As Closing Arguments Commence, Charles Taylor’s Lawyer Storms Out of Court

Charles Taylor’s defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths stormed out of court this morning after telling the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that the defense was not prepared to take part in the closing arguments of the trial scheduled to commence today.

The Court had been scheduled to hear closing arguments this week from both the prosecution and the defense. However, when the court began proceedings this morning, Mr. Griffiths informed the judges that because they had refused to accept the defense final trial brief, it was not in the best interest of his client for him to continue to take part in the proceedings.

“We do not think it will be appropriate to take part in the oral submissions…and we have Mr. Taylor’s instructions in that regard,” Mr. Griffiths told the judges.

He added that based on the present circumstances, the defense team cannot in “[their] professional view…adequately represent the accused’s rights.”

Just yesterday, the judges issued a ruling that the defense final trial brief would not be accepted because it had been filed after the required deadline of January 14, 2011. Based on a previous scheduling order, both the prosecution and defense were required to file their final trial briefs by January 14, which was to be followed by the closing arguments this week. However, while prosecutors filed their final trial brief by the required deadline, defense lawyers refused to do so.  In their view, there were certain important outstanding motions and appeals before the Trial and Appeals Chambers of the Court that needed to be decided. Any decisions on these motions and appeals would have an impact on the content of the defense final trial brief, defense lawyers had argued.

On Tuesday, February 1, the judges delivered their decision in the last of the outstanding motions and immediately after that, defense lawyers filed their final trial brief. As all parties were preparing to commence closing arguments today, the judges by a majority ruling (Justice Julia Sebutinde dissenting) issued a decision yesterday evening in which they rejected the defense final trial brief because their original orders requiring parties to file final briefs by January 14 had been flouted.

In her dissenting judgment, Justice Sebutinde opined that exceptional circumstances in this case required that the defense be made to delay their final trial brief and to reject this brief would have an impact on the fair trial rights of the accused. Justice Sebutinde also stated that while the judges had stated January 14 as the required date on which to file final trial briefs, the defense filing on February 1 was still within the stipulated time since the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Court provide that a party shall file a final trial brief at least five days before closing arguments. She therefore expressed the view that the majority of judges should have used their discretion to allow the defense to file their final brief.

With this decision by the majority, the defense went into closing arguments today without having filed a final trial brief. For this reason, Mr. Griffiths stated that he would not take part in the proceedings.

“Our very presence in court is incompatible with representing Mr. Taylor’s interest…and it is our intention at this point, both Mr. Taylor and I, to withdraw from the court at this point,” Mr. Griffiths said.

Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis in her submission to the court told the judges that it was not for defense counsel and the accused to determine whether they want to be in court on not. They are required to be in court, she told the judges.

“There is no right of any accused to determine if and when they will abide by orders of the court,” Ms. Hollis said.

“The accused is not attending a social event. He may not RSVP at the last minute. He is the accused at a criminal proceeding,” she added.

Despite being cautioned by the judges, Mr. Griffiths decided to walk out of the proceedings, saying, “I have made a decision, so is my client, that we intend to leave.”

After stating that Mr. Griffiths might be held in contempt of court for his actions,  the judges ordered prosecutors to continue with their closing argument.

Mr. Taylor stayed in court for the first part of the the prosecution’s closing argument, but when court resumed after the morning adjournment, he did not return to court.

Presiding Judge of the Chamber, Justice Teresa Doherty said that Mr. Taylor had “deliberately blighted” the court’s orders and that the proceedings would continue in his absence.

Prosecutors continued with their oral submission, telling the judges that Mr. Taylor bears the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed by the rebels forces in Sierra Leone. Prosecutors summarized the evidence of prosecution witnesses that point at Mr. Taylor’s alleged command and control of Sierra Leonean rebel forces and his alleged involvement in the diamond trade for arms and ammunition during Sierra Leone’s 11 year civil conflict.

Prosecutors in their submission stated that Mr. Taylor and Revolutionary United Front  (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh had two ultimate goals: to take control of the territory and people of Sierra Leone, and to control the country’s resources, especially its diamonds.

When court resumes tomorrow, no one knows whether defense lawyers will be present to take part in the closing arguments. If they are absent, the judges will determine what will happen going forward.


  1. All three will find Mr. Taylor not guilty on all accounts for lack of evidence to support the charges with or without the defense final trial brief.

  2. Alpha, you are capable of writing a fair and balance report. Kudos!

    Boy O Boy, I knew it, I knew it. I did say this trial is far from over and something BIG was going to happened. The defense FINAL BRIEF delay was due to the delay of the court. Under no circumstances can the court bully a party to submit a FINAL BRIEF when there are pending motions to be dealt with. Judge Lussick and Doherty should have allowed defense FINAL BRIEF. After all, Pending motions were decided upon on February 1, immediately after defense filed her FINAL BRIEF. Where is the beef? There is no beef. These Judges are full of drama.

    Will there be a guilty verdict with out a defense FINAL BRIEF and in the absent of the accused being present in court? Wow! What a court.

  3. “After stating that Mr. Griffiths might be held in contempt of court for his actions, the judges ordered prosecutors to continue with their closing argument”

    i don’t think this fake court can even try to hold Mr. Griffiths in contempt of the court. no one seems to hold the prosecutors and others in contempt of the court. the defense has motions that are still not yet decided on. the courts dismiss other motions in favor of the prosecutors. not long ago i remember the prosecutors asking for more time to gather their case. they even has the glory to re-open their case.

    oh and lets not forget, the prosecutors who claim to have file all of their closing arguments, was the same prosecutor who presented a new and revise copy of their arguments to replace the one that was file by the deadline. so basically they summited a couple of pages of junk by the deadline, and then has their US government friend come up with a “better” version. that doesn;t seem like meeting the deadline to me. i also don’t see how this case can be concluded without the defense closing aguments. are they only going to listen to one side. that will really be the end of this fake court.

    1. Simeon,

      I think we need to look at things from all perspectives. One, Griffiths fumbled. I think he showed the court little regards by wanting to file his briefing 20 days after deadline….when you were in school at MC, would you turn your homework in days late and expect the teacher to accept it? No! Why not, because of the consequences. The defense will have to take blame for this one, just as I have suggested the prosecution take fault for mistakes made in the execution of this trial. It’s always easy to throw the blame to someone else and claim, no justice….Why were you not crying foul play when Taylor and his cohort indiscriminately killed the innocent people in Liberia. Even though the trial is not on Liberia, but “karma” is “b1tch”….

      The defense messed up miserably.

      1. Bnkr,

        As an admirer of most of your analysis, I wholeheartedly disagree with this comment of yours. For starters as you rightly stated, this case has nothing to do with Liberia.

        Second, while I agree that on the surface this doesn’t look good for the defense, What would you do if you had a client’s interest to defend? You seem to hung on the fact that the defense was 20 days late in turning in the brief without analyzing why they were 20 days late. It didn’t just happen in a vacuum you know and I think to be fair we need to look at the root cause of this occurance and not the symptom.

        According to the defense, they made it clear in early january that this deadline was not feasible due to several outstanding motions that both the trial and appeals chambers were yet to decide on which would be of major importance to the defense crafting their brief. To put it in a nice way your ire should be directed to trial chamber for causing the delay.

        Using your classroom analogy, if you were given homework to turn in by a certain deadline but needed and requested the reading resources from your professor to complete that homework, would you turn in the homework and score a 20%?

        In closing, based on principle I have to agree with the defense on this.

        1. Mas,
          Thanks for your response! I understand your reasoning and I think they are valid. However, after the defense didn’t get the response that hoped for, what would be the next course of action? Burn the night oil! Maybe double up the efforts and work harder and smarter. Let me make it clear here, my contention is not the defense failure to present their closing argument, but the actions taken. The courts every where should be respected and no one should be able to dictate to it. While Griffiths move might be tactically wise or otherwise, the manner of protest is ill-mannered (my opinion). What is being displayed and possibly encouraged is complete disregard for the rule of law, which he’s vowed to support, uphold and respect.

          Now, let’s get back to school, if you tell your teacher or professor that the reading is too much, you will likely get a response like, “then you better double your efforts”. During my days of undergrad and graduate school, some teachers will say, “as far as I am concerned, my class is the only course you are taking” meaning, he/she didn’t care about other course work. In graduate school, there are some who work full-time and attend school expecting to read several chapters a week, do home work and other research, do you expect them to say, oh prof because I have lots to do, I am not turning my work in and I am not coming to your class until you take my late assignment? This won’t work because that individual is trying to circumvent the authority of the head of the class.

          Again, Mas, my problem is not the tardiness per se, it’s the attempt to control proceedings. The judges authorities are being stripped. I read Cllr Jallah article, and he made some justificable points. The most striking that I gathered was that the parties had up to “six days” to argument to submit their closing papers. That may work in the favor of the defense….

          I certainly hope that the justice system affords Taylor something that he denied so many off. Don’t get me wrong, on a personal level, Taylor seemed to be a personable individual, but he sucks as a leader!

      2. Bnkr,
        So you are saying that eventhough there were still several outstanding motions. The defense should have filed their Final Brief anyway ? I am not a lawyer but will not be surprised if this ruling is overturned if the Trial Chamber allows their decision to be appealed.

        1. Aki,
          I am not saying that Taylor doesn’t deserve a fair trial….I am saying that the briefing was late and that the manner of storming out and saying, I am not coming back until you take my briefing is inconsistent with the respect for the law. There is an attempt by the defense to strip the judges of their authority. There is an appeal process, the defense needs to take it….

          Frankly, I am tickled when people say, unjustice. We all know this trial is political in nature, but again, “what does around, comes around”–the Easterners call is Karma.

      3. Bnker,
        Please don’t make me FART!!!

        No Bnker, there were outstanding matters that had to be resolved….and that was the reason for the DELAY. Now tell me if you been represented by me, will you want me SIGNING OFF if you had concerns???

        1. Noko4,

          I generally don’t response to childish comment and your is no exception….you don’t deserve any attention for your “lack of maturity”…

          Good day kiddo!

      4. You have to think here, though the court give a deadline for both final brief to be filed in. But Mr. Taylor and his lawyer had a motion and appeal before the appeal Chamber which was to be decided on before they can files their final brief. Since this was decided on Feb 1st, they now had the mandate to either submit their final brief five days before the closing arguments commence. This is the question, Since the court is now rejecting the Charles Taylor Defense final brief, and who knows if his lawyer will turn up at court the next time, How are they going to Judge with out hearing Both sides of the final story. Can you bring a matter to consensus with hearing both sides? That is injustice…

      5. bnker,
        May I interject with a question in respect to your class room analogy; Are you, in other words saying that , if this was in school, a teacher( to be real simple) has the right to quiz students broadly, including topics that were not covered within the term?? Because, this is whats going on here. All Grifith is asking is, sir, there is something that need to be talked about. Plain and simple.. Now Bnker, I think using school analogy may not fit in the nature of whats being discussed. I say so because, in school or any class room per say, the teacher may have sole authority over the class, which in actuall fact, studens are subject to oder in a way. But sir, in the court room, in my view, its a different ball game, for the fact that, somebody may be obliged to prooving something against somebody in order for final decissions to be made especially as is in this case..Ok bnker, another question; Is there another body that Griffith could take complains to, instead of walking out of the courts…Please answere..

        1. Bnkr,

          I concede that rules are meant to be followed and not circumvented. In this regard, it looks bad for the defense. However in a court of law, rules apply to all parties. So I still have to lay the lion’s share of the blame at the feet of the court because the rules seemingly contridict each other.

          On the one hand the judges ordered the final briefs turned in on jan 14 while on the other hand Rule 86 states that the final brief can be submitted at least 5 calendar days before oral arguments, feb 9. This is contridictory and ambiguous at best.

          Second, this issue would have been resloved had the Judges made it clear to the defense during the January Status conference whether they were going to accept or reject the late brief.

          Ultimately i think this has more to do with ego. Lussick vs. Taylor’s and Griffiths that is. I sincerely feel that Judge Lussick is trying to show that he has control in court and is not being dictated to by the defense, while the defense is trying to show that they will stand up for their rights no matter what. i think this is an overeaction by both parties.

          As a result both parties have backed themselves into a corner unfortunately. Griffiths wont all of sudden show up to court without the brief being accepted and Lussick and Doherty will not overturn their initial decision not to accept the brief.

          In the end there is a way both parties can save face. Griffiths should come to court and apologize to the judges if he offended them and the appeals chamber should over turn the trial chambers decision.

  4. It is unfortunate that at this late stage of the proceedings, the trial is about to the stalled by the trial chambers recalcitrance. The two white justices of the trial chamber are behaving as if Mr Taylor being an accussed has no rights. this is unacceptable. it is noteworthy that even the prosecution did not oppose the late filling of the defence final trial brief given the circumstances that brought about the lateness yet the majority refused to accept the defence final trial brief. it is the trial chamber and not the defence that is trying to delay this trial. No matter the outcome of this case, the verdict will not be seen as credible unless the fair trial rights of the accused is respected and infact protected.

  5. This is what the judges wanted, and there it is in their faces! Nonsense!! Absolutely disgusting decision not to allow the accused file his final brief. They wanted to speedily wind up the trial without taking the fair trial rights of the accused into account, but now it has back-fired!!! I will see how this trial will end without the accused having to file a final brief. What a FARCE!!!!

  6. The reason of the court is clearly voiced out by it’s actions!
    Bias, bias, bias, bias, bias…….Bartus Taylor, Jnr. says BIAS is this so call war-crime court.
    If you want to cancel my citizenship due to my belief and concern voiced out on this trial, then do it.

    God Bless Liberia and Sierra Leone!

  7. Man O, man, why would the Court contradict their own article? if the defense is to submit final trial brief by January 14, 2011, by order of the Court, and their own policy states that final trial brief most also be submitted five days before closing argument, so what is the contradiction or disrespect by the defensed Counsel? look I will caution the court to continue and allow or grant the defense their right.

  8. The judges’ action is really laughable. I strongly support QC walking out of court action, and thank God for Justice Sabutinde exception.

  9. Which country (American, European, Asian or african) or agents sold the arms and ammunitions to charles Taylor and his men? Shdnt they also be brought to court to stand trial?

    1. Prosecution closing argument was the worst I have seen in any criminal trial. My ten year old son could have put up a better presentation. Prosecution closing was nothing but run on, opinionated, speculations, witnesses lies and a small amount of fact.

      At the end of prosecution closing, Justice El Hadji Malick Sow asked Mr. Koumjian some questions he (Koumjian) acknowledged he misspoke. On the other hand, the same Koumjian during his presentation kept banking on the fact while President Taylor was on the witness stand he said for example 1992 so and so happened but the actual date was 1993. Therefore, President Taylor lied to the judges. My thought is, if Mr. Koumjian lied and admitted to lying (misspoke) about incident happened less then a year, why in the world he (Koumjian) expect President Taylor to remember everything that happened over twenty years ago.

      I see Mr. Koumjian misspoke, President Taylor lied.

      1. Big B,

        Great point! The only problem with your analysis is–Mr. koumjian is not on trial; he has nothing at stake, so he can mis-speak all he wants. Taylor on the other hand swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and the rest of his life is at stake.

  10. The bias in favor of the prosecution by the present sitting presiding justice has been clear and blatantly evident throughout the trial. It is obvious that she wants President Talylor to be convicted. What is the difference between permitting the prosecution to reopen its case in chief in order to introduce so called evidence by Naomi Campbell because the information had not been available to the prosecution a priori. The wikileaks offcial US governme nt cables were also not available to the defense before they were ordered to close their case. Shame! Shame! on this majority decision. However, it is said that “whoever pays the piper calls the tune”. Does it mean that whoever provides the funds to keep the “court” running determines the outcome of the verdict?

  11. I have been following the Taylor trial on this site for more than 2 years now and I’m glad the whole thing is about to wrap up. I have not posted any comments until now because I strongly believe that most of the regulars on this site, regardless of their passion and support for whomever, seem to think the trial itself is a furtile exercise and by extention, the loss of hunderds of thousands of lives is nothing but a big joke.

    I am however, encouraged by recent developments at the court, that the Judges will not allow Mr. Taylor to control and rule the Court like he did the West African Region.

    1. Aaron Garyu Tarr,
      Welcome ! Please give us your thoughts about the prosecution case presented during this trial? Please leave all personal bias aside and let us know if you think there is enought evidence to convict?

      1. Aki,
        Thanks for the warm gesture. I believe the prosecution could have done a better job, but they didn’t have to. Mr. Taylor’s decision to testify in his own defense was a gift to the prosecution.

        To his credit, Mr Griffith has done a great job defending Mr Taylor. However, as you and I know, Taylor’s ego always get in the way of his better judgment. He called the shot then (to testify), and he’s calling the shot now (to walk out of court) and it’s going to come back to haunt him in a British jail. As a defendant in a criminal case, you have rights, but those rights are limited–that’s why they lock you up in the first place.

    2. 2-10-11

      The trial is an exercise in futility (if the purpose is to uphold the rule of law)unless it is fair and an impartial decsion is made.
      The loss and displacement of millions of people from developing countries is a serious matter. However, it is the bending of the rules, the shredding of ICC staututes that makes a mockery of those persons that have lost their lives.
      Moreover, it is not the role of the judges to “show CT that he does not control the court”. Their role is to ensure the accused gets a fair trial and to deliver impartial decisions. There is no statute( either ICC or SLC) that says the accuseds right to a fair trial is subordinate to “showing” him he is not in control. Have you asked yourself what the harm is in allowing the late brief? This trial is larger than SL, Liberia or CT. This trial is a snap shot of what International Justice is.


  12. No amount of shouting from taylor support will change the fate that seems to hang around taylor’s neck! The ghosts of victims is haunting him and his lawyers. Look how they are behaving..absolutely abnormal!

  13. Thank God it was the layer of Taylor that work of the court, not taylor himself. he will still be found guilty

  14. Lydia Greenfield, US Ambassador to Liberia, “The best we can do for Liberia is to put Taylor away for a long time” (wikileaks). Why did anyone think from the start that this case was about justice? This case is about a VERY BIG Country getting her way. Now lets wait for Tony Blair, Bush and others for that Iraq thing…oops, that will not happen. I remember Toussaint L’Ouverture. He was a black man and he died in a dungeon in France. His only crime; defeated the mighty Napoleon’s army. Taylor is heading to a cell in Britain (what used to be called GREAT Britain). He can spend the remaining of his life writing about himself. Thats the way life goes, the high and mighty will always get what they want. Next topic.

    1. wow! I am on record saying that the case is not about justice….it’s political…..good info about Toussaint L’Ouverture. I am going to google him

  15. This is a clear view of racism and corruption (wickedness) in the 21st Century displayed on the part of the so called U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone and the whole world is sitting down and just watching supinely.

    Bravo to freedom, justice and free speech of our democratic society

  16. Justice is for the RICH & POWERFUL. Being white, is more justified. And the word justice is not for the BLACK MAN.

  17. Bnker,

    We show await the judges’ ruling. They are aware that they are under a litmus test and public scrutiny. We have monitored this trial over the years and we are curiously waiting for a verdict. I am sure the judges are aware of the magnitude of the responsibility they carry. I refrain from rushing to judgement. Can we?

    1. Andrew!!!!

      Man welcome and I missed you mehn. I mentioned about a week ago that you are very good at outlining your arguments and presenting them. Welcome back!

      I know you have been reluctant to come to a verdict, but I still think that the trial is political. If you can recall, I said that even though the evidence will not directly or indirectly link Taylor to SL, he will be found guilty–because of the political nature. When you feel comfortable, I am sure you will also give your opinion regards to the verdict.

      But welcome back, shoot! Happy New Year Andrew!

      Are you here or in Liberia now?

  18. i think Charles Taylor deserves a fair trial.and African leaders would have to take clues from it because in Ghana there is a saying that the stick used in beating
    Kofi would be used to beat
    Kwame. kudos to his lawyers, they are doing a great job not only to free Mr Charles Taylor but for the entire black race.

  19. It is not surprising for these Guys (Rebels) to keep calling Charles Taylor “President” Charles Taylor was voted in as president of Liberia by these Rebels from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia, Burkina faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Libya, and the rest of West African Countries and not Liberian populist except those rebels who were with him.All these rebels were in Liberia and employed by Charles Taylor as Liberians. For example, at the time, the Liberian Embassador to Libya was from Gambia.
    I am really confused when countries like the United States of America, Great Britain and other powerful nations keep on referring to this Terrorist (Charles Taylor) as former Liberian president. Any mistake and releasing Charles Taylor, 3rd World-War will surely come from Africa or the whole world will be more terrorized than it is now.

  20. JTF,
    Let me further degrade this irrational thread of yours with this question; Which country does the chief of staff of your present liberian army (de AFL)comes from???”lol”

  21. noko5.

    Thank you for your question. Do you believe that you people got the country insecure and there are still Peace Keeping Force in Liber? Charles Taylor is not try in Africa because you guys are on the ramgape to loot our properties and murder people in cold-blod.

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