Jacob Olorunmeyitoku V. The State (1976) LLJR-SC

Jacob Olorunmeyitoku V. The State (1976)

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The appellant was convicted in the High Court of the former Western State, sitting at Ado-Ekiti, on a charge of murder of Oloruntoba Suberu contrary to Section 254(2) and punishable under Section 257(1) of the Criminal Code of that State and was sentenced to death on 31st December, 1974.

His appeal against that conviction in the Western State Court of Appeal was dismissed on 17th October, 1975. He further appealed against that conviction to this court. We dismissed his appeal and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 20th May, 1976. We now state our reasons for dismissing the appeal.    

The case for the prosecution at the trial was that, with intent to do him grievous harm, the appellant had caused the death of the deceased by striking him with an axe-handle on the head. The incident took place at Ajamatu Camp where the appellant and the deceased had settled. Three eye-witnesses testified for the prosecution.

Their evidence in substance is as follows: That on 19th July, 1973, at the Camp there was exchange of abuses between the appellant and the deceased which ultimately resulted in a fight between them and during which they inflicted human bites on one another’s shoulder. They were separated by the prosecution witnesses and immediately thereafter the appellant picked a cutlass and attempted to strike the deceased with it. Idowu Bakare (P.W.3) disarmed the appellant and at the same time the appellant’s wife (P.W.7) led the appellant from the scene of the fight towards their hut.

As the deceased was proceeding towards his hut, the appellant picked an axe-handle, which was admitted at the trial as Exhibit B, and made a sudden attack from behind on the deceased by striking him with the axe-handle on the back of the head. The deceased fell down on the spot unconscious and bled from the nose and mouth. Having realised the consequence of his action, the appellant threw down the axe-handle and ran into his hut where he self-inflicted some injury on his fore-head.    The deceased was conveyed to Ikare General Hospital where he died shortly after admission. He did not recover consciousness until his death.

Dr. Hussein Ali E1 Boarey (P.W.1) was of the opinion that death was caused by compression due to inter-cranial bleeding which could have been caused by a knock on the head of the victim with a heavy object such as a stick or by the victim knocking his head against a hard object like a wall.

He further testified that he had examined the appellant, who was brought to the doctor by the police, and had found contused wound on the fore-head of the appellant. He said the wound on the appellant could have been self-inflicted or inflicted upon him by another person.    After he had been arrested, the appellant made a voluntary statement to the police, which was admitted at the trial as Exhibit 1, wherein he stated, inter alia:   “There, Toba started to abuse me and called me a beggar, and a thief, and also moved to where I sat down and started to beat me. This made me to stand up and fought with him. Asunmola, (m) Ojo (m) Toba’s wife, Sunmola’s wife, Idowu (m) and Jimoh all joined hands and started to fight with me.

This happened in the presence of Omolanke, (f) Aduke (f) and Arubu (f) and they separated us. But before we were separated Toba had hit me on the fore-head and blood started gushing out. After settling this matter I went to my house, when I had enough rest, I took a stick and hit Toba (the deceased) on the head because he himself hit me on the head. This also happened in the presence of the persons I mentioned and the people who separated us. Immediately I hit Toba on his fore- head, I fainted, and Toba also fainted whereby the people near us sympathised with us and started to blow air into our ears. There was no any misunderstanding between Toba and myself or anybody else till this one happened. I later came to police to report that myself and Toba fought.”    

In his evidence at the trial, the appellant denied having made the statement, Exhibit A1. His defence in substance is that the deceased provoked him into a fight which many Igbira and Oka people joined on the side of the deceased and against the appellant; that it was during that commotion that someone probably hit the deceased on the head by mistake after the deceased had knocked the appellant down and was on top of him; that he sustained injury on his forehead and back during the fight which incapacitated him from moving away from the scene until his wife, D.W.1, carried him away to his hut.

The wife confirmed the evidence of the appellant and added that it was Barikisu Oloruntoba (P.W.7) who was the wife of the deceased, that picked the axe-handle, Exhibit B, aimed it at the appellant, while her husband was on top of the appellant, but the weapon met the deceased on the head. She, (P.W.7), also hit the appellant on the forehead.    In his well considered and thorough judgment, the learned trial judge accepted the evidence adduced by the prosecution and rejected the defence of the appellant and the evidence of the appellant’s wife. He found that the deceased died as the result of compression due to inter-cranial bleeding caused by the application of a heavy object such as a stick on the head of the deceased; that the appellant inflicted the injury causing the death of the deceased by hitting him on the head with the axe-handle Exhibit B; that the appellant inflicted the injury on his fore-head by himself and that he made the statement, Exhibit A1, voluntarily and it was his statement.    

The learned trial judge then proceeded to consider the defence of provocation which the counsel for the appellant at the trial had urged the trial court to hold in favour of the appellant. The learned trial judge made a painstaking consideration of the evidence in its entirety and applied it to the test as to what constitute provocation in law as stated in Chun Chuen v. The Queen (1962) 3WLR 1461 and came to the conclusion that the plea of provocation is not available to the appellant.    

On the issue of intent to do the deceased grievous harm, the trial jduge held the view that by striking the deceased on the head with the heavy stick as Exhibit B with such force as to produce the result described by the doctor, it is reasonable to infer that the appellant had intended to cause grievous harm to the deceased from the presumption of law that a person intends the natural and probable consequence of his act.He accordingly convicted and sentenced the appellant.    

At the hearing of the appeal in this court, both the counsel for the appellant and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ondo State, who represented the respondent, had nothing to urge in favour of the appellant.

The appellant by himself had filed 12 grounds of appeal in this court. We have examined these grounds carefully and we are satisfied that they all relate to issues of facts. We are in complete agreement with the view of the Western State Court of Appeal that the evidence against the appellant is so overwhelming that it leaves no room for any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the appellant.

The trial judge carefully considered the defence of provocation and, quite rightly in our view, came to the conclusion that there is no evidence to sustain the defence of provocation.  We accordingly dismissed the appeal.

Other Citation: (1976) LCN/2300(SC)

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