BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa â€“ The Second Judicial Circuit Court has handed down its final ruling in the Sinoe gang rape and murder case, sentencing the seven defendants to 25 years in prison.
The ruling confirmed the guilty verdict rendered by the jury on August 30th against Moses Solo, Alex Karpeh, Sylvester Charty, Teah Gmanwle, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Dennis Pyne Nimely.
The case stems from a December 12, 2018 incident where three women were stripped naked, paraded, and gang-raped in Johnny Town, Nomorpoe District, Sinoe. They were accused of witchcraft and one of the women, Willette Nyewallah, was murdered and buried secretly in a swamp in Johnny Town.
The defendants were charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy, and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit Court to avoid interference from powerful members of the traditional society.
The case began on August 13, with the defendants represented by a team of public defenders led by Grand Bassaâ€™s public defender, Paul Jarvan.
Ten of the twelve jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while two abstained.
The head of the defense counsel, Jarvan, took exception to the jurorsâ€™ verdict, adding that he expected five of the seven persons who are not members of the traditional society to have been set free.
â€œThe indictment said traditional people [were responsible for the murder], and the father of the deceased came and said only two persons up there [were members of the traditional society] â€“ Alex Carpeh and Moses Solo,â€ he told journalists on Friday, August 30 at the court.
He filed a motion for retrial on September 2 and the argument took place on September 5, but Judge Joe Barkon denied the motion on grounds that the guilty verdict rendered by the jury against the seven defendants supports the weight of the evidence presented in court by the prosecution.
Barkon said a motion for a new trial may only be granted if the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence. He added that the jury did not only consider the statements of co-defendants Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh when making its decision.
The defense had also countered that the prosecution failed to produce a medical report confirming that the victims had been raped, but Judge Barkon said the testimonies provided by the two victims and corroborated by other testimonies point to the victims being raped.
â€œWherefore and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances and the laws applicable herein, it is the ruling of this court that the motion for new trial is hereby denied and the resistance thereof sustained,â€ Barkon said.
â€œThis act of the defendants is wicked, grossly inhumane and dehumanizing, indifferent to human value, [cruel], uncivilized, barbaric.â€
Barkon directed the courtâ€™s clerk to notify the superintendent of the Buchanan Central Prison of the courtâ€™s final judgment. However, the defense counsel decided to appeal to the Supreme Court, which will review the case in March 2020.
Meanwhile, prosecution lawyers took exception to the sentencing, noting that the period of 25 years was the bare minimum required by law.
After the sentencing, three of the defendants â€“ Dennis Pyne Nimely, Victor Solo and Sylvester Charty â€“ maintained their claims of innocence. They added that they are hopeful of being freed when the case appears at the Supreme Court.
Nimely said he is the only breadwinner for his family and his incarceration for 25 years for crimes that he did not commit would be a setback to his family.
â€œIt is only by the grace of God they are currently surviving,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t even know their situation now. They expected me to be free and go back home, but it is on the contrary.â€
Featured photo by Sampson David