Legalpedia ELectronic Citation: LERSC. 237/2011
Areas of Law:
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE, LAW OF EVIDENCE,COURT, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE, APPEAL.
Summary of Facts
The Appellant along with his brother one Omokhefe Alao were charged and tried for the offence murder. The fact leading to the trial of the Appellant was that, the Appellant together with his brothers, had a misunderstanding with the deceased and his brothers. The misunderstanding was reported to the police but then it generated into a fight wherein the Appellant, his younger brother and one Edemoses were alleged to have stabbed the deceased to death. The trial Court, after considering the evidence before it, found the two accused persons guilty as charged but only convicted the Appellant for the offence of murder and sentenced him to death. On appeal to the Court of Appeal Benin Division, the Appellant’s appeal was dismissed by the lower Court. Further aggrieved, the Appellant has appealed to the Supreme Court.
Issue for Determination
Whether the lower Court’s affirmation of the trial Court’s decision that the charge of murder was proved against the Appellant beyond reasonable doubt was predicated on perverse findings of fact and liable to be quashed.
INGREDIENTS OF MURDER- INGREDIENTS TO BE PROVED IN CHARGE OF MURDER
‘‘Those ingredients to be proved in charge of murder are thus:-
• that the victim died;
• that the death of the deceased resulted from the act (s) of the accused person or persons; and
• that the act of the accused was intended or done with the knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was the probable consequence.
I am fortified by the following authorities, namely;
• Akinfe V. State (1988) 3 NWLR (pt. 85) 729.
• Oneh V. State (1985) 3 NWLR (pt. 12) 236.
• Oguonze V. State (1998) 5 NWLR (pt. 557) 51; and
• State V. Mabaruji (2002) 2 CLRN 107.
Perhaps, it is apt to stress here, that the above listed elements or ingredients must co-exist and where one of them is missing or tainted with some doubt (s) then the charge is not proved. See Ochaemmuaye V. State (supra)’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
STANDARD OF PROOF- DUTY OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT THAT THE ACT OF THE ACCUSED PERSON LED TO THE DEATH OF THE DECEASED
‘‘However, in murder cases, it is not enough for the prosecution to simply prove that a human being died or that death of a human being was caused. It is more than that. The prosecution is required also to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that it was the act of the accused, in this case the appellant, that had actually caused the death of the latter. This is because if there is the possibility showing that the deceased died from cause (s) other than the act of the accused, then the prosecution has not established the case against the accused person. I refer to:-
• Audu V. State (2003) 7 NWLR (pt.820) 576.
• Uguru V. State (2002) 9 NWLR (pt. 771) 90.
• R. V. Owe (1961) 2 SCNLR 354.
Nwokocha V. State (1949) 12 WACA 453.’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
PROOF OF CAUSE OF DEATH – THERE MUST BE A LINK IN THE ACT OF THE ACCUSED PERSON AND THE CAUSE OF DEATH OF THE DECEASED IN PROVING CAUSE OF DEATH.
‘‘It is trite and also settled law, that whenever it is alleged that death has resulted from the act of a person, a causal link between the death and the act of the accused/appellant must be established and proved beyond reasonable doubt too, that it was the act of the accused/appellant that caused the death of the victim. See Sowemimo V. State (2004) LEN 414 at 415 paragraph P. U. see also Oforlete V. The State(2003) FWLR (pt. 12) 208 at 269 RE-F. And where there is any intervening factor as could create some doubts on the actual cause of the death of the deceased, such doubts created must be resolved in favour of the accused/appellant. See Oforlete V. State (supra).’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
CONVICTION ON MURDER – THE GRAVITY OF ACT DETERMINES WHETHER A CONVICTION IS EITHER MURDER OR MANSLAUGHTER.
‘‘It is always the gravity of the act/assault (say on vital part of the body) that could lead to conviction of either murder or manslaughter’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
PROOF OF MURDER – IN PROVING A CHARGE OF MURDER, THE ACT OF THE ACCUSED PERSON MUST BE ESTABLISHED TO HAVE LED TO THE DEATH OF THE DECEASED
‘‘To establish a charge of murder it must not only be proved that the act of the accused/person could have caused or led to the death, but that it actually did. See the case of R. V. Williams Oledima, 6 WACA 202’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
PROOF OF COMMON INTENSION – COMMON INTENSION CAN BE INFERRED FROM SURROUNDING CIRCUMSTANCES DISCLOSED IN A GIVEN CASE.
“I am not un-mindful of the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible to prove common intension. However, I feel its existence can be inferred from the surrounding circumstances disclosed in a given case. See Nwokurala v State, supra.”PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
CONTRADICTION – WHEN CAN CONTRADICTION ARISE?
‘‘A contradiction can only arise where an earlier remark or statement was made later..’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
CONTRADICTION IN THE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESS – NATURE OF CONTRADICTION IN THE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESS THAT WILL WARRANT THE REJECTION OF SUCH EVIDENCE
‘‘I must emphasize here again, my noble lords that it is not every discrepancy or contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that would lead to the rejection of such evidence. It must be shown that the alleged contradictions or inconsistencies are so material and are adequate enough to cause doubts in the case of the prosecution. Onugogu Vs. State (1974) 1 All NLR (pt.ll) 5, Namsoh V. State (1993)5 NWLR (pt.244) 642 at 649, Effia V State (1999)8 NWLR (Pt.613)l.’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
COMMON INTENSION – THE EXISTENCE OF COMMON INTENSION AMONG SEVERAL PARTICIPANTS IN A CRIME IS ENOUGH TO PROVE THAT THEY ALL PARTICIPATED IN THE COMMISSION OF THE CRIME.
‘‘Where common intention, among several participants in a crime is established against those who are jointly charged of committing such crime, it is enough to prove that they all participated in the crime. What each did in furtherance of the commission of the crime is immaterial. The mere fact of the existence of the common intention manifesting in the execution of the common object in enough to render each of the members of the group of the accused persons guilty of the offence by virtue of the provisions of Section 7 of the criminal code Act’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
AIDING AND ABETTING – IMPORT OF SECTION 7 (C) OF CRIMINAL CODE
‘‘By the provision of Section 7 (C) of criminal code, every person who aids another in the commission of an offence is deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and could be charged with the actual offence. See the following:
• The State V. Ededey (1972) 1 SC. 140,
• Iyaro Vs. State Supra,
• Enwoenye V. The Queen (1955) 15 WACA 1 at 3
• Akran V. I.G.P. (1960)5 FSC3,
R V. Akpunonu (1942) 8 WACA 107’’ PER. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, J.S.C
Statutes Referred to
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