The Maryland Ritual Murders
The Final Verdict: Death By Hanging
The second Harper trial of the eight defendants started on May 8, 1978. Before the end of the re-trial, another defendant died, Koti Weah. Then, on June 9, the jury’s verdict was announced, convicting the remaining seven defendants for the murder of Moses Tweh: Allen Yancy, James Anderson, Francis Nyepan, Philip Seton, Wreh Taryonnoh, Putu Dweh and Thomas Barclay. The seven defendants were sentenced to death by hanging.
In October of the same year, the Supreme Court reviewed the Harper Murder case and in December 1978 the Chief Justice, James A. Pierre, in a 60-page opinion, announced its decision: it upheld the conviction by the Harper Court and hence affirmed the death sentence for the seven murderers. The fate of the convicted murderers was now in the hands of only one person: the President of the Republic.
At the end of December the Harper convicts were flown to Monrovia – for security reasons. The Harper prison where they were held was found to be not safe enough. The transfer of the prisoners may have resulted from a possible attempt on the part of some relatives to have one of the convicted poisoned, in order to prevent him from to end on the gallows and thus save his family the shame, which would have resulted from this disgraceful end. The family concerned was a very ‘reputable and respected’ one (Sunday Express, January 7, 1979).
It was President Tolbert who revealed in the newspapers that unconfirmed reports had reached him that the brother of one of the convicted murderers, Eddy Anderson – Deputy Director of the Budget Bureau – had approached the medical director of Firestone Hospital in Cavalla, near Harper, asking him whether he had any drug that could be used to poison his brother if the President decided to sign the death warrant. President Tolbert also openly declared that True Whig Party National Chairman James Anderson Sr., father of the convicted former Superintendent of Maryland County, had approached him in order to review the decision of the Supreme Court. However, he had refused to consider the request: “(…) I will never permit myself to be influenced in one way or the other by sentiments. I will do my duty when it is time to do my duty in the fear of God in keeping with the oath of office of the president.” (The Liberian Age, January 12, 1979).
Shortly thereafter, he signed seven death warrants, sparing the life of Tagbedi Wisseh.
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