International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Taylor Defense Wants Date for Judgment Changed; Prosecutors Disagree

Defense and Prosecution lawyers in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor are in disagreement over the date for the delivery of the judgment. The Defense wants to postpone the April 26 date of the verdict announcement, which was scheduled by the Special Court for Sierra Leone  judges less than one week ago.

On March 1, nearly one year after the evidence phase of the case closed, the judges issued a scheduling order confirming that the trial judgment in the former Liberian President’s case will be delivered on April 26, 2012.

Five days later, on March 6, defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor filed an urgent motion requesting a change of the date for delivery of the judgment from April 26 to April 30.

Explaining the reasons for their request, defense lawyers stated in their motion that Taylor’s lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths already “has prior professional engagements on the judgment date, which have been on the calendar since September 2011,” and that April 26 will be the eve of Sierra Leone’s independence celebrations and the delivery of the judgment on such a date therefore “appears to be ill-timed and poses potential security risks.”

According to the defense motion, after the conclusion of proceedings in March 2011, service contracts for defense counsel were suspended and this compelled Mr. Griffiths to take up assignments in other jurisdictions. One such assignment now coincides with the date for the delivery of judgment in the Taylor trial.

“Lead counsel is scheduled to represent another client in a High Court matter on 25 and 26 April 2012. This hearing has been scheduled since September 2011. As counsel had already committed himself, it is now too late to change this date; it is also too late for counsel to find a suitable replacement due to the complexities of the case and obligations to the client,” the defense motion states.

The motion further explains that Mr. Taylor “feels very strongly that Lead Counsel must be present to receive the verdict and to immediately provide legal advice and strategy with respect to whatever outcome may obtain.”

Defense lawyers also argued in their motion that the judgment should not be made to coincide with Sierra Leone’s independence celebrations as this will be in bad taste. Sierra Leone celebrates its 51st independence anniversary on April 27, 2012.

“These events are typically an emotive time for the country as it reflects on its past and celebrates its future. The delivery of the Taylor judgment the eve of the Independence Day would thus eclipse this historic festive occasion,” defense lawyers argue.

According to Mr. Taylor’s defense, the independence festivities “attract large, jubilant crowds through the country,” and considering that the Taylor judgment will be an issue of intense debate in the country, the chances of rioting in the case of either a conviction or acquittal will be increased under such circumstances.

“The Defense submits that announcing the verdict at a time when the nation is in festive mood and the streets are already thronged with people poses a direct security threat and runs counter to the Court’s responsibility to maintain peace.”

Defense lawyers have therefore requested that the date of judgment be moved from April 26 to 30.

Prosecution lawyers have however objected to this request. In a response to the defense motion that was filed on March 7, 2012, the Prosecution has urged the judges to reject the defense request because “the Defense has failed to establish that the Accused would be prejudiced if the judgment in this case was delivered on 26 April 2012 as scheduled.”

Prosecutors argue that if in fact the date for the delivery of judgment was moved from April 26, it will affect Mr. Taylor’s right to a fair and expeditious trial. Prosecutors further argue that the Defense motion only talks about the absence of lead defense counsel and does not say anything about the presence or absence of other members of the defense team. Prosecutors say it is safe to assume therefore that in the absence of lead defense counsel, co-counsel, and the Principal Defender will be present in court with capacity to give advice to Taylor if the need arises.

As to the potential security risk that the Taylor verdict could pose while Sierra Leoneans are involved in independence festivities, the Prosecution response calls it “purely speculative and should be dismissed as such.”

If, however, the judges decide to consider the defense request in view of Mr. Griffith’s prior commitments on April 26, the Prosecution suggests that the judgment be delivered in the afternoon of April 27.

While both parties remain in disagreement on the date for the delivery of the judgment, the judges will consider the arguments presented by both parties and then determine whether to grant the defense request or to reject it and abide by its originally announced date of April 26, 2012.

15 Comments
  1. Hhhhm ! Why does the court want to deliver the verdict on the eve of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day ? Something fishy is going on here.

  2. This is the greatest garbage I have heard from griffiths since the trial began. What does this man think? He is the greatest strategist? What does the independence Celebration has to do will rendering of judgement to the people of Sierra Leone?
    I hope the Judges makes it clear to this man that he is not smarter than they; nor does his new job more important than the justice to the Sierra leone rapes, murders, and cover-up victims! This is the sickest request I have heard in 73 years! I will write the strongest condemnation of any caving in to this man!

  3. Only God knows what will that day brings, so let the judges weigh the defense request.

  4. The end in sight? Delivery of the verdict has taken far too long, and now the defence wants a slight delay. Refuse the application for delay and get on with it!

  5. Under the circumstances it’s only fair the court allows defense motion to change the verdict date from April 26 to April 30. After all, this is not an unreasonable request. In fact, lead Counsel QC Griffiths has previous obligations dating back to September of 2011; this should be a compelling reason for the court to grant defense motion.

    But what shocked me the most is prosecution rebuttal to defense’s motion. “Prosecutors argue that if in fact the date for the delivery of judgment was moved from April 26, it will affect Mr. Taylor’s right to a fair and expeditious trial”. This is total rubbish. President Taylor has been confined for over six years without being convicted, how would few days from April 26 to April 30 deny President “Taylor’s right to a fair and expeditious trial”?

    The bottom line, President Taylor is going to be found guilty. In my opinion, the “guilty” verdict was clandestinely planned, sealed, orchestrated and will be delivered by the west on the eve of Sierra Leone independent as a gift to the people of Sierra Leone. The “guilty” verdict would send a message to Sierra Leoneans to go out eat, drink and be merit on independent’s day!

  6. It appears to me that the selection of 26 April 2012 as the verdict handing date is strategic. The court should know or may know that said date is one day prior to the independence day of the country in whose name and behhalf the court was established.

    The question that comes to my mind is that does the court consider awarding a defacto gift or appeasement on their jubilee? In other words, have they found Taylor guilty and therefore select such a date?

    • andrew, the answer to your question “…have they found Taylor guilty and therefore select such a date”? In my opinion the answer is categorically YES! The same way how the west awarded the Nobel Price Prize to ellen four days prior Liberia’s presidential elections, that too was not a coincident.

    • This clearly shows how this court has been run over the years. President Taylor was judged guilty long before been brought before this so-called UN backed court. A guilty verdict on 26 April simply means freedom for the people of Sierra Leone. This is not justice, but just ass. Independence my foot, hell with this day.

  7. Spot on Big B! If we’ve waited for over half a decade, it’s not 4 days we can’t wait for. This is all about injustice and making political victory speeches at the time time they think is ripe. Let’s see if they’ll accept or deny C G. What do these ppl care about SL ppl anyways? Look at the volume of ignorance they’ve shown for human rights in other countries!

  8. Enought is enought Griffith!
    I would have consider this motion as legitimate if the Sierra Leone government had made this request to an international court (SCSL) they themself helped creat. The last time I looked Griffith and his team had enlisted to represent Charles Taylor and not the people of Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor supported vocaly, military and financialy the notorious RUF throwing this poor country (S L) into carnage never experienced in any west african state other than their neighboors in Liberia. Again this is another attempt by Griffith to delay, and it will not fly! Guilty it is……

  9. Why are the pro taylors frightened by the virdict date? Could this be guilty conscience, or cowardice.

    Taylor began his invation of Sierra Leone in April 1991. Did he think of the implications ? Sure, so why are you guys now complaining?
    Again if you are confident about his innocense, you would not be this jittery and making vague accusations.

  10. Simple put…..a GIFT to Sierra Leone….verdict GUILTY!!!!

    Mr. Griffith plz start the next stage of APPEAL……nothing written thus far tells me Mr. Taylor will NOT be found GUILTY. We all knew from the start this was NOT about CREDITABLE EVIDENCES but TEACH HIM A LESSON…….

    We were told Iraq had WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION……who has been brought to JUSTICE for such MASS KILLINGS???

    I rest my case your honors.

  11. I felt so sick when I heard from neighbors yesterday March 11, 2012 that the UNMIL Radio station announced that Former President Charles Taylor was to be release on 16, April 2012, on charges of not guilty.
    Sincerely, Liberian people thaught that all was over when they forgave and elected Taylor as president of this country, behold it was just the beginning of a regime that could lead to thousands of people loosing their lives for a president that had no sympathy for his people.

    The release of Taylor will not only be a treat to the long lasting security and peace that the Liberian people have enjoyed over the years, but might also hunt individuals in within the Mano River. Taylor must face charges for crimes he committed.

  12. The Councel of former President Taylor plead should be excepted in good faith because he has a pending hearing in another case wish was schedule since last year.Secondly am worry as if the international community want to past a guilty verdict on our former president on the eve of Sierra Leone independence to put smile on their faces.Free Mr.Taylor cause you have nothing against him.The peace in the mano river basin is fragile,so pls be careful ok.

  13. let make this cristal clear,as we await the verdict on april.we as west african citizens are now worring about the results meaning that if taylor is set free ,we as west africans will find ourselves in another war threat this time it might not start in liberia or sierra leon but taylor we all know will distablize the entire region even worst than before.and most of all taylor will be a direct threat to peace in liberia where we all see the glory of God now shining as pres.ellen johnson is working overnights and weekends just to keep liberia and its peoplestable and happy without guns sounds or fights at all.taylor guilty verdict will sent message to all african nations to treat their people with love and humility.