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Venue Changed

-As Journalist’s Murderer Transferred To Bomi

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

     Supreme Court of Liberia has finally transferred Jonathan Williams, murder suspend of Journalist Tyron Browne to be tired in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Bomi County in order to ensuring free, fair and impartial trial to the defendant.

It can be recalled that the defendants filed a motion for change of venue and separate trial during hearing into the journalist’s murder case but same was denied by Criminal Court “A” Judge Roosevelt Willie.

The defendants through their respective councils took exception to Judge Willie ruling and filed a complaint with Justice Sie-A-Nyene Youh then Justice-In-Chamber of the Supreme Court who overruled Judge Willie’s decision by transferring Williams to Gbarpolu County and Alice Youti and Edwina Youti to the appropriate Magisterial Court to be tried. A decision that evidentially led the parties to the full bench of the Supreme Court.

When the case was called for hearing at the level of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Edwin Martin, County Attorney of Montserrado County, and Cornelius Wennahk, Director, Felonious Crime, Ministry of Justice appeared for the appellant, while Cllr. A. Jallah Barbu and Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi of the international law group appeared for the first and second defendants Jonathan Williams, Alice Youti, and Edwina Youti.

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of then Justice-In-Chambers Sie-A-Nyene Youh noting that Judge Willie lacks jurisdiction to try the offense of hindering law enforcement, a first-degree misdemeanor, triable in a magisterial court as such Alice Youti and Edwina Youti were entitled to dismissal of the indictment.

The high court further indicated in her ruling that Willie erred when he denied Jonathan Williams’ request for change of place of prosecution and waiver of trial by jury.

The court in her ruling bewailed “A murder case also, as the instant case before us, this court adopted a common principle of law. It states that in criminal prosecutions, the right of the accused to a change of venue upon the ground of inability to obtain a fair trial in the county where the indictment is found, or because of local prejudice and excitement is universally recognized.”

The Supreme Court mentioned that it is a fundamental principle of law that every person charged with crime shall have right to a fair and impartial trial and while it is generally presumed that the defendant can obtain a fair and impartial trial in the county where the offense with which he is charged was committed, when he can show that because of local excitement or prejudice against him in the county where the indictment is found, he will be unable to obtain a fair trial there, he is entitled to have the venue changed to another county.

During legal argument before the full bench, Jonathan’s lawyer noted: “The unreceptive fact that a family member is lost and gone and can never be seen and its attaining grief is so immeasurable that one cannot take away the public’s attraction that comes along with the loss of one’s life even if the victim is neglected by society or is mentally imbalanced.”

Cllr. Jallah Barbu furthered: “Obviously with the character of the victim in the instant case as gleaned from the records, being a promising young person and a journalist, the attraction of public sentiments and publicity cannot be a matter of question.

According to Barbu, these sentiments, although anticipated, may likely interfere with the right of the accused and however guilty he or she may be, we as protectors of the sacred laws of this country, are under obligation to do so therefore, a ground for a change of venue on the basis of public bias and publicity which might impact the trial of the case should have been considered by the trial judge.

Accordingly, government’s lawyers default with the argument raised by defendants’ Council thus resisting the motion for the change of venue and separate trial as pray for.

Prosecution contended that Jonathan Williams has allegedly injured and rendered lifeless another Liberian citizen whose family and professional colleagues are still in a regrettable mood.

Prosecution further maintained that though the deceased was a professional journalist, no institution whatsoever had published any story same being bias that would render a trial against the journalist’s murderer who has wickedly committed said gruesome act.

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