BUCHANAN – The Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Joe S. Barkon, has rendered final ruling in the Sinoe County women torture and murder case with 45 years jail term for the seven defendants.
His decision amended the Court’s previous 25 years prison sentence against the defendants.
Judge Barkon’s final ruling followed a “Motion of Correction” filed on Thursday, September 14, by the Prosecution headed by the Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh against the previous 25 years imprisonment ruling.
During the Tuesday, September 17, argument at the Court, State Prosecutor Patto B. Jarba argued that murder is a capital offense and that the sentence in the Constitution for murder is life imprisonment.
Cllr. Jarba said once the defendants have been found guilty, they should be sentenced to life imprisonment in line with constitutional provision.
Prosecutor Jarba pointed out that during the trial, the convicts did not express remorse, but instead engaged in argument with the state for a new trial which the court denied based on legal reasons.
According to him, life imprisonment for the defendants will serve as a deterrent for would-be perpetrators of similar acts, noting that if the defendants had pleaded guilty then the penalty would have been considerate.
But the defense lawyer, Attorney Aaron D. Kartee, argued that the 1986 Constitution states that any statute that will promote harsh punishment is null and avoid.
He cited Article 21 (d) (II) of the 1986 Constitution which states that excessive bail should not be required nor excessive fine imposed or excessive punishment, adding that the decision earlier taken by the Judge sentencing the convicts to 25 years imprisonment was the right decision and wants the Judge to maintain the 25 years sentence.
He questioned whether the Judge could live with the conditions in Liberian prisons where convicts are only served one meal a day and urged the judge not to discredit his earlier judgment.
Judge Barkon’s ruling rested upon Chapter 23 section 23.6 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia which states that a person who has been convicted in a criminal action at the Circuit Court could claim that the sentence imposed on him violates the Constitution of Liberia or without jurisdiction or the sentence was in excess of the maximum required by law.
Judge Barkon added that prosecution also has similar legal right to file a motion to correct a judgment or sentence if they feel that the sentence is not commensurate with the evidence adduced in court.
The resident Judge of Grand Bassa County said the defendants have been sentenced to a prison term of more than 25 years because Chapter 14 section 14.1(b) of the penal code provides that the punishment for murder should be life sentence.
The Circuit Court final decision means that convicts Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh and Alex Karpeh will spend forty-five years in the Correction Palace for the commission of the crimes of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and facilitation, and violence that resulted to the death of one of the three women, Madam Willet Nyenwlah.
The women were last December stripped, burned with fire on their bodies upon the orders of the traditional masquerade otherwise known as “country devil,” paraded in five towns in that southeastern county, and later forcing sticks into their private parts.
The incident occurred after the women were accused of “witchcraft” in Nuampo-Johnny Town in Gbahyen Statutory District, Sinoe County.
The case, which kicked off in August this year after being transferred from Greenville, Sinoe County; was monitored by the Ministry of Gender, CSOs and majority women groups, the International Human Rights Commission, residents of both defendants and victims as well as other individuals.