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CAN THE COURT CONVICT FOR MURDER IN THE ABSENCE OF A DEAD BODY (CORPUS DELICTI)?

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CASE TITLE: STATE v. AHMED (2020) LPELR-49497(SC)

JUDGMENT DATE: 24TH JANUARY, 2020

PRACTICE AREA: CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE

LEAD JUDGE: OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

INTRODUCTION

This appeal borders on Criminal Law and Procedure.

FACTS

This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division delivered on 17th day of March 2016 wherein the appeal by the respondent was allowed and the judgment of the trial court, which convicted and sentenced the respondent, was set aside. The respondent was accordingly acquitted and discharged.

Ishiaku Abdulrazaq (PW 1), a barber was in his barbing shop sometime in December 2009 when the Respondent) came to his shop to barb his hair. The Respondent then informed PW 1 of an event that was disturbing his conscience. He then told PW 1 that he had fought with someone by the riverside of old water dam and that he had stabbed the boy with his knife. The Respondent) admitted that he knew the boy and PW 1 agreed to follow him to the family of the boy he stabbed, to take him to the hospital for treatment, but the Respondent refused and left the shop that day. However, sometime in January 2010, PW 1 was arrested by the members of the vigilante group in connection with an alleged stolen electricity generating set which was given to him to keep. In the course of his interrogation, he was asked if he knew the Respondent, who had told them that he had been one of those who killed the deceased. He later led the vigilante men to arrest the Respondent who later told them that he alone stabbed the deceased. The Respondent was arrested and handed over to the police who obtained his statement. PW2 was one Sergeant Usman Abubakar with Force No.20055, then serving at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Minna. He was detailed to obtain the Respondent’s statement which was tendered and admitted without objection and was marked Exhibit 1. PW3 was one Suleiman Badaru, the Secretary of Suleja Emirate Civil Security Corps. He was in their office when a case was reported of someone who was killed by the riverside. He had gone with the office camera and took pictures of the Corpse when he and some policemen visited the scene. The pictures he had taken were admitted without objection and were marked as Exhibits 2B and 2C respectively.

The respondent was arraigned in the High Court of Niger State, sitting at Suleja and he was charged with the offence of culpable homicide, contrary to Section 221 of the Penal Code. Upon the reading of the charge, the Respondent pleaded not guilty and the case proceeded to trial. The prosecution called three (3) witnesses – PW1, PW2 and PW3 to prove its case, while the respondent testified in defence but called no other witness. The case of the respondent before the trial Court was a total denial of the knowledge of the deceased. He denied knowing the deceased or ever making any statement to the police on the death of the deceased. He however, admitted the signature on the statement to be his own. In a reserved judgment, the trial Court found the Respondent guilty as charged. He was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

Being dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court, the Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal upon three grounds of appeal. In its unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal found in favour of the respondent his appeal was allowed. He was accordingly acquitted and discharged. The State (Appellant) felt dissatisfied and appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The Supreme Court determined the appeal on a sole issue as follows:

“Whether the prosecution proved its case against the respondent beyond reasonable doubt.”

DECISION/HELD

In the final analysis, the Supreme Court held that the appeal succeeds and it was allowed. The judgment of the trial court which convicted the respondent and sentenced him to death was restored and the judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside. The respondent’s acquittal and discharge order were reversed.

RATIOS:

  • CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- OFFENCE OF CULPABLE HOMICIDE PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH: Ingredients the prosecution must prove to establish the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death; effect of failure to prove same
  • CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- GUILT OF AN ACCUSED PERSON: How to establish/prove the guilt of an accused person
  • CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- OFFENCE OF MURDER: Whether the Court can convict for murder in the absence of a corpus delicti (dead body)
  • CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- CONVICTION: When can the Court convict an accused person
  • CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- OFFENCE OF CULPABLE HOMICIDE PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH: Ingredients the prosecution must prove to establish the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death
  • EVIDENCE- CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT: Whether a court can convict solely on the confessional statement of an accused person
  • EVIDENCE- PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT: Meaning of proof beyond reasonable doubt
  • EVIDENCE- CONTRADICTION IN EVIDENCE: Nature of contradiction in evidence that would be fatal to a case or vitiate the decision of a trial Court
  • EVIDENCE- CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT: Meaning of confession/confessional statement
  • EVIDENCE- PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT: How the burden on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt may be discharged
  • EVIDENCE- CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT: Whether a court can convict solely on the confessional statement of an accused person
  • EVIDENCE- CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT: Whether a court can convict solely on the confessional statement of an accused person
  • WORDS AND PHRASES- “HOMICIDE” “CULPABLE HOMICIDE”: Meaning of “homicide” and “culpable homicide”
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lawpavilion • April 22, 2020


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  1. Ahmad Aminu Bua May 29, 2020 - 2:56 am Reply

    This is a wonderful opportunity

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