Justin Oamhen V. The State (1984) LLJR-SC

Justin Oamhen V. The State (1984)

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The appellant was convicted of the murder of his brother by the High Court of Bendel State and the Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction. The evidence accepted by the trial court shows that the appellant apparently because the brother had refused to give him some money, stabbed the brother on the neck and left side of the chest with a dagger and the brother died within 2 hours of the incident.

Although post mortem examination was done on the body, the doctor could not be traced to give evidence during the trial. There was therefore no medical evidence of the cause of death. The trial judge inferred from the evidence that the injuries inflicted by the stabs caused the death.

It is trite law that medical evidence, though desirable, is not essential in all cases of homicide. A trial court may infer the cause of death from the circumstantial evidence before it. I am satisfied that the circumstances of the case in hand warrant drawing such inference. Learned counsel for the appellant and the Deputy Solicitor-General are right for having nothing to urge in favour of the appellant at the hearing of the appeal before us.

The appeal has no merits. It is accordingly dismissed. Conviction and sentence are affirmed.

OBASEKI, J.S.C.: This is a murder appeal, the victim of the murder being the full brother (senior) of the appellant. The evidence is that the appellant stabbed the deceased Samson Oamhen in the full view of P.W.1 and others and the deceased died from the injuries within one hour of the assault.

At the trial before Aluyi, J. of the High Court of Bendel State, the defences of denial, self defence and provocation were raised. These were fully considered and rejected. P.W.1 was an eye witness whose evidence was crucial. He was believed. He saw the appellant armed with a dagger stab the deceased on the neck and chest. He went to the aid of the deceased and in the process he also received stab wounds inflicted by the appellant on his thigh. His courage did not fail him and he succeeded in disarming the appellant, wrested the dagger from him and made for the police station where he lodged his complaint and handed over the dagger.

The absence of medical evidence was not by design. The doctor who performed the post mortem examination, an expatriate, had left the service of Bendel State Health Management Board and could not be secured to testify. However, the evidence that the deceased was rushed to Zuma Memorial Hospital as a result of the injuries was on record. That he died within an hour of the infliction of the injuries was evidence on record. The learned trial judge and the Justices of the Court of Appeal in law considered all these and justifiably, in law, held that the cause of death was the act of the appellant which caused the injuries from which the life essence – blood oozed out and terminated the life of the deceased. Medical evidence in this case is not an absolute necessity.

The learned trial judge as well as the Justices of the Court of Appeal considered the defences of self defence and provocation and justifiably, in my view, rejected them. The statement of the appellant to the police did not suggest them. Neither did the evidence of the appellant in court. Indeed, the contention of the appellant appeared to be that the injuries were self inflicted although the premises was that the deceased brought out the dagger to stab the appellant for requesting financial aid to him and his mother.

I therefore agree with counsel that there is nothing that can be urged on the fateful day, namely, 26th December 1978, at Equare – Irrua, in Ubiaja Judicial Division of Bendel State, stabbed his senior brother, Samson Oamhen, to death. The facile reason he gave in his statement to the police was that he struggled with the deceased and in the course of it, a dagger which the deceased pulled out, got into the deceased’s chest by the act of the deceased. This was disbelieved, rightly in my view, by the trial Judge in the face of the credible evidence of an eye witness (Moses Maine Oria – P.w.1) who saw the appellant set upon his said brother and stabbed him. The deceased was rushed to hospital and died within the hour.

What apparently prompted the struggle was that the appellant demanded money from the senior brother by reason of his being impecunious during that season of Christmas. The deceased said he had no money to give him. The trial judge went carefully through the evidence and found no extenuating circumstances either to justify the act of the appellant or mitigate its consequences.

I find no merit in the appeal of the appellant and, accordingly, hereby dismiss it. The judgments of the courts below are hereby affirmed and the sentence of death passed on the appellant hereby confirmed.

NNAMANI, J.S.C.: The appellant callously and for some flimsy reasons stabbed his elder brother of full blood on the neck and chest. Death resulted within 1 hour of the incident. There was abundant evidence which the learned trial judge meticulously and rightly evaluated before coming to his conclusion on the appellant’s guilt. The points of law argued in favour of the appellant i.e. self defence and provocation were fully considered and rightly rejected. At the lower court, and again in the Court of Appeal, the absence of medical evidence to establish the cause of death was fully considered and all the relevant authorities reviewed. A long line of authorities have established that medial evidence though desirable is not an absolute requirement in every case. The cause of death is a matter which can be inferred from the circumstances. From the circumstances of this case, it seems to me a right inference to draw that the death of the deceased was a direct result of the act of the appellant See Kato Dan Adamu vs. Kano Native Authority (1955) 1 F.S.C. 25 which is directly in point.

I think therefore that the learned trial judge was right in convicting the appellant and the Court of Appeal, which again considered all the points of law, was right in affirming that conviction and sentence. Both learned counsel for the appellant and the State are right in their submission that there is nothing in law that can be urged in favour of the appellant. This appeal lacks substance and I would also dismiss it. It is hereby dismissed. The conviction and sentence passed on the appellant by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal are further affirmed.

UWAIS, J.S.C.: I agree with both learned counsel that there is nothing useful that can be urged in favour of the appellant. The deceased was stabbed with a knife in the neck and chest by the appellant. He (deceased) died shortly after the 35 attack. P.W.1 saw the appellant stabbing the deceased. I am satisfied that there was sufficient evidence from which the learned trial judge could infer the cause of death in the absence of medical evidence. The trial court was therefore right in convicting the appellant of murder. The Court of Appeal acted rightly in confirming the decision of the trial court. I do not therefore see any reason to interfere with the decision.

Accordingly I agree that the appeal should be dismissed and the conviction and sentence affirmed.

Appeal dismissed.


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