As Gov’t Refiles Change Of Venue In Charloe Musu’s Murder Case – -Defendants Pray Court For New Autopsy

Amid shock, dismay and fear of delay, state prosecutors have, for the second time in a month, filed their motion before Criminal Court ‘A’ for a change of place/venue in the impending murder trial involving former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott and three members of her family.

The government, through the Ministry of Justice, had earlier filed a motion for change of venue to relocate the murder trial of Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott and others from Monrovia to a nearby county, citing fear of local prejudice due to huge public sentiment.

On Wednesday, August 2, 2023, the prosecution filed a motion for a Change of Place/Venue, stating that the within named defendants, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Rebecca Youdeh Wisner and Alice Johnson; were arrested, investigated and charged by the Crime Services Department (CSD) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for the commission of the crimes mentioned.

That, before and during the hearing of the aforesaid Petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus first at  Criminal Court ‘C’ and also before the arrival of the defendants, for the first time, the entire courtroom was filled with spectators including supporters of the Respondents/Defendants, while others were in the courtyard discussing the merits of the case as said acts are legally unacceptable and counter-unproductive to the conduct of an impartial trial; and

that, when the defendants were expected to appear at the Monrovia City Magisterial Court at the Temple of Justice and at the Criminal Court “A” for Montserrado County, on June 21, 2023 and July 4, 2023, respectively, a large crowd of people gathered at the Courts mentioned above to witness the aforesaid proceedings and they were repeatedly discussing the merits of the case which is totally against practice and procedure.

The government also argued that when the within defendants/suspects were denied the right to bail at the Monrovia City Court on June 21, 2023, and when they were committed to jail for the first time at the Monrovia Central Prison, hundreds of unidentified people stormed the aforesaid prison in an unusual and or irregular manner, a situation which is not healthy or conducive for both the within defendants and other inmates, including staff/prison guards at the aforesaid prison facility.

Prosecution further contended that, during these pre-trial periods and the three different times the defendants appeared on the grounds of the Temple of Justice, groups of people with mixed reactions, singing, chanting slogans, and dancing, with the anxiety of desperation, were often seen in the Courtyard discussing the aforesaid case and at the same time awaiting the outcomes of the proceedings, a situation which poses threat and uncertainty for all the parties in the aforesaid matter.

The government said for the consideration of the above facts and circumstances, there is a reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be possible within this jurisdiction (Montserrado County), where the aforesaid prosecution/trial is pending.

But barely a week after that motion was filled, the government, in a rather spectacular shocking twist, on August 7, 2023, withdrew its petition for change of place/venue.

The Prosecution gave no reason for the dramatic turn-around, but that development left many wondering as to what could have necessitated the change of gear by the government.

Following the withdrawal of the first change of venue petition, several legal pundits following the case have opined that to constitute Justification for a Change of Venue, the below listed factual issues should, among other things be present:

Threats to the defendants in a manner that should be addressed to avoid harm to their persons;

that there is a demonstration of hostile environment that should be addressed by the Court to avoid harm to Defendants.

The above listed concerns are not or may not be available to the state as it is in charge of the air space, land and water miles as well as security of the territorial enclave of the Republic.

They argued that it has not been proven that the Defendants in this case are secured by the planned Change of Venue request by the State, and that the change of venue petition appeared pretentious probably to mislead Court to exercise its discretion and authority unjustly which will effectively permit the Defendants’ Constitutional Rights to a speedy and fair trial.

Now, in less than a month after they withdrew the first petition for change of venue, government lawyers have again run to the court to refile the petition at the time it was widely expected that a full trial of the murder case would have started Monday, August 28, 2023.

The government’s latest (second) motion for change of venue was surprisingly filed on Friday, August 25, 2023, citing the very reasons (grounds) for which the first petition was filed.

This latest action by the state has not gone unnoticed by many interested parties, including the spokesperson of the Musu family, Mr. Nathaniel Toe, who described it as delay tactics intended to unnecessarily prolong the case and keep the defendants languishing in jail without the necessary and required speedy trial.

Mr. Toe said the family is painfully following the developments surrounding the case, praying and hoping for nothing less than the required due process and speedy trial as in keeping with law.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers have filed their resistance to the government’s refiled petition for change of venue, citing several legal reasons to wit:

That the state’s action is intended to delay and deny the Respondents/Defendants’ rights to a speedy and impartial trial  in keeping with Article 21(h) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia which provides that “no person shall be held for a capital or infamous crime except in cases of impeachment, cases arising from the Armed Forces and petty offenses, unless upon indictment by Grand Jury; and in all such cases, the accused shall have the right to a speedy, public and impartial trial by a jury of the vicinity, unless such person shall, with appropriate understanding, expressly waive the right to jury trial. In all criminal cases, the accused shall have the right to be represented by a counsel of his choice, to confront witnesses against him and to have compulsory process of obtaining witnesses in his favor. He shall not be compelled to furnish evidence against himself  and he shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. No person shall be subject to double Jeopardy.”

The defense termed the state’s change of venue petition as a mere recital of the criminal procedure code, thus raises no traversable issue, and needs not to be traversed. They argued, among other things, that the grounds stipulated by state are not grounds for change of venue for prosecution in the wisdom of the criminal procedure statute.

Meanwhile, the Defendants, through their lawyers, have filed a motion before the court for the conduct of a second autopsy on the body of Charloe Musu, for an alternative forensic and medical opinion.

The Movants told Criminal Court “A” that they have hired certified forensic experts to conduct an autopsy and medical examination on the remains of Charloe in order to provide adequate defense because the prosecution has included the findings of the March 21, 2023 autopsy as part of its evidence for the impending trial.

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