During Thursday’s hearing, hell broke loose, when tension erupted between supporters of both the ANC and Mr. Benoni W. Urey, as they forced their way through the main entrance of the Monrovia City Court, where the proceeding was ongoing .
Four court officers were badly injured .
Despite the commotion, the court proceeded with hearings into the case.
Lawyers representing the legal interest of defendant Cummings, requested the court to grant him the right to exercise voluntary absence, for the continuation of the proceedings and in accordance with Section 2.4, Subsection 2 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which grants the defendant right to voluntary absence.
Cllr. Abrahim Sillah, argues that the presence of Cummings at the court will obviously attract a huge presence of the public to the proceedings, which he said , was evidenced by what transpired during a tension that left four officers injured, prior to the start of Thursday proceeding.
“Counsel says in order to advert the recurrence of these kind of situation, which could sometimes be unavoidable, the defendants beg leave of court, while the matter proceeds in the manner and form required by Section 2.4, subsection 2, of the Criminal Procedure Law,” Cllr. Sillah requested.
The defense team further argued that the exercise of the defendants’ rights is in the best interest of the state and the harmony of the proceedings. According to the defence team, his absence from court will release the state from burden of employing a huge amount of security presence that may be required for crowd control and relieve the state of much-needed resources that could be spent under the circumstance.
In furtherance of their argument, the defense team reminded the court to take notice of Government of Liberia regulations imposed by MOH on COVID-19, relating to over crowdedness.
“Our request is not intended to in anyway avoid the hearing of these proceedings and or to invade the guarantee provided by the Criminal Appearance Bond, but intended to ensure that the matter is speedily heard and disposed of without hindrance of what is required,” Defense noted.
But in response, government prosecutors took exception to the defense’s argument , on grounds that the object and purpose of Section 2.4, of the Criminal Procedure law instructs that a criminal defendant shall be present in court at every period of time of the case, unless there is a motion which clearly states why the defendant should not be present.
Government’s chief prosecutor, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus countered the defense motion, on grounds that it has no legal basis that warrants the defendants’ brief absence in the proceeding, thereby requesting the court to deny and dismiss the motion from defendant.
According to Cllr. Cephus, the action of people invading the court and causing mayhem was premeditated either through a directive by defendant and should not be used as grounds for defendant absence during trial.
“Either the defendant directed or instructed the unruly crowd to instigate such action and it is on behalf of the defendant the crowd acted, as such the defendant shall remain present until the end of the matter,” Cllr. Cephus said.
Following argument from both parties, Monrovia City Court Presiding Judge, Jomah Jallah ruled that it will be a reversible error to grant the defendant brief absence, when in fact, the defendant has not pleaded to the writ as to whether he is guilty or not.
At the same time, Judge Jallah has granted prosecution request to include two other parties to the writ, ANC Chairman Daniel Naatehn and its Secretary General Aloysius Toe into the case.
Quoting 14.7 of the criminal procedure law, title 2, Cllr. Cephus crave the court to ensure that all of those included in the writ, must be brought before the court on similar matter, in line with legal authority granting the state to amend in any state of the proceeding.
Defense did not, however, take exception, thus providing a ground for Judge Jallah to grant prosecution request to amend, considering no objection to the motion, ordering the clerk to include both Toe and Naatehn as parties to the matter with immediate effect.
Prosecution also prayed the court that the proceeding be televised so that Liberians in and outside the country can be able to view the proceeding, due to it crucial nature.
But defense counsel objected to the request on grounds that there is no law or procedures in the criminal court of Liberia prescribing the ways or means a televised trial should be heard.
According to the defense, there is no new law that calls for said televised process , noting that it has never taken place in any criminal proceeding in a court and that it would further create unnecessarily spending on the part of government.
“The Legislature has not created any law for that, and the provision of the Constitution was wrongfully cited by the prosecuting lawyer,” Cllr. Oratio Gould stressed.
“The right to speedy trial is reserved for the defendant to ensure a speedy trial, but did not in any way provide for speedy trial to be televised,” Gould maintained.
He craved the court to deny the motion which he believes is intended to politicize the proceeding.
Following both arguments on whether to televised the ongoing Cummings’ alleged criminal proceedings or not, Judge Jallah reserved ruling in the case, to study the matter thoroughly before making determination in the matter.
Meanwhile, Monrovia City Court Judge, Jomah Jallah says, it was unfortunate that his officers got brutalized to the extent that some fainted.
Judge Jallah disclosed that the matter will be reported to the Chief Justice for necessary action.
However, he said two persons were arrested in connection to the crime.