At least 326 inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison have been set free by a magisterial setting created at the prison compound in Monrovia. Recently, the Magisterial Setting was put into place at the Monrovia Central Prison, so as to insure that the number of those detained at the prison Compound reduces.
Making the disclosure in Monrovia Monday, May 11, 2009, during the official opening of the first Judicial Circuit Court Assizes A, B, C and D, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia Johnnie Lewis noted that the Magisterial setting is being presided over by Magistrates from the six Magisterial Courts in Montserrado County, reviewing and investigating people who were jailed for petit crimes.
Chief Justice Lewis said since the process began, it has been observed that the inmates have been languishing behind bars without facing Court trial, something according to him is in violation of their constitutional right. He added that some of the inmates, who committed petit crimes, have been imprisoned for over one year, which is four times their sentence. Justice Lewis however noted that while the process is on going, if the need arises, another batch will be freed.
Also speaking at the joint opening program, the newly assigned Judge of the Criminal Court "C", Yussuf Kabba admitted that the Criminal Courts have a very huge task since there are over 800 inmates presently behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison; something the prosecution of the such a huge numbers of detainees could only be achieved with the cooperation of the witnesses, victims, as well as the prosecution and defense teams.
He further said of late, there have been critisms from both the International and Local individuals for many reasons. Judge Kabba used occasion to rubbish reports that Judges receive bribes and the Jurors selected to hear cases are not qualified, adding that these reports have no evidence to prove.
Judge Kabba however maintained that the Court takes the allegation very serious and has measures to deal with corrupt judges and unqualified jurors. He said it is a disservice to the court and the Justice system if people will dwell on critisms without providing the necessary evidence. Judge Kabba however clarified that under Section 22.2 of the law of Liberia, it is not the responsibility of the Court to determine who becomes a juror, but rather the Executive through the heads of various municipals.
For his part, Justice Minister Philip A.Z. Banks noted that there are challenges facing the not only the Court but the entire Justice System, one of which he pointed out as the jury selection process, underscoring the need to have a reform of the entire process. Minister Banks noted that the present process has been in place for a long period of time and needs an urgent reform.
He expressed the hope that the Judiciary, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, will carve a legislation aimed improving the justice system. Minister Banks then pledged the Ministry of Justice fullest cooperation with the first Judicial Circuit Curt.
Meanwhile, other judges appointed to preside over May 2009 term of court include: Judge Emmanuel S. Kollie, Criminal Court "A", Judge William K. Ware, Criminal Court "B" and Judge Evelina Z. Quaqua, Criminal Court "D".