Palo trial – defense counsel takes state prosecutors to task on criminal procedure

Sierra Leone Telegraph court reporter: 09 June 2020:

As the case for the State came to a close yesterday, Adrian Fisher, who has commandeered the role of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and leading the prosecution in the Palo Conteh treason trial, informed the court that after calling 13 witnesses in total, they will no longer to call any more witnesses. (Photo above: Joseph F Kamara).

He said that they intend to dispense with the witnesses at the back of the indictment who have not already testified.  He further informed the Court that the prosecution is closing the case for the state.

Lawyers defending Alfred Palo Conteh wasted no time in taking objection to this elementary procedural irregularity.  Joseph F. Kamara (JFK) – (Photo) said: “My lord the State is seeking to close its case without calling four of the witnesses listed at the back of the indictment. My Lord the Prosecution has conduct of its case and I will not even attempt to tell them how to proceed but the reality is procedural regularity forms the bedrock of any criminal trial.

“If the state wants to dispense with witnesses already listed at the back of the indictment without calling them to testify, it must first call them to the witness box, informs the court they do not wish to lead them in evidence and tender them to the Court.

“If the Defense doesn’t wish to cross examine them, they will be discharged by the Court.  But it is wrong procedurally my Lord,” JFK Continues, “for the prosecution to just come and make an application to dispense with witnesses without take the necessary procedural steps.”

The judge  ruled in favour of the Defense and stood down the matter for 1 hour 30 minutes to have the prosecution gather its witnesses and tender them to the court as procedure requires.

After about two hours, the Court hearing commenced again and Adrian Fisher called out PC Ibrahim Mbayo to take the stand. When the witness took the stand he said that he Detective Sergeant MBawa  – at which point, JFK further raised another objection saying that since the name on the back of the indictment is different from the name of the person in the witness box, Adrian Fisher cannot proceed without first amending.  The judge again, upheld the objection and ordered the Prosecution to amend the indictment.

The next objection made by JFK was that Witness Tigidankay  Kamara is a witness that doesn’t exist, and wishes to know how her name came to be on the back of the indictment. The prosecution concede that it was an error cause by cut and paste in the preparation of their indictment.

JFK then submitted that the prosecution should now make an application to have the name deleted/struck off, which the prosecution did.

Aside from JFK, Defense lawyer for the second accused – veteran Roland Wright Esq. took several other objections to the affidavit filed by the prosecution on the basis that it was defective in that:

(i) it was not in a book form as required by Order 31 rule (1) sub rule (6) of the High Court Rules 2007.

(ii) the respondent deposed to facts she had no knowledge of and did not contain a statement as to its information or belief contrary to order 31 rule (5) of the High Court rules 2007.

(iii) that in the title of the affidavit the prosecution referred to the state as the respondent and in the backing as the Applicant and therefore inconsistent.

Fisher invokes order 36 rule (4) to use a defective affidavit notwithstanding the errors as highlighted by Roland Wright Esq.

Roland Wring was quick to point out that the defect which can be cured is only as to the form and not the content which was his third objection.

The Judge, not to further subject the prosecution to the agony of refilling a fresh affidavit, asked Fisher to proceed notwithstanding the objection.

It was a very embarrassing day for the prosecution as the defense unpicked all the errors of the prosecution, and objected seven times.

One senior Lawyer present said, the Prosecution have been taken through the rudimentary of criminal procedure. He labelled  the Session today as “Criminal Procedure made Simple”.

What this treason trial has exposed is that by its performance in Court the AG and her team are extremely weak, and were unable to match the collective experience and dexterity in law which the defense team exhibited.

“One other observation from this trial is that the DPP, Easmon Ngakui, is a mere decoration at the law officers department. The person calling the shots to all intent and purpose is Adrian Fisher,” the senior lawyer observing the case said.

The matter was adjourned to next Monday, 15th June, when the defense will make a submission of ‘no case to answer’.

Palo Conteh was represented by Abdulia O Conteh, JFK, Africanus Sorie Sesay, Ady Macauley and Wara Serry-Kamal.

11 Comments

  1. The real question in this case is – did Paolo Conteh take a loaded gun to the State House to visit our sitting president and why? Procrastination won’t help the defense team. The people of Sierra Leone need a verdict ASAP, because the reality is they need to focus on the major problem of the world, which is the coronavirus and not Paolo Conteh or Sylvia Blyden who are law breakers, because majority of the voters believe that since the APC party lost the 2018 presidential election, all they are focused on and praying for is total anarchy, so that the international community will recommend a coalition government. Election is only 3 years away so I hope the APC party will give peace a chance, just like the SLPP did during the 11 years of the APC misrule.

  2. They’re ashamed of their miserable errors but unable to say it out. So they’re playing hide and seek. All we need is a peaceful country, so it’s better to let Paolo go.

  3. What an excellent mockery of our justice system. I have never heard of anything like this before. This is what happens when you cook or botch up political evidence against an innocent person. Moreover, they failed to produce the CCTV evidence sighting all sorts of bogus reasons. Bottom line, Rtd Major Paolo Conteh has done nothing wrong in my view and must be released unconditionally. God bless, help and protect Rtd Major Paolo Conteh and his lawyers.

    • Is this what you call an excellent mockery on what on the government? Haha brother, a school teacher was once a school boy. Whatever tactics the attorney is playing, the presiding judges have been there before – hope you got it. So Paolo Conteh is innocent? If this answer is yes, well Francis M. Minah was innocent as well, and why was he innocently executed?
      You are quite aware when the late Lt. Colonel Tom N’yuma tried to mess with Ernest Bai Koroma – you won’t forgot the price he paid right? Paolo Conteh’s mission was terrible for the country and thank God it failed.

  4. NOW THIS: A disgraceful charade, that is exactly what it is; a clumsy, court-parade overcrowded with SLPP freeloaders – goons, misfits, dummies with huge tummies, promoting a mindless, shameless masquerade. Aimless, purposeless and goalless they proceed, with their pointless,s hady trial that is nothing but a disgraceful sham, an easy way for fleecing our innocent taxpayers; delusional, they are, already groping with failure, yet still looking for acceptance, recognition and success.

    What the hell kind of government is this? Prosecutors that don’t know the simple basics and rudiments of law; that have to be tutored and schooled like itsy-bitsy, clueless running nose children. And you have the audacity to throw a TREASON charge on someone; when you don’t even have an iota of understanding of the responsibilities and daunting challenges involved in such a complicated process? Goodness gracious! And they thought it was going to be easy (lol). Out of nowhere, somehow, they have created an annoying political storm, truly rare…out of thin air, without a care – PRESTO a treason trial appeared. A damn shame!

  5. The failure of the prosecution to present their case correctly, from procedural to evidence, and witness tampering, goes to the heart of the matter of this case. The onus of proving their case against the accused Paolo Conteh and others, rest squarely with the state prosecution team. If he has a case to answer, it is their responsibility to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Nothing else short of that. Justice must be done and seen to be done. Looks to me like they haven’t done their job correctly. It falls on the experience of the defence team to tell them how it is done. That is worrying. The prosecution team should have known this case is not like a burglar, or pick pocket in the dock.

    Apart from spying, being accused of treason is the worst of any crime against the state. So in the interest of fairness and justice, and in maintaining peace and stability in our country this case should be dismissed. We don’t want to make one part of population feel their is injustice at work here. So far we’ve heard enough to know this case will not stand the test of time in an independent and judicious way.

  6. You can call this trial any names you like, but long ago I was trying to let some of us come to understanding that, the British law is very rigid not flexible my friend. In the 1987 F.M. MInah trial and the others, Dr. Abdulai Omar Conteh was the prosecutor. Today he’s one of Paolo’s defense team, which is very applauded to every smart incredible person in this country. The law book that he himself overturned and amended with his own hand writing, still exist. We will get to the bottom of this trial, and the whole world is watching. At the end, Paolo will come to his senses and confessed.

  7. My Lord, acquit the guy -mALFRED PALO CONTEH (APC) and let him go. He has much more important business to attend to. The prosecutors did not give us anything worthy to ponder on the crime committed by PALO CONTEH but to help expose their dubious act against him. By all indications and evidence tendered so far, he is an innocent man. #SET ALFREDPALOCONTEHFREE #SETHIMFREE…..

  8. Interesting episode at Paolo’s trial. One more reason why experience matters when it comes to leadership and state affairs. Having a PHD and spending your entire time in a classroom environment does not in any way qualify you to head important state institutions. An individual with a bachelor with years of experience in the field will for the most part deliver meaningful results than a mere spectator. The president needs to think fast and sooner to correct things, else we will continue to be a laughing stock in the subregion.

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