ANC, the former ruling Unity Party (UP) of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and the Liberty Party (LP) headed by Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga – Lawrence are the other three parties in the CPP.
The CPP has over the past years sought to battle incumbent President George Manneh Weah in the next presidential and legislative elections due in 2023, but its recent internal fight has left many to doubt if the opposition bloc can maintain any significant united force against the ruling establishment.
At the start of Mr. Cummings’ trial, State prosecutors said they wanted a televised trial to enable the public to have knowledge of the proceeding. The prosecution argued that their request was consistent with Chapter 3 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
But Mr. Cummings’ lawyers have stood against this request by the prosecuting team.
On Wednesday, 12 January 2022, Magistrate Jallah denied and dismissed the prosecution’s motion to have the case televised. He ruled that the motion was against Rule 11 of the Judicial Canon of the Republic of Liberia.
According to the magistrate, it’s improper for a judge to permit live broadcast, electronic recording, or taking of photographs of court during proceedings.
Consistent with Rule 11 of the Judicial Canon, the magistrate said it would be a reversible error for the court to grant the application by the prosecution to have the proceedings televised.
Additionally, Magistrate Jallah has suspended the case and ordered the prosecution to present to the court all documents and pieces of evidence for the prosecution of the crimes of forgery and criminal conspiracy brought against Mr. Cummings.
‘’This court says, prosecution is hereby mandated by this Honorable Court to submit to the Clerk of this Court every and all pieces of evidence it relies on for the prosecution of the case for onward transmission to the defense within the statutory time required by law, and it’s hereby so ordered,” he ruled.
The Court’s decision was based upon a request made by Mr. Cummings’ lawyers for the prosecution to present all evidence before the court.
The defense team wants the prosecution to submit the initial CPP Framework Document Agreement that was signed by the parties via zoom on 19 May 2020 and the Revised Version of the CPP Framework Agreement that was reviewed by the team of lawyers and submitted through the political leader of the CPP by and through the CPP National Council.
In their request, the defense also wants the prosecution to submit images, emails and WhatsApp exchanges between the ALP political Mr. Urey and the CPP internal leadership structure.
The defense further wanted the prosecution to present all WhatsApp exchanges from the National Advisory Council of the CPP Chartroom and the copy of the CPP Framework Agreement submitted and acknowledged by the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia.
Continuing with their request, the defense lawyers asked the magistrate to order the prosecution to present the resolution executed by ALP, among others.
Following the application made by defense lawyers, prosecution lawyers prayed the court to grant them time in accordance with Chapter 17.4 Sub-paragraph 1 Title 2 of Liberia Code of Laws Revised which provides for discovery of witness’ names.