A criminal session of the High Court began last week with the trial of 19 murder cases.
The ceremony for the criminal session was held at the forecourt of the Supreme Court building.
The trial would be presided over by two High Court judges, Justice Charles Quist and Justice Mustapha Logoh, together with a seven-member panel of jurors.
The case of Kofi Seidu and Reverend Padmore Goodwill, who have been accused of murdering a British/American Missionary, Rev. Sidney Thomas Barnes was the first to be called.
The two accused persons were charged with conspiracy to commit murder while Seidu received additional charge of murder.
Padmore pleaded not guilty to the charge but Seidu stated that although he was part of the people who committed the act, he did not kill the pastor.
The court, which was presided over by Justice Quist before the trial, gave the two accused persons the opportunity to exercise their right of choosing jurors they wanted to hear their case.
The Acting Director of Prosecutions, Cynthia Lamptey, who presented the facts of the case, disclosed that Rev. Barnes was killed by the accused persons and his body buried in a well at his pawpaw farm at Nsawam Adoagyiri.
The body was later exhumed when Seidu, on October 11, 2010 reportedly led a team of investigators and pathologists from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital to the Mana Mission Farm where the missionary was buried.
That particular case and others were adjourned to April 15, 2013 following a request by their lawyers for an adjournment.
In a speech read on her behalf by Justice J.B. Akamba, a Supreme Court judge, her Ladyship the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood advised stakeholders to assist in expediting these trials.
The Chief Justice, who observed that the constitution mandates the high court presided over by a single judge and jury to hear such cases, thanked the jurors for availing themselves to serve their nation.
She however advised them to give fair verdicts adding that ‘your duty as jurors is onerous. It requires commitment and that you exhibit excellent listening and analytical skills as facts unfold in the trial.
This is because as jurors, you are the judges of the facts as the trial unfolds. You must exhibit honesty as you play your role in order that justice is done and also exhibit a high sense of punctuality in order to stem any delays of the trial because of lateness.’
The Chief Justice called for co-operation between the Attorney-General’s criminal division, the police, and witnesses in order to eliminate inordinate delays of the trials.
She asked defence lawyers to study and represent their clients to the best of their ability.
‘It is essential to underscore the fact that the court, prosecution and defence have a joint and several duties to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done. This session of the criminal assizes demands no less,’ she added.
The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, who graced the occasion, also reminded the jurors that their selection to participate in the administration of justice ‘is a highest civic duty and must be undertaken with all the seriousness it deserves.’
According to her, the gravity of the indictable offences and matters to be heard by the jurors from murder to rape would demand that they exhibit the ‘highest virtues of good citizenship and qualities like sobriety, temperance, reflection, careful scrutiny and good judgment.
‘The trial of a man by his peers is a near-sacred duty for even without a trained judicial mind or legal training your decision will determine whether an accused is hanged or walks free.’
She promised that her outfit would ensure speedy trial and effective justice delivery.
By Mary Anane