Liberia: Convict Likely to Get New Trial in Human Trafficking Case

Monrovia – Regina Capehart, alias Aisha, who was recently convicted of human trafficking, may face a new trial following a motion filed by her lawyer. A temporary stay has been placed on her sentencing.

Ms. Capehart was on Tuesday, April 19, found guilty unanimously, by a 12-man panel jury for trafficking over ten Liberian women to the Western Asian State of Oman.

Ms. Capehart is the first to be convicted under the revised Human Trafficking law which provides for a minimum jail sentence of 20 years, with restitution to victims for injuries and damages.

Under the new Human Trafficking Law, properties of the convicts and properties knowingly used in the execution of the crime can be confiscated and auctioned by the court to settle restitution to victims.

Ms. Capehart, alias Aisha sentencing hearing was expected to take place Monday 24, at the Criminal Court A” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

However, Defense Lawyers Represented by Cllr. J. Laveli Supuwood and others on Monday, April 25, applied, requesting a motion for retrial consistency with Section 22.1 (e) of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia.

In their four counts motion, Defense noted that the verdict brought by the trial jury is materially contrary to the weight of the evidence during the trial in that none of the prosecution witnesses testified to facts that would lead a reasonable mind to conclude as to the operation of criminal motive by the defendant.

At the same time, Defense said contrary to Section 2.1 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence, especially where prosecution witness testimonies are inconsistent and contradictory as they relate to promised salaries made by the defendant to the “so-called victims” and that the rights of the Defendant to bail was denied as mandated by Article 21 (d) (I&ii) of the 1986 Constitution.

In the same way, Defense noted maintained in its motion, that contrary to Section 2.2 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia, rebuttal witness Joseph Washington admitted that Defendant’s statement was obtained in the absence of her lawyer and that her lawyer was made to sign the illegal statement upon his arrival at the police headquarters.

It Further cited that, Defendant admitted only to part of the statement and denied others, yet, the entire statement was admitted into evidence and used against her, which warrants a new trial.

Moreover, the motion said that the denial of bail is unconstitutionally discriminatory in other cases similarly situated and concomitantly prosecuted by the government in Lofa, Gbarpolu, and Grand Gedeh, the Defendants were all granted bail except Montserrado Defendant who was unjustifiably being denied bail in violation of her constitutional rights as enshrined in Article 21 (c) of the 1986 Constitution, when the prosecution had all the rights to apply for Neat Exit Republica, seized the Defendant’s Passport and other travel documents.

As a result, Defendant emphasized in its motion, the need for a new trial, noting it will “set aside the erroneous jury verdict that materially runs contrary to the weight of the evidence produce by the prosecution during the trial,” thereby granting the defendant such other relief as may deem just and equitable.

However, Prosecution requested a continuance on grounds that they need adequate time to respond to the motion.

The prosecution said their request for an adequate time was based on the fact that they received the motion for a retrial from the defense just on Monday, April 25, requesting an argument into the matter to be postponed for Tuesday, April 26, since Monday was already set for pre-sentencing hearing.

Meanwhile, Criminal Court “A” Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie granted the prosecution’s request for the argument to be entertained into whether to grant or not grant the motion for retrial into Ms. Capehart’s alleged Human Trafficking Case.