After U.S. Missionary is Acquitted of Attempted Murder, Calls for Investigation of Judge

MONROVIA, Montserrado – After an American missionary was acquitted of attempted murder, intense public outrage has led to a call for the legislature to impeach the judge who handed out the verdict.

Lucas Richards of the Creekside Church was on assignment in Liberia when the Grand Jury of Montserrado indicted him on December 14, 2023 for aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit murder.

The indictment accused the American missionary of attempting to kill his Liberian wife, Jessica Lloyd, after he discovered she was pregnant in an attempt to prevent her from carrying a child that could supposedly destroy his concurrent marriage in the U.S.

“Defendant Richards reportedly gave Jessica Lloyd an unknown drug injection on September 14, 2023, with the intention of ending her pregnancy and further tried to murder Lloyd by slitting her throat with a knife while taking advantage of her vulnerable condition caused by the drug he administered earlier,” the indictment read.

Richards pleaded not guilty to the charges. On April 17, he was acquitted by Judge Nelson Chinneh of Criminal Court B. Chinneh, who presided over the bench trial after the defendant waived his right to a jury trial, denied the prosecution’s appeal to his ruling, effectively ending the trial.

The judge disclosed in his ruling that most of the prosecution’s witnesses’ testimony was predicated on hearsay evidence, which is often unacceptable in court.

He said throughout the trial, Lloyd, the principal witness, earlier testified that she did not see the defendant hurting her, which is more significant to her later statement of the defendant hitting her head with iron to kill her, mainly since there was no proof of coercion.

“Even the Holy Bible, speaking to corroboration, says that from the mouth of two or three witnesses, ye shall establish the truth, St. John 8:17,” he added. Chinneh later concluded that the evidence against Richards was not strong enough to reach a guilty verdict due to the inconsistency in the prosecution’s testimonies.

The judge concluded, “The defendant is hereby discharged from answering these charges and his bail bond, if any, returned.”

Since then, the controversy surrounding the case has only intensified, as Rep. Moima Briggs-Mensah of Bong’s sixth district has called for the judge’s impeachment. This comes after a leaked audio recording, unverified by The Bush Chicken, has been circulating that purportedly shows discussions of a settlement between the defendant’s attorney and the judge, casting doubt on the fairness of the trial.

In her communication to the speaker of the House, Mensah, who heads the Committee on Gender, Children, and Social Protection, noted that Richards’ acquittal was a miscarriage of justice.

“This verdict met the appalling despair of thousands of Liberians across the country and many around the world,” she said.

“Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of this legislature to conduct oversight across the entire government, and where justice is derailed or denied, we must act. Therefore, I request that [the] plenary conduct an inquiry that may lead to the impeachment of the judge in question for bringing the judiciary and the entire government to disrepute.”

Following a motion made by Montserrado’s first district lawmaker, Ruggie Barry, to investigate the prosecutor, the Ministry of Justice, the judge, and other relevant actors for any improper dealing done during the proceeding, the House of Representatives voted to move forward with the investigations that could lead to the judge’s impeachment. The Gender and Judicial Committees are expected to report within a week.

Adding to the intrigue, Richards reportedly left the country following his acquittal. His sudden departure has raised questions about whether he can still be held accountable for his alleged actions. As the legal and political drama continues to unfold, Lucas Richard’s case has captivated the nation and sparked a heated debate over justice, accountability, and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, an online petition has been created. It is being circulated within Liberian diaspora networks to convince the U.S. Department of Justice to extradite Richards to Liberia for a future retrial. The Liberian government itself has not requested the U.S. to extradite Richards.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Miama Morine Kiazolu

Miama Morine Kiazolu is a senior student at the African Methodist Episcopal University, studying Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Administration. She holds a certificate in Gender Sensitive Reporting, a diploma in Journalism, and an advanced certificate in Computer Science.

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