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Former Chief Justice Gloria Musu-Scott and the compassionate leave conundrum: What you need to know

There are few stories of Liberian women rising to the top echelons of power. One such tale is that of Gloria Musu-Scott, a former Chief Justice of Liberia.

A consummate judge and tactful politician with an enviable record in public service, Cllr. Musu-Scott, who also served as chairperson of Liberia’s Constitution Review Committee and later turned politician, contested and won as senator of Maryland County until 2012, according to the African Women in Law website.

However, her story is not all glorious.  She was found guilty of murder a year after she retired as Chief Justice and has been in prison.

However, Front Page Africa (FPA), a local daily in Liberia, reported on June 12, 2024, that the government of Liberia had granted Counselor Gloria Musu-Scott, a convicted former Chief Justice of Liberia, compassionate leave.  

According to the FPA’s news report, several appeals were made to the Minister of Justice requesting compassionate leave for Cllr. Scott, a request the paper noted had been granted.

The paper stated, “In another letter addressed to Cllr. Massah Jallabah, the Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Ju  is stice, dated June 11, 2024, Kwaidah requested US$226.00 to provide an escort for Justice Musu Scott.”

This news of compassionate leave allegedly granted by the government to convicted Cllr. Scott, coupled with reports of an escort fee, has sent social media (Facebook) screaming, as seen here and here

So DUBAWA has decided to explore this controversial issue to find out if the convict has been given compassionate leave and, if she has, under what circumstances. The researcher has also decided to explore in fuller detail what it means to be granted compassionate leave and who qualifies for it. 

The Conviction

Liberia’s former Chief Justice, Counselor Gloria Musu-Scott, was, along with three other family members, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in early January of 2024 under the immediate past Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government headed by George Weah.

They were convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison by Criminal Court B of the Temple of Justice of the Republic of Liberia for the murder of Musu Scotts’ niece, 

Judge Roosevelt Z Willie of Criminal Court B sentenced Cllr. Musu-Scott and three other relatives (women), aged 80, 36, and 20.

Just a few months into her incarceration, media reports reported that the convict had been given compassionate leave. 

What does it mean to be given a Compassionate leave?

Compassionate leave is a leave of absence granted to an inmate or employee in response to a personal situation that is sensitive or upsetting. This could include life-threatening illness or injury of the inmate or employee, bereavement of a close family member or friend, family emergencies that require the inmate’s care, etc.”

What does the law say about compassionate leave?

According to Liberia’s legal jurisprudence, the Minister of Justice may grant an inmate a “compassionate Leave” for numerous reasons, including medical attention, a strong personal cause, or attending a relative’s funeral. 

Chapter 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia states, “The Attorney General shall formulate rules or regulations governing compassionate leave from institutions and, by such rules and regulations, may permit any prisoner to leave his institution for short periods, either by himself or in the custody of an officer, to visit a close relative, to return to his home during what appears to be his last illness, or to return to his home during what appears to be his last illness, or to return to his home for other compelling reasons which strongly appeal to compassion. The rules or regulations shall provide for how compassionate leave shall be granted, for its duration, and the custody, transportation, and care of the prisoner during his leave. They shall also provide for how the expense connected with such leave shall be borne and may allow the prisoner, or anyone on his behalf, to reimburse the state for such expense.”

Is there precedence for compassionate leave?

In 2013, the managing publisher of a local daily newspaper, Front Page Africa (FPA), Mr Rodney Sieh, was sentenced to 500 years of life imprisonment for the story the paper published.

Mr Sieh, who represented the FPA in court, was found guilty by a lower court in 2010 of libel against former Agriculture Minister J. Christopher Toe over  US$6 million unaccounted-for public money on the grounds of an audit report from the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

But is it true that Gloria Musu-Scott has been granted Compassionate leave? 

DUBAWA has been investigating alleged reports of the compassionate leave accorded to the convict. Since the convict is in state custody, the first port of call is the government and the Prison Service. The researcher tracked the government’s statements on the matter. 

Government’s Response to reports of the compassionate leave

Following this news report by FPA and other media outlets about the government of Liberia granting compassionate leave to Cllr. Scott, the government, through the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), refuted the allegation and termed it false, only intending to paint the government black, as seen below.

Former Chief Justice Gloria Musu-Scott and the compassionate leave conundrum: What you need to know

The government did not just stop there but went another step further by taking some journalists to the Monrovia Central Prison (South Beach) to verify if the convicted Cllr. Musu-Scott was still behind bars.

Speaking to journalists during the visit, Cllr. Musu-Scott expressed frustration with some local dailies that reported news about her being granted compassionate leave. She noted that it is not within the president’s powers to grant any prisoner compassionate leave.

Cllr. Musu-Scott indicated that the report of said news is only a continuation of what she considers the cruel treatment meted out against her and her family since the case started.      

“Maybe you journalists need to ask the prison guards or the people who are reporting this story to provide you with documentation as to whether or not I and any of my family members have left this place since being incarcerated,” Cllr. Musu-Scott noted.  

Conclusion

Cllr. Musu-Scott is still in the state’s custody. So far, there is no evidence to support that she has been accorded Compassionate Leave. 

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