[bsa_pro_ad_space id=1]

CommentaryLiberia newsON 2ND THOUGHT

On 2nd Thought: Beyond corruption within the judiciary

By Othello B. Garblah

In his 2008 US$1.4 Million corruption trial, former interim President Charles Gyude Bryant (late), in accusing the government of unfair trial said he was not being tried by “jurors of his peers.”

From a legal perspective, a juror of one’s peer is a jury whose members are from the same community as the person on trial.

It is also a way of getting a fair jury made up of men and women who could be considered peers of the person who is on trial. This helps in reducing the chances of bias among the jurors.

In the late Bryant’s argument, members of the jury who were charged with responsibility of deciding whether, on the facts of the case, he was guilty or not guilty of the offense for which he was charged were men and women outside of his social circle and therefore, not qualified to try him.

In other words, they could not understand the intricacies of the matter at hand and therefore could not have handed down a fair and unbiased verdict in the trial.

The late Bryant’s argument of not being tried by “jurors of his peers” is one of the fundamental problems facing the Liberian Justice System that is most often or not ignored by critics of the local justice system.

Human Rights reports on the Liberian Judiciary have remained focused on bribery and corruption within the local justice system and how the rich and powerful are able to manipulate the system to steer justice in their favor.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=1]

But what has not been mentioned beyond bribery and corruption, particularly in criminal trials is the role of jurors. An uninformed jury is totally not aware of the fundamentals of the case at hand and is unable to hand down a fair and unbiased verdict that could be considered a miscarriage of justice as well.

The argument here is that select individuals who are clothed with the authority to determine the factual questions and final judgment should have knowledge of the matter at trial and not just be hand-picked to sit on a juror panel.

From personal experience, it appears that some jurors are not just abreast of the charges or have no experience in such cases. In such situations, verdicts are most likely to be influenced by emotions, intimidation, etc.

When jurors are far from or not connected to the argument of the case at hand, they remained uninformed and have no idea about the factual question of the case at hand. Therefore, their verdict will not just be unfair and biased, but it will also compromise the entire trial.

This raises the question as to how jurors are selected to preside over jury trials here. In one particular case, I was told, the jurors were selected based on their college experiences and not their experiences on such matters.

Selecting a juror because he or she is a “college” graduate with no prior experience sitting on a jury panel to preside over a matter of national security speaks volumes.

In most jurisdictions, relevant life experiences as it relates to the case in question are considered an important aspect in selecting or de-selecting a potential juror.

Other things to consider could include but are not limited to the person’s ability to withstand social pressure, legal opinions, ability to be impartial, etc. To select a group of individuals who have little or no knowledge of interpreting the facts at hand in the name of forming a jury panel is a mockery of the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

In the late Gyude Bryant trial, the Liberian Government lost the case following a series of prohibitions one of which was a writ of prohibition issued by the Supreme Court. Bryant’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to stop his prosecution on grounds that the late Bryant was a former head of state who brought peace to the country and could not be held for actions he took while he was in office. Well, whether or not that was decided on merits or demerits, it’s left for the lawyers to argue.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=1] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=2] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=3] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=4] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=5] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=6]
Back to top button