In US$100M Drug Case, Defense Lawyers Oppose Using Clients’ Phones as Evidence – Latest Liberian News
MONROVIA – Lawyers representing several foreign nationals and a Liberian in the ongoing US$100m cocaine case at Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia are objecting to the use of two cellphones as additional evidence against their clients in court.
The two Samsung phones belong to defendant Malem Conte. They were seized by the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) during the arrest of the drugs on October 1, 2022.
The defendants argued that the phones were never displayed or brought to the knowledge of the defendants throughout the investigation and court proceedings, and that their display in court would violate the defendants’ rights against self-incrimination.
The prosecution wants the phones to be displayed in court via a projector to review the defendants’ activities to enlighten the jurors to make the right judgement.
But the Counsels for the defendants asked Judge Blamo Dixon to deny the application. The defense argued that since the phones have been in the possession of the prosecution witness, he or any other person may have broken the passcode of the defendant’s phones and inserted materials to implicate the defendants. They also said even if the phones had been presented to them earlier, they would have moved to suppress the evidence because it was gathered unconstitutionally against the defendants’ interests.
“The defendants say that said phones subject of this application has never been display, or paraded or brought to the knowledge of the defendants throughout the processing of investigation, the preliminary at the City Court, the discovery proceeding in this court, and as such the said phone constitute a surprise to the defense which is contrary to the Criminal Procedure Law,” stated defense lawyers.
They argued that the prosecution witness Larry S. Brown, in his testimony, told the court that the phones were seized from defendant Malen Conte on October 1, 2022.
Since that time, the defense team said the phones have been in the possession of Brown and he has exercised uninterrupted control over the phones; something they say constitutes a bridge in the chain of custody.
The Defendants maintained that to display the contents of the phones to reflect photographs showing association between the defendants and Mr. Augustavo Henrique, the Brazilian national who is now beyond the bailiwick of the Court and have been separated from the defendants, and is set be tried separately, is in violation of the defendants’ rights and as such, it should be disallowed.
In October 2022, a joint security team from Liberia, with intelligence from their U.S. and Brazilian counterparts, arrested over 520 kilograms of cocaine worth US$100 million in Monrovia.