Liberia’s Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for suspended National Port Authority (NPA) managing director Ms. Matilda Parker, citing trial judge Blamo Dixon’s failure to have conducted thorough investigation into a jury tampering claim made by prosecution.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday, 4 October comes after reviewing the matter based prosecution’s petition filed for a writ of certiorari through which the high court makes corrections on errors made at the lower court.
The Supreme Court affirms the decision of Justice – in – Chambers Jamesetta Howard – Wolokollie, granting certiorari to correct the prejudicial and reversible errors committed by Judge Dixon and has ordered that a new trial with a new jury pennell be conducted in the main case.
Ms. Parker and her Comptroller at the NPA Mrs. Christiana Kpabar – Paelay, were jointly indicted on multiple crimes of economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy in the amount of US$837,950.00.
Prosecution accused the indicted officials of conspiring and awarding two contracts to Mr. Deneah M. Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise, valuing US$500,000 and US$300,000 respectively. Prosecution says Flomo and his enterprise were contracted to remove wrecks from the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County and to provide security consultancy at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan and Greenville on behalf of the NPA.
But the State says the contractor Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise did not possess expertise in regards to the contracts, and that the required services were not rendered to the NPA. In the course of the trial in 2016, prosecutors requested Judge Dixon to disband the entire jury panel after claiming that police officers assigned at the jury quarter intercepted communications from bailiffs William Nyankun and Bendu Dukuly that were intended for some jurors in the case.
But Judge Dixon declined to dismiss the entire jury panel, and rather removed jury foreman Kissi Kamara, jurors Melvin Teah Neowen and Kebbeh Kollie to whom letters were allegedly addressed, and also fined and removed bailiffs William Nyankun and Bendu Dukuly from guarding the jurors.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korpor, Sr. said Wednesday, 4 October that Judge Dixon’s ruling was inconsistent and clearly ran contrary to the findings in the case. The Supreme Court wonders on what basis did Judge Dixon remove the three jurors that were implicated in the communications when he held that the communication did not reach the jurors for whom they were intended.
The Supreme Court says content of the communication addressed to the jurors attempts to show there had been prior contacts between the authors and those to whom they were addressed.
Two typed – written letters were said to have come from then assistant jury manager Peter Wisdom Fayiah and two hand – written letters originating from Judicial Cook Janneh Kamara, who was later found to be mother of jury foreman Kissi Kamara.
The Supreme Court rules that Judge Dixon committed reversible errors in the matter, and that he abruptly terminated the investigation without seeking the originals of seized letters submitted to Montserrado County Attorney.
The Court says the investigation was inconclusive, citing Judge Dixon’s failure to have called the County Attorney to get the original communications, subpoena Lonestar MTN to review juror Kamara and cook Janneh Kamara’s contacts to substantiate prosecutors’ claim that the cook was the mother of juror Kamara, among others.
By Winston W. Parley