BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa â€“ A jury has found seven of the ten defendants guilty in the ongoing Sinoe murder and gang-rape case.
The case is being tried at the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Buchanan. The seven persons found guilty on August 30 include Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Alex Karpeh.
Prior to the case, the prosecution, led by assistant justice minister for litigation Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, abandoned its case against three of the co-defendants because of a lack of sufficient evidence. Those co-defendants were Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh, and Swen Pyne.
The rest of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the multiple indictments.
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.
The final argument of the case between the prosecution and defense lawyers was held on August 30, with several women and human rights groups, as well as family members and residents of Sinoe and Grand Bassa in attendance.
After close to two hours of arguments presented by lawyers from both sides, the jurors were charged by Judge Joe Barkon to come up with a fair and transparent verdict based on the arguments, testimonies, and evidence provided.
Of the 15 jurors, 3 were told to remain in the court as alternative jurors while 12 went into a room to deliberate.
Upon their return, 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 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 and the father of the deceased came and said only two persons up there, Alex Carpeh and Moses Solo, are members of the traditional society,â€ he said.
â€œIn keeping with our practice, whenever a verdict is handed down, once the defense is dissatisfied with that verdict, it is the right of the defense to except to that verdict,â€ Jarvan added. â€œIn short, what we are saying is that we are not satisfied because we provided our laws, we argued and prepared our memorandum and all the laws that we rely on they are all our legal memorandum.â€
Jarvan said the defense counsel will file in a motion for a new trial and if denied, they will take exception to the final judgment.
He added that if the final judgment comes against his clients, he may appeal to the Supreme Court.
Jarvan can file a motion for retrial within five days, which could be denied by the judge.
Next week, the judge is expected to provide the final ruling, which will indicate the likely sentence the men may face.
Featured photo by Sampson David