…. As Judge Willie rescheduled jury selection for today
A prosecution lawyer in the highly publicized trial of former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott has been accused of employing aggressive questioning tactics to intimidate potential jurors.
The controversial move by Cllr. Bobby Livingstone led to Judge Roosevelt Willie forcefully shutting down the line of questioning and issuing a stern warning to the lawyer against further attempts to influence the jury.
Livingstone, as the prosecution lawyer, conducted questioning of potential jurors, who could play a key role in deciding the fate of Scott and three other family members who are on trial for the murder of a relative, Charloe Musu, asked pointed and provocative questions that appeared to evoke emotional responses.
His question, which came as Willie denied the government’s request for a change of venue, focused on whether the jurors would feel comfortable leaving their comfortable homes to stay in the basement of the Temple of Justice during the trial period, which is expected to last for a month and a half.
“Are you willing to leave your comfortable homes to be sequestered, (kept away from your family), in the basement of the Temple of Justice?” Livingstone asked the jurors.
The question, directed at five of the twelve individuals being considered for the jury, according to Willie, was an attempt to intimidate the potential jurors and went far beyond the line of rigorous questioning.
Willie, in a direct address to the prosecution lawyer, did not just express his dissatisfaction with the line of questioning but warned that the question ran contrary to the jury selection law.
The judge’s intervention, which came as a relief for the five potential jurors, angered Livingstone, who frowned at Willie’s decision, which prevented his question from being answered.
Livingstone, in the process, accused Willie of “interfering with the case” — an accusation that the judge promptly rejected.
According to Willie, his decision was about “guiding the process as a judge in line with the new jury law.”
The back-and-forth response prompted Willie to suspend the jurors’ selection process and reschedule it for today.
The questioning of the jurors is intended to have both the prosecution and the defense team test the ability of each potential juror to make a “sound decision at the end of the trial.”
The process, according to Liberia laws, is directly supervised by a judge who is charged with the responsibility to critique questions that would be asked for the jury to answer. If the question, as in the case of Livingstone, allegedly breached the new jury law, the judge is empowered legally to prevent said question from being answered.
The jurors are charged with the constitutional responsibility of deciding whether an accused person is guilty or not guilty of the offense for which the person is charged based on evidence.
However, it is unclear as to whether Willie would accept the already questioned jurors to serve on the twelve-member jury panel after accusing Livingstone of intimidating them with his line of questioning.
Meanwhile, Scott and her co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, and lying to law enforcement officers.
Dressed in a formal suit, the former Chief Justice and the other accused maintained their composure throughout the proceedings as the charges against them were read aloud.
The prosecution had alleged that the defendants jointly connived and allegedly murdered Charloe Musu, who happened to be a relative on the night of February 20 in the home of the former Chief Justice.
The indictment, among other things, claimed that the defendants, “Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Gertrude Newton, Alice Johnson, and Rebecca Y. Wisner, with criminal minds and intent, armed with a sharp instrument believed to be a knife and pepper spray, intentionally inflicted several bodily injuries on the deceased, including her chest, right hand, left thigh, and left armpit, which led to her death, thereby committing the crime of murder.”
Meanwhile, legal experts are predicting that this trial will be one of the most closely watched cases in recent memory, given Scott’s prominent stature in the legal community and her history of presiding over important legal matters.
The defense team, which comprises some of the country’s best legal minds, has stated that they will vigorously defend Scott and the others against the charges.
Source: Daily Observer