By Grace Q. Bryant
“In view of the foregoing and in the exercise of my discretion as the circuit court judge in balancing public justice and the rights of the defendant, this case is ordered transferred and the venue changed to Margibi County in accordance with law,” and that was how hearings into the ongoing murder trial of Oliver Dillon ended in Montserrado County.
The Judge of Criminal Court ‘B’, Cllr. Judge Ceaineh D. Clinton-Johnson finally ruled yesterday transferring the prolonged-murder case of defendant Dillon after listening to arguments from lawyers representing the State and the defendant.
Summarizing the State’s 6-count motion for change of venue, the court said prosecution contended that if the trial was held in Monsterrado County, it will be partial predicated upon the diverse local biases couple with the activities of the defendant’s brother, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon.
While in his 5-count resistance, the defendant responded stating that the prosecution has not provided any evidence to the diverse local biases and negative insinuation from Senator Dillon and that he believes that the said motion is intended to persecute him as crimes should not be transferable.
Meanwhile, in her ruling on Monday, January 13, Judge Johnson said the first issue was whether or not the court has reason to grant or deny the motion as filed and explained that the criteria for the change of venue as laid down in Section 5.7 of the Criminal Law of the Liberia which the Supreme Court says is the standard of impartiality and fairness in the administration of justice, the law grants a party the right to change of place of prosecution if he/she so swear provided that grounds are established.
Judge Johnson then outlined the grounds listed in the law as; “If the county in which the prosecution is permanent is not one of the counties specified in Section 5.1, 5.16; if there is reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be held in a county in which it is pending; or if all the parties agreed and if the convenience of material witnesses and the ends of justice will be promoted thereby.”
She ruled that there is no law that is being provided by the prosecution that says that the prosecution has the right to determine the venue or the venue is at the discretion of the State rather it is the court that has the authority to change a venue to another county and not to a specified county by the prosecution.
Judge Johnson said since the court has not been mandated by law to grant the change of venue at the discretion of the State, that discretion now solely lies in the court to decide wherein the discretion of the court, all parties’ interest will be protected by sending the said case to another county in accordance with law.
She said what is cardinal to an impartial trial is an impartial jury and the court wonders why the prosecution feels that the 5th Judicial Circuit located in Grand Cape Mount County is the best place for the matter to be tried.
The court took recourse to 35LLR, Page 567, syl. 7$8 which says that “An application for a change of venue is addressed to the discretion of the trial judge but this does not mean that the judge may act arbitrarily in the matter and the judge’s discretion is judicial in character because a sound discretion guided by law,” the Circuit Court Judge maintained.
Defendant Dillon was indictment since June 11, 2019 on the charge of the crime of Murder and has been behind bars even though the trial commence at Criminal Court ‘A’ before Judge Roosevelt Willie.
Due to prosecution’s dissatisfaction, the State requested that the judge recuses himself from the said trial; a request that prompted the transfer of the trial to Criminal Court ‘B’ to be presided over by Judge Johnson.
Oliver Dillon’s Murder Case Transferred To Margibi
By Grace Q. Bryant