➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
CHUKWU v. STATE (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.747/2018
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, February 12, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Proof beyond reasonable doubt;
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ BURDEN TO PROVE INSANITY
The law is settled that the burden of proof of insanity lies on the accused person. In NDU v THE STATE 1990 LPELR-1975 SC this Court held as follows: The law is that the burden of proving insanity rests on the accused person. Of course the burden of proof which he has to discharge is a light one. It is a proof by a preponderance of evidence or on a balance of probability. The defense of insanity is a plea which must be positively put forward by way of defence and evidence should be adduced in support. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
⦿ WHAT IS REQUIRED TO PROVE INSANITY
In order to succeed in a plea of insanity, the Appellant must before the trial Court, prove on the balance of probability that as at the time of committing the offence, he lacked the capacity to; 1. Understand what he was doing 2. Control his actions 3. Know that he ought not to act or make the omission See BABANGIDA JOHN v THE STATE (2012) 7 NWLR (PT 1299) 336. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
⦿ WHEN A CASE IS SAID TO BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
It must however, be emphasized that the burden of proof of the guilt of an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution in criminal cases should not be taken to mean that the prosecution must sustain its case beyond every shadow of doubt. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including the administration of justice. Thus, once the Prosecution has been able to prove that an offence has been committed and that no person other than the accused committed the offence, the prosecution is said to have established its case beyond reasonable doubt. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
⦿ ACCUSED CAN BE CONVICTED ON HIS CONFESSION
The law is trite that an accused person can be convicted solely on his confession if the confession is positive and direct in the admission of the offence charged. In other words, voluntary confession of guilt whether judicial or extra judicial, if it is direct and positive is sufficient proof of the guilt and is enough to sustain a conviction, so long as the Court is satisfied with the truth of such a confession. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND THE CONVICTION OF AN ACCUSED
It is now axiomatic that a confessional statement can ground the conviction of an accused person provided that it is direct and positive. It is therefore no longer debatable that a man may be convicted on his confessional statement alone which is voluntary, free, positive, so long as the Court is satisfied of its truth. Such a confession would constitute proof of guilt of the maker and suffices as evidence upon which to ground or sustain his conviction. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
⦿ WHERE APPEAL COURT MAY INTERFERE IN THE DECISION OF THE LOWER COURT
Once an appellate Court finds that the conclusion reached by a lower Court is correct, it has no duty to interfere. Thus, the duty of an appellate Court to interfere will arise only where the finding, conclusion and/or decision of the lower Court is wrong and/or perverse. In law, a finding or conclusion of a Court is said to be perverse when such finding does not flow from the proved evidence or was arrived at wrongly or was anchored on extraneous matters. In all such circumstances, an appellate Court will interfere to set it aside and make appropriate finding as justified and borne out by the evidence in the printed record of appeal. – Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Abdu Aboki, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
– B.C. Uzuegbu.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
– I. I. Alobu (D.P.P.) Ministry of Justice, Ebonyi State.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The facts leading to this appeal are, that prior to the 31st day of August 2009, the deceased and the Appellant had some sort of misunderstanding which resulted in the deceased always calling the Appellant derogatory names at every given opportunity. On a fateful day, the Appellant went into the bush to defecate wherein he was accosted by the deceased who again rained derogatory words on him. The Appellant later saw her at the river bathing and he pushed her into the river where she was later found dead.
The Prosecution in proof of its case called in a sole witness who was the Investigating Police Officer and tendered ten (10) exhibits. The Appellant entered defense and testified in his defence.
After the close of evidence, parties filed their respective final addresses and the learned trial judge on the 30th day of June 2014 at pages 62 – 81 of the Record convicted the Appellant and sentenced him to death by hanging.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial High Court, the Appellant immediately appealed to the Court below via a three ground undated Notice of Appeal which is contained at pages 82 – 84 of the Record. Appeal was dismissed.
This is a further appeal.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether at the time of the death of the deceased, the appellant was not suffering from a state of mind bothering on insanity.
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. The only evidence of insanity is the information given to PW1 during investigation by the Appellant’s father. The Appellant did not call his father or any other witness to testify to his alleged insanity. The evidence of PW1 that the Appellant’s father said so is hearsay and is inadmissible by virtue of SECTIONS 37 and 38 of the EVIDENCE ACT 2011 to prove that the Appellant was/is insane.
I.B. The behavior of the Appellant before and after killing the deceased does not suggest even remotely that he was insane. What was revealed from his evidence is that the killing of the deceased was premeditated and out of pure malice as rightly held by the Court below. The evidence before the Court shows that he was fully conscious and he knew what he was doing at the time he killed the deceased.
II. Whether the Court below was right when it affirmed the decision of the trial Court that the prosecution proved the evidence of murder beyond reasonable doubt against the appellant through cogent and credible evidence required by law.
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
II.A. In this appeal under consideration, it is my view that the most proximate event to the death of the deceased is being thrown into the river which resulted in her being drowned. Whether there was strangulation or not before being thrown into the river is immaterial and I hold the view that the Respondent has led cogent evidence in proof thereof.
II.B. I have had a thorough scrutiny of the evidence (both oral and documentary), adduced at the trial. In my view, all the evidence undoubtedly disclose that the Appellant pushed the deceased into the river, which led to her being drowned. The Appellant admitted that he pushed her into the river, which according to his oral testimony, was high in volume in the month of August and at the peak of the rainy season, when expectedly, the volume of the river would be very high. It seems to me that the only rational inference that can be drawn from the acts of the Appellant by virtue of the uncontradicted and unchallenged oral and documentary evidence adduced at the trial, is that the acts of the Appellant which caused the death of the deceased, were intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was the natural and probable consequence.
III.C. I find this decision of the Court below infallible and I agree wholly with them. The position of the law is that where there is evidence to support the concurrent findings of the two lower Courts, they will not be disturbed unless they are shown to be perverse, or a miscarriage of justice or violation of principles of law or procedure is shown on the Record. It is also settled that the onus lies on the Appellant to give good reasons why this Court should interfere with the concurrent findings of the two lower Courts.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ INSANITY IS PROVED ON THE BALANCE OF PROBABILITY
In ANI V THE STATE (2002) 10 NWLR PT 776 644, this Court had this to say; The burden on the accused to prove his insanity, however is merely as in civil cases that is to say on the balance of probability or the preponderance of evidence.
⦿ GUIDING PRINCIPLES IN ESTABLISHING INSANITY
In NWOYE IGWEZE ONYEKWE v. THE STATE (1988) LPELR 2732 (SC), this Court detailed some of the guiding principles in establishing insanity viz: 1. Evidence as to the past history of the accused. 2. Evidence as to his conduct immediately preceding the killing of the deceased. 3. Evidence from Prison Warders who had custody of the accused and looked after him during his trial. 4. Evidence from Medical Officers and/or Psychiatrists who examined the accused. 5. Evidence of relatives about the general behaviour of the accused and the reputation he enjoyed for sanity or insanity in his neighbourhood. 6. Evidence showing that insanity appears in the family history of the accused. See also UDOFIA v. STATE (1988) LPELR 3305 (SC).
⦿ RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS STILL ADMISSIBLE
In ASIMI V. STATE (2016) LPELR – 40436 (SC), this Court per Rhodes Vivour JSC at Pp 14-15, para E-C stated succinctly thus: 22 “Once, an extra-judicial confession has been proved as in this case to have been made voluntarily and it is positive and unequivocal, amounting to an admission of guilt (such as the appellant’s confessional statement, Exhibit P6) a Court can convict on it even if the appellant retracted or resiled from it at trial. Such an afterthought does not make the confession inadmissible. It is desirable but not mandatory that there is general corroboration of the important incidents and not that retracted confession should be corroborated in each material particular.”
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)