Supporters of former National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Madam Matilda Parker assembled outside the Criminal Court “C” in protest at the Temple of Justice during jury selection process on Tuesday, 8 December, wearing white T-shirts with her photo printed on it and chanting pro-Parker slogans.
Ahead of the commencement of the jury selection process yesterday, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently dismissed Madam Parker as NPA Managing Director months after serving suspension that follows charges, including economic sabotage against her and comptroller Christiana K. Pailey into an alleged over US$800,000 fraud case.
The protesters, who said they assembled in defense of Madam Parker, displayed a large banner with Madam Parker’s photograph and inscriptions that read: “You’ll never walk alone,” “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
As the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations draw closer, some of the prospective jurors, who had turned out to be screened for jury service in the case, later appeared to have excuses and requesting the court to exclude them from the service in the dire minute after Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. J. DarkuMulbah, re-echoed to them that those qualified would stay sequestrated as long as the case goes on.
Out of roughly 23 prospective jurors screened Tuesday to sit on the economic sabotage case only eight were qualified, including six females and two males as majority were disqualified while others requested their exclusion from the jury on separate grounds.
Some of the prospective jurors claim to have special conditions that could not permit them to continue the service, as some said they have young babies or were pregnant, while others said they lost family members.
Prospective juror OrethaWesseh told lawyers that she was pregnant and wanted to be disallowed; while another prospective juror Janet Crawford requested to be disallowed because she had six-month-old baby and there was nobody helping to provide care in her absence.
One other prospective juror said she had a two-year-old child and wanted to be disallowed, while another said her relative had died and therefore requested to be disallowed.
However, majority of the prospective jurors were disqualified on various grounds, some for knowing lawyers in the case as their criminal justice instructors, or giving conflicting personal data in open court that appeared to be totally contrary to what they had on their forms.
Having exhausted the number of prospective jurors available to be screened, the Office for Jury Management System requested the court for a day or two to gather additional prospective jurors to face screening.
Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge A. Blamo Dixon, said seven more jurors were needed in addition to the eight already selected to complete the process. Immediately after selecting the eight jurors yesterday, the court said those qualified would not be allowed to sleep in their respective homes, beginning
Tuesday, December 8, and ordered a bus provided to take them home to collect their personal belongings to return at the Judiciary.
Judge Dixon also ordered the sheriff to confiscate their telephones while they were being taken to their homes to collect their belongings before he assigned the case for Thursday, December 10 at 11 A.M. for the continuation of jury selection.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Jonathan Browne