BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – A trial jury in the rape case involving a 19-year-old female victim at the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa has set free defendant Bayebah Jludoe in a verdict that has residents of Grand Bassa’s first district in utter disbelief.
The case, which commenced on Tuesday, Nov. 19, witnessed the 19-year-old victim in court, alongside her legal team, led by County Attorney Pato Jarba. The defense was also in court, represented by the county’s public defender, Atty. Aaron Kartee.
The case entered its second hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Upper Buchanan.
On Nov. 27, The Bush Chicken reported on the trial and circumstances surrounding it.
According to the victim, defendant Bayebah Jludoe of Gbargaye Town, Grand Bassa, on Feb. 24 entered her room at midnight and forcibly penetrated her sexually with his penis. Following the assault, the defendant fled the scene as the victim began shouting for help.
On November 19, the first day of trial, the prosecution presented evidence of a crime, including the victim’s torn lappa – a cloth women wear as wrap-around their waste – a big brown towel used in the assault, and photographs of the torn, semen-stained underwear of the victim.
But the jury seemed unconvinced by the prosecution’s evidence.
When on November 27, the defendant finally took the stand in his own defense, he denied the charges against him.
Both the prosecution lawyers and members of the jury posed several questions to the defendant, who consistently maintained his innocence.
Following final arguments by both the prosecution and defense sides, the trial jurors went into deliberation and returned with a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
The jurors stood unpersuaded by the prosecution’s case, finding it to be insufficient to convict the accused.
It appears that testimonies by several of the prosecution’s witnesses could not be corroborated by the police account of events. Neither did the medical report of the examination following the alleged rape establish an irrefutable proof of rape.
Following the jury’s ‘not guilty’ verdict, the resident judge of the court, Joe S. Barkon, lost all further grounds to continuously keep the accused incarcerated, and therefore ordered his immediate release.
Given the nation-wide increase in incidences of sexual and gender-based violence, the case has been followed widely.
Many local and international women’s rights and human rights groups, including representatives of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, and Women Rights Watch, were present in court and must have been shocked by the verdict.
It is not clear at the moment whether the prosecution will appeal the verdict.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah