Jury foreman Kissi Kamara and two other jurors implicated in alleged jury tempering scandal – Melvin TeahNeowen and KebbehKollie – have been replaced and ordered to return home at the end of a three-day investigation spearheaded by Criminal Court “C” Judge A. Blamo Dixon.
Bailiffs Roland Nyankoon and BinduDukuly were each fined US$100 to be paid in government covers within 72 hours, and removed from attending to the jurors in the US$800,000 plus economic sabotage trial of former National Port Authority or NPA Managing Director Ms. Matilda Parker and her comptroller Mrs. Christina Kpabar-Paelay.
Police claimed to have intercepted the documents addressed to jurors Melvin and Kebbeh from Bailiff BinduDukuly, while she was in argument with Bailiff Nyankoon on January 30, following which prosecutors filed an application with the court on February 10 seeking the disbandment of the entire jury panel over tempering claims.
The removal from the panel of jury foreman Kissi Kamara is necessitated by the fact established by the court that the cook at the Judiciary, Janneh Kamara, who also testified in the jury tempering investigation, is his mother.
But the court denied prosecution’s application to disband the entire jury panel that consisted of 15 judges- of- facts, ruling Wednesday, 17 February that the investigation established that the letters concerned did not reach the entire panel and the two jurors to whom they were addressed or intended for.
The court has notwithstanding appointed Mr. Boimah G. Hilton to attend to the male jurors, and ordered the clerk to communicate with the Court Administrator to designate a female bailiff to attend to the female jurors. Having closed the jury tempering investigation with the removal of three jurors and other measures, the main case of economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy against Ms. Parker and Mrs. Paelay is now set for Monday, February 22 when prosecution’s seventh witness Mr. Jeffery George will take the stand.
Three alternate jurors, who were already part of the 15-man jury panel, were immediately promoted to “regular members” of the panel and replaced those removed or sent home Wednesday.
In declining to disband the entire jury panel, the court said “the jurors were at their apartments” before the police officers confiscated the letters from the two bailiffs on January 30, saying the letters did not reach the entire panel or the two jurors they were addressed to.
Judge Dixon said only the two bailiffs – Roland and Bindu -, the police officers and the prosecution had knowledge of the documents concerned “for ten days” – from January 30 to February 10. Besides, the court said the documents were not the originals, but photocopies, adding that the prosecution did not establish the whereabouts of the originals of the said instruments.
Moreover, Judge Dixon noted that the two jurors implicated in the scandal denied the allegations as did the assistant jury manager Peter Winston Fayiah and the cook for the jurors Janneh Kamara.
He clarified that the removal of the foreman is not for the question he asked during the main trial, but because his mother is the cook for the judiciary, opposed to the policy there forbidding employees against bringing relatives or friends to perform jury services. He ruled that the prosecution, neither the defense team, nor the court can suggest to jurors the type of questions to ask, as jurors are trial of facts and they have the right to ask any question.
He also clarified that it is the policy of the judiciary for jurors to seek medical attention, noting that because they were not satisfied with the contracted clinic, they were therefore transferred to the government-owned John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital here in Monrovia.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Jonathan Browne