Monrovia – Former Vice President Joseph Boakai, standard-bearer of the Unity Party, and the secretary-general Mohammed Ali could not take the witness stand on Monday to give oral evidence against Mr. Alexander Cummings of the ANC that he altered the CPP Framework Document following the prosecution’s request to place them on temporary hold until the original copy of the Collaborating Political Party Framework Document is brought by the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission.
Boakai and Ali on Monday appeared at the grounds of the Monrovia City Court as the prosecution’s subpoenaed witnesses, but state lawyers through Cllr. Synrenius Cephus requested the original copy of the CPP Framework document that is in the possession of the NEC.
The NEC Political Officer Ignatius Wesseh was issued a second Subpoena Duces Tecum to appear on Monday with the document, but Court Sheriff reported that Wesseh was never served the Writ.
A Subpoena Duces Tecum (meaning ‘subpoena for production of evidence’) is a court order requiring the person subpoenaed to produce books, documents or other records under his or her control at a specified time/place in a court hearing or a deposition.
This comes, after he was initially issued a Subpoena Duces Tecum and produced a copy, which he noted to be the original and was marked P/14 by The court. However, it was a photocopy of the original shown in court that was marked by the court. According to him, it was the only copy with the NEC, hence, he could not leave it with the court, rather a photocopy. The photocopy was accepted by the court.
The prosecution argued on Monday, that the photocopy cannot be used by witnesses to testify and that the original copy is the best evidence in court.
As such, Cllr. Cephus said that NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lassanah is the main authority to produce the original document since Ignatius Wesseh who earlier testified is not the main authority. He emphasized the need for another Writ of Subpoena Duces Tecum be issued on Madam Lassanah.
Citing Chapter 9, Section 9.12 of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia, Cllr. Cephus prayed the court that the proceeding is deferred to a later date until the original document is produced.
However, the defense on the other hand prayed that the request be denied because, under previous Subpoena Duces Tecum, which was served on Ignatius Wesseh and return made, the original copy was produced, testified to, identified, marked, and serve to the court.
Cllr. Abrahim Sillah, the lead defense lawyer, maintained that at the production of said instrument, the prosecution did not oppose the return of the original copy of the CPP Framework Document.
“This issue is no more about the availability or unavailability of the document and that the document was marked by the court and can be used by the witnesses to testify,” Cllr. Sillah averred.
According to him, the move by the prosecution was intended to delay the proceeding and delay justice and the best evidence rule cited by the prosecution does not apply to the current circumstances.
Cllr. Sillah said: “The witnesses are not testifying to the content of the instrument, because it speaks for itself.”
Cllr. Sillah said the prosecution’s argument is unjustifiable and requested that the trial continues.
However, following the legal arguments including submission made by the prosecution and corresponding resistance, the court in its decision said based on the application made to the Subpoena Duces Tecum by the prosecution that Ignatius Wesseh should be recalled as a witness, which was also granted in the interest of justice and fair play, it noted said request to recall when necessary.
According to the court, it is clear that the evidence must always be produced, and duplicates can only be allowed under the law when the original is missing or in the possession of the prosecution.
The court in the same way noted that it granted the prosecution’s request that its witnesses cannot testify to photocopy, but rather the original copy should be present before it witness can take the stance.
The Monrovia City Court Judge Jomah Jallah said former Vice President Joseph Boakai was present in court as a witness, but Wesseh, who was supposed to produce the original copy of the CPP Framework Document was not in court, as such the application made by the prosecution to file a Subpoena Duces Tecum to the National Elections Commission Boss, Davidetta Brown Lassanah was granted.
“Mr. Clerk you are hereby ordered to issue a Subpoena Duces Tecum on NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lassanah to appear on Wednesday, May 4 with all-party litigants’ presence,” Judge Jallah ordered.
Judge Jallah similarly stated that Subpoena witnesses Boakai and Ali have been placed on temporary hold until the original copy of the CPP Framework Document is produced, at which time they will be recalled.
They are to testify in the ongoing alleged criminal proceeding involving the CPP Framework Document and two of his party officials Daniel Naateh, Chairman and Secretary-General Aloysius Toe.
Before the allegation of altering the Framework Document, Cummings and Boakai were the forerunners for the standard-bearer position of the CPP – a conglomerate of four opposition political parties aimed at unseating the CDC-led government in 2023.
Ironically, the men who once agreed to work together to unseat the Weah-led government are now at each other’s throats and the government they sought to unseat is now prosecuting one while the other is helping the government with the prosecution of his counterpart.
The allegation was brought up against Cummings by the political leader CPP constituent member Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and was backed by Boakai and the Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of the Liberty Party. The Liberty Party is split on the allegation against Cummings.
Cummings has consistently maintained his innocence and alleged that his colleagues in the CPP are being used by the ruling establishment to ruin his reputation as a strong contender in 2023.
Cummings also wondered why the allegation never came up until the CPP was gradually gearing up for the convention which would have elected the standard-bearer.
Mr. Boakai was first expected to testify at the court on April 19 but failed to show up as he also did receive the Writ of Subpoena filed at the time despite two attempts by the court sheriff to have him served.