Is Trial by Jury a Judicial Obstruction?

first_imgGiven the history of jury performance in Liberia in both the distant and recent past, the answer to this question is, it would seem, a resounding “Yes!”All too often the state has lost major cases because wealthy defendants—or their lawyers, or both—have “taken care of the jury,” leaving the Ministry of Justice or lawyers for the prosecution looking incompetent or clownish (ignorant). The most recent example of this was the suspension by the Supreme Court last Monday of further proceedings in the ongoing economic sabotage case involving the former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Matilda Parker, and her Comptroller, Madam Christiana Kpabar Paelay. The High Court’s decision was issued by Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie based on a complaint filed by state lawyers. They asked the High Court to mandate Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court ‘C’ to deliver his recent ruling in a jury tampering investigation for review.Judge Dixon last week in his jury tampering allegation refused to disband the sequestrated jury, but dropped only three of the 15-member panel—Kissi Kamara, Kebbeh Kollie and Melvin Teah Neowen—all of whom prosecutors accused of being behind a plot, exposed through a certain letter allegedly involving them, to collect money from the defendants to influence the outcome of the trial. The judge also ignored the prosecution’s plea to disband the entire panel, but ordered the remaining 12 jurors to sit on the case because, according to him, the letter did not reach them.Madam Justice Wolokollie has meanwhile instructed defendants Parker and Paelay to appear before her today, Monday, February 29.The matter is further complicated by Judge Dixon’s removal of Kissi Kamara, whose mother, Jenneh Kamara, was the person currently cooking for the jury and is said also to be implicated in the jury tampering allegation. So prosecution wondered why she, too, was not removed, but only her son. Prosecution further complained that the letter bearing the names of two of the three jurors, Kollie and Neowen, and an unnamed other were seized from Bailiffs Bendu Dukuly and Roland Nyanku, assigned with the sequestered jurors.During the investigation, it was alleged that one Peter Wisdom Fayiah, believed to be the assistant manager of the Jury Management Team, was the person who gave the letter to the two bailiffs for delivery to the panel.Prosecution further complains that the judge failed to take any action against Peter Fayiah, nor did Judge Dixon honor prosecution’s request to allow them to look at the Temple of Justice personnel list to verify whether the signature on the back of the letter resembled that of Fayiah’s.We commend the High Court for its timely action. We submit that the officials of the Supreme Court could not sit idly by, supinely witnessing such a serious allegation of jury tampering in such a high profile case—or any other case—without exercising its authority to protect the integrity of the judicial system.While we await the outcome of the investigation into the alleged involvement of the bailiffs and jurors in this case, we are constrained to revisit the constitutional principle of trial by jury. The Constitution calls for all persons being prosecuted for crime to be tried by their peers, meaning a jury constituted by the court. This is deemed a constitutional right by all party litigants in criminal trials. But who are these so-called “peers” that the Constitution talks about? Are they peers of individuals who happen to be, for one reason or the other, rightly or wrongly, accused of being in violation of the law? Or are they those who believe that the quickest way to wealth and prosperity is through their selection and appointment as jurors, waiting to seize any and every opportunity to extort money from party litigants in the deliberate, devious, corrupt and unpatriotic attempt to circumvent, frustrate and undermine the cause of justice? We trust that this latest intervention by the High Court will ensure a thorough and complete investigation into jury tampering. Where did the letter come from? How did it reach Peter Fayiah? As an employee of the Jury Management Team, a body that was created to help protect the integrity and smooth functioning of juries, how was it possible for him to receive any letter directed to the jury without the Judge’s knowledge? The recipient of such a letter should have been where the buck immediately stopped, for he should have known that it was grossly improper, even criminal, for anyone for any reason whatsoever even to attempt approaching or contacting a sequestered jury.The public is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the investigation to determine whether in truth yet again the jury in Liberia is nothing more than an obstruction of justice.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Math grades climb, but test scores drop

first_imgWASHINGTON – It doesn’t add up. Two federal reports out Thursday offer conflicting messages about how well high-schoolers are doing academically. One showed that seniors did poorly on national math and reading tests. The other – a review of high school transcripts from 2005 graduates – showed students earning more credits, taking more challenging courses and getting better grades. “The reality is that the results don’t square,” said Darvin Winick, chair of the independent National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests. Nearly 40 percent of high school seniors scored below the basic level on the math test. More than a quarter of seniors failed to reach the basic level on the reading test. Most educators think students ought to be able to work at the basic level. “I think that we are sleeping through a crisis,” said Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll, a governing board member. He said the low test scores should push lawmakers and educators to enact school reforms. The new reading scores show no change since 2002, the last time the test was given. “We should be getting better. There’s nothing good about a flat score,” Winick said. The government said it could not compare the math results with the previous scores because the latest test was significantly different. The National Assessment of Educational Progress – often called the nation’s report card – is viewed as the best way to compare students across the country because it’s the only uniform national yardstick for how well students are learning. The tests were given in 2005. The transcript study showed that 2005 high school graduates had an overall grade-point average just shy of 3.0 – or about a B. That has gone up from a grade-point average of about 2.7 in 1990. It is unclear whether student performance has improved or whether grade inflation or something else might be responsible for the higher grades, the report said. More students are completing high school with a standard curriculum, meaning they take at least four credits of English and three credits each of social studies, math and science. More students also are taking the next level of courses, which generally includes college preparatory classes. “I’m guessing that those levels don’t connote the level of rigor that we think they do. Otherwise kids would be scoring higher on the NAEP test,” said David Gordon, a governing board member and the superintendent of schools in Sacramento The transcript study released Thursday showed no increase in the number of high-schoolers who completed the most advanced curriculum, which could include college-level or honors classes. On the math test, about 60 percent of high school seniors performed at or above the basic level. At that level, a student should be able to convert a decimal to a fraction, for example. Just one-fourth of 12th-graders were proficient or better in math, meaning they demonstrated solid academic performance. To qualify as “proficient,” students might have to determine what type of graph should be used to display particular types of data. On the reading test, about three-fourths of seniors performed at or above the basic level, while 40 percent hit the proficient mark. The report did not include detailed breakdowns by city or district. Scores broken down by state released in 2004 showed that California’s fourth- and eighth-graders continued to rank near the bottom in reading and math proficiency compared with students nationwide – a poor performance education officials attributed to the state’s vast number of English-learning students. Los Angeles Unified school board member David Tokofsky said the NAEP study released Thursday shows that when students take math at levels like pre-calculus and calculus – not just algebra or geometry – there is a significant jump in national test scores. “It’s super-important to get our kids all the way to trigonometry and calculus, but we’re still struggling to get them concerned enough to take geometry,” he said. “We have to make math more exciting, accessible and rigorous.” Daily News Staff Writer Naush Boghossian contributed to this story.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Around Whittier

first_img WHITTIER – Pioneer High School’s PTSA will hold a holiday boutique from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Friday and Saturday at 10800 Benavon St. The event will be held inside the school’s gym. Enter through gates on Pioneer Boulevard, between Washington Boulevard and Slauson Avenue. For more information, call (562) 447-0670. Seminar for home buyers canceled PICO RIVERA – A free home-buyer education seminar that had been scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday in City Council chambers has been canceled, officials announced Tuesday. For more information, call (562) 942-2000. Cerritos to offer business degree NORWALK – Cerritos College will hold informational meetings for a new program and partnership with Northwood University in Michigan that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. The meetings will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6 inside the Wilford Michael Library’s teleconference center, LC-155, at the college, 11110 Alondra Blvd. Visitors can park free at any student lot during the sessions. For more information, call Amna Jura at (562) 860-2451, Ext. 2912. Decorating contest entries due soon PICO RIVERA – Dec. 8 will be the last day to enter the city’s annual Holiday Decorating Contest. The contest is open to all homes, businesses, apartment complexes and convalescent hospitals. Judging will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 9. The winners will be recognized at the Dec. 20 City Council meeting and named in the January issue of the city newsletter. For more information, call (562) 948-4844. Do lunch with law enforcement MONTEBELLO – Montebello police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez will hold his annual “Lunch With the Chief” holiday event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Quiet Cannon Golf Course banquet room, 901 Via San Clemente. Residents should bring a new unwrapped toy, a gift for a teenager or adult, or a $10 or greater donation. To make reservations, or for more information, call Jerry Banuelos, (323) 887-1282. -From staff reports160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals WHITTIER – The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the county Sheriff’s Department will host a community Neighborhood Watch meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Adventure County Park, 10130 S. Gunn Ave. Residents can bring their concerns about crime and quality of life issues and can learn how they can get involved in helping to improve their neighborhoods. For more information, call Deputy Rincon, (562) 903-1874. School to kick off holiday season WHITTIER – The next free county flu clinic will be from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday at the Whittier Senior Center, 13225 Walnut St. The clinic is for people 60 and older and those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or kidney disorder. For more information, call (562) 464-5350. County to discuss safety issues last_img read more