Defendant Jonathan Williams is expected to face jury trial for the alleged murder of late journalist Tyron Browne in April this year. The accused pleaded “not guilty” to the crime at the Criminal Court “A” Monday, 3 September at the Temple of Justice.
On the request of the defense, selected jurors will be sequestrated. The request by the defense prompted Judge Roosevelt Willie to abort the juror selection process on Monday, saying that the process will now commence on Tuesday, 4 September at 9:30 a.m. at Court “A.”
Following the reading of the indictment to defendants Williams, Alice Youtey and Edwina Youtey on Monday by the clerk of court, their plead of “not guilty” places the burden of proof on government to prove that Williams murdered journalist Browne and that Alice and Edwina hindered law enforcement.
Co- defendants Alice M.K. Youtey and Edwina Promise Youtey are standing a joint trial with defendant Williams because prosecutors say the indictees knew that Williams murdered journalist Browne but they concealed the information, preventing the discovery of the crime.
The lawyer representing defendant Williams, Cllr. Jimmy Bombo argues unsuccessfully on Monday for a change of venue to transfer the case to Gbarpolu County saying that he fears alleged biased media publicity in the case against the indictee.
Cllr. Bombo says he does not have recording or newspaper copies to back his claim of bias media publicity against his client, but alleges that the citizenry know the stories that were published or aired when journalist Browne’s death news came in April, adding that the media took the story in all form and manner.
He says government was accused of committing the act, and everyone in Montserrado has some information and mix feeling about the case and adding that the subsequent discussions at intellectual centers can attest to that.
Cllr. Bombo alleges that due to the way the media took the matter, defendant Williams approached several lawyers but they refused to take his case.
It is against this backdrop that Cllr. Bombo wants the case to be taken out of Montserrado and be transferred to remote Gbarpolu County where many of the residence there neither buy newspapers nor listen to radio.
He further stated that his client did not want a jury trial, but co – defendants Alice and Edwina’s lawyer Counsel Jonathan Massaquoi says his clients want jury trial.
On the issue of change of venue, Counsel Massaquoi also states that he interposes no objection, but adds that if the case will be tried by “this court,” his clients did not want to go out of Montserrado County.
But Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie denies the motion for change of venue and bench trial requested by Williams’ counsel; and also denies the motion for separate trial requested by Alice and Edwina’s counsel Massaquoi.
Judge Willie notes that in any murder case where the life of a human being is taken, the media will always report on it and in any vicinity where the media is, they will always report on it.
He observes that since the accused has been coming to court, his counsel has not seen anyone carrying on physical or verbal attack against him to warrant his request for change of venue.
Judge Willie references the Criminal Procedure Law Chapter 20 Title “Conduct of a Trial,” Sub – Section 20.2 also Title “Waiver of Trial by Jury” in denying the bench trial requested by defendant Williams.
The law cited says in all cases except where a sentence of death may be imposed, trial by a jury may be waived by a defendant who has the advice of counsel or who is himself an attorney.
Under the law, the Judge says waiver of jury trial is not done in all cases, noting that since defendant Williams’ charge of murder carries a sentence of death or life imprisonment, the request for bench trial is denied.
Regarding separate trial, Judge Willie states that the indictment says co-defendants Alice and Edwina acted in conspiracy with principal defendant Williams to conceal the discovery of the murder as alleged.
In response to defense’s argument that the crime of hindering law enforcement on its own merit has been conferred on the jurisdiction of the magistrate court, Judge Willie notes that in the law [under] criminal joinder the higher offense, in this case, murder, takes precedent.
The indictment says Alice, Edwina and Williams lived in the same compound where journalist Browne had gone to visit when he was allegedly murdered by defendant Williams to the full knowledge of the co-defendants.
According to the indictment, when defendant Williams and Caesar Kennedy conspired and killed journalist Browne, co- defendants Alice, Edwina, Massa Kennedy and Juana Bracewell, all of whom watched and were in full knowledge of the brutal murder remained mute and concealed the murder from the police and all law enforcement personnel.
Solicitor General Cllr. Darku Mulbah argues that changing of venue and taking the case to another county will not change the deceased’s profession, nor stop the reporting of the case by the media.
Montserrado County Attorney Edwin Martin challenges the defense to name specific print and electronic media institutions that have allegedly been biased against defendant Williams.
State lawyer Cllr. Bobby Livingstone cautions the Court that if it grants change of venue and the case goes to Bomi, for instance and there is media coverage, the defense would seek a transfer again to Maryland.
He argues that the law here allows freedom of speech and freedom of the press, reminding the defense that everything that was happening at the court Monday would have be reported as well due to media presence there.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah