Never since the last treason trials has any case triggered so much national interest as did the Paolo and others trial. Since his shock arrest, there have been great expectations from the literate and the hoi polloi. It was quizzical to imagine that someone invited to help solve COVID-19 issues could suddenly use that as an opportunity to seize power.
As a lawyer and former Minister of Defence Paolo Conteh was doubly knowledgeable about the requirements of entering State House.
armed with a weapon, he gave the impression that he was either straying into an unguarded place or that he was so important that he would be a target for snipers. Alternatively he could have hired a friend’s car or a taxi to State House. That was what fuelled suspicious of ill motivations of Paolo Conteh. The charge of treason arose from these circumstances.
The trial by jury is more acceptable than trial by Judge alone owing to the fact that two heads are better than one and there can be some conference among the jurors. In the Paolo case, the trial was by jury and in this instance they were not averse to the trial by jury according to the Constitution of the United States-Amendment VI which reads:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation to be confronted with the witnesses against him to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.” This amendment does not say anything about the selection of the jury and the possibilities of their being influenced by agents of the accused. In any case, juries usually should consist of good and true men of the community concerned. It should also be known that jurors are judges of fact only and not of law.
Treason, the crime for which Paolo and others were charged, was not proven because it is a crime of betraying your country and it is a wonder why they were charged with that crime that entailed so much investment in time and energy. Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, did not have much legal reference to disprove the charge. It was much ado about nothing.
The crying of Paolo in court must have been part of the considerations of the jury in coming to their conclusions of no treason and their convictions on the lesser charges. On the whole, the verdict was generally popular though the relieving of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice may not be unconnected with the trial. It is worthy of note that former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, commended Sierra Leone justice.
The verdict did not cause a furore because it was a compromised one.