By Winston W. Parley
Liberia’s Supreme Court has ordered defendant Oliver Dillon and Circuit Judge Mardea Chenoweth’s appearance before it this week with complete copy of the proceedings into a murder case after prosecutors filed a bill of information that requests the court to uphold Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe’s judgment denying Dillon a bail.
Defendant Dillon’s denial to bail by Justice Nagbe in chambers automatically overruled an earlier judgment handed last year at Criminal Court “A” when Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie granted the defendant bail, saying the critical elements of murder which are premeditation and malice afford thought did not exist in the case.
Despite Judge Willie’s recusal from the trial and prosecution’s subsequent transfer of the case under Judge Chenoweth’s jurisdiction in Margibi County, the prosecution is still in an unhappy situation with the lower court judges because Dillon still got admitted to bail by the second court, this time by Judge Chenoweth.
Defendant Dillon, a brother of Montserrado County opposition Senator Darius Dillon and Coordinator for Decentralization at the Ministry of Transport was indicted for the alleged murder of one Emmanuel Koffa, Jr., following a reported tussle with the deceased and two others at a criminal gang infested area on 12 April, 2019 in Gardnerville.
Based on a bill of information filed by the State, the Supreme Court has ordered Judge Chenoweth and defendant Dillon to appear before its full bench at the Temple of Justice on Friday, 5 June at 9:00 a.m. to show cause if any, why the prosecution’s bill of information should not be granted.
By granting defendant Dillon a bail “…until the state is ready to carry on this case,” prosecution equates the action of Judge Chenoweth who sits at an inferior court, to allegedly “reviewing, setting aside and overruling the decision or judgment” of her superior, Associate Justice Nagbe, who had earlier reversed her colleague’s decision granting Dillon a bail.
The prosecution therefore requests the Supreme Court to set aside and restrain Judge Chenoweth from “reviewing, setting aside and overruling” the decision or judgment of Associate Justice Nagbe, contending that admitting Dillon to bail is in total contravention of Justice Nagbe’s ruling.
Under Judge Chenoweth’s gavel in March this year, prosecutors complain that she granted defendant Dillon bail on the basis of their absence from the case’s hearing on its assigned date, but the State also accuse the judge of having the mindset “either for some vested interest to set defendant/ Respondent Dillon free….”
“Since the Solicitor – General is not here, neither did he send anybody, this court will now grant the defendant Oliver Dillon bail until the state is ready to carry on this case,” the prosecution quotes Judge Chenoweth as ruling in the matter.
On 18 November 2019, the first presiding judge in the case, Judge Willie recused himself from the alleged murder trial of Mr. Oliver Dillon, insisting that the “court cannot change its view” that the elements for murder were not present [in the case].
In the events leading to Dillon’s charge, the police had reported that the incident scene was infested with criminal gangs who rain terror on peaceful residents to take away their belongings.The police indicated that “there is no history of quarrel or misunderstanding between the victim [Emmanuel] and accused [Dillon] and there was no arrangement for them to meet at the place of the incident.”
In a murder case investigators seek to establish that the accused had planned with malice and criminal intent to take the life of another person prior to the killing of that person as a reason for levying a murder charge which carries maximum penalty of death or life time imprisonment upon conviction.