MONROVIA, Montserrado – Judge Kennedy Peabody of the Civil Law Court says he wants jury trials banned in order to limit the level of corruption in the justice system.
According to Peabody, many jurors exploit a system that should be a national obligation by serving with a corrupt mindset.
“Some lawyers use jurors to win cases through bribery, leaving the public with the opinion that the justice system is corrupt, without understanding that jurors are the same citizens from various communities,” he explained.
Peabody said he believed that a good way to ensure justice for all, including those without money to bribe jurors, was to do away with the jury system and maintain trial by judges only.
“Liberia is still living in the past – we are far behind many countries that have done away with jury trials and we should follow the same because laws are made based on prevailing realities and conditions at a particular time and today realities do not require jury trials,” the judge added.
In countries such as India and Pakistan, jury trials have been banned, but the U.S. State Department 2018 Human Rights Report on India noted that “judicial corruption was widespread.” A similar report on Pakistan noted that “the judiciary often was subject to external influences.”
Trial by jury is a constitutional right enshrined within the Liberian constitution, and it is not clear how the judicial system can do away with the practice without violating the constitution, but Peabody believes that the resources spent on the Jury Management Team could be directed to other parts of the court system.
Judge Peabody’s push to abolish jury trials was made at the opening of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court. He also called on lawyers to fight to ensure that vulnerable persons in society could have better access to the justice system.
He said lawyers have a special responsibility to fight for the less fortunate and he encouraged the Liberia National Bar Association to take the lead, especially when it comes to helping to reduce the high number of pre-trial detainees at prison facilities in the country.
During the court’s opening, Peabody also called for an increase in the court term from 42 to 62 days to ensure that more cases can be tried.
He urged judicial actors to consider the measures he proposed, noting that, while they may sound radical, implementing them could bring about a major shift in the judiciary.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah