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(2018) LPELR-45053(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Friday, the 13th day of July, 2018


Before Their Lordships

HELEN MORONKEJI OGUNWUMIJU Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

IGNATIUS IGWE AGUBE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

JOSEPH TINE TUR Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


OGBONNA OKEKE - Appellant(s)


THE STATE - Respondent(s)

Other Citations

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This appeal borders on Criminal Law and Procedure.
This is an appeal against the judgment of the High Court of Ebonyi State, delivered by Hon. Justice I.P. Chima on 12th May, 2017 wherein the learned trial Judge convicted the Appellant for the offence of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging.

The Appellant was brought before the High Court of Ebonyi State for trial in charge No HSK/15C/2014 on a one count charge of murder, and the trial commenced on the 27th day of January, 2017. In proof of its case the Prosecution (Respondent of Appeal) called the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) as PW1 and three documents were tendered through him.  The Defendant (Appellant on appeal) also testified as DW1. The Prosecution claimed that Ori Okeke, the Appellant's mother, had died and it was the Appellant that killed her. The Prosecution claimed that the Appellant made a confessional statement to the Police where he admitted to have killed the deceased out of uncontrollable anger by stabbing her severally with a kitchen knife. The Appellant on the contrary, claimed he was not at home on the said day his mother died. He stated on oath that he went to the farm, and on his way back he heard some noise at the back of the house and on getting there to verify what happened, some boys pounced on him claiming that he killed his mother who was already lying dead on the floor. 

Upon the conclusion of evidence in the case, parties filed their respective final written addresses as ordered by the Court and the case was adjourned to 12th of May 2017 for Judgment. On the adjourned date, that was the 12th of May, 2017, the  Court could not find in the record that the Appellant took his plea in the charge even though the Appellant insisted he had taken his plea and the Court clerk also insisted that the charge had been read to the Appellant and he duly took his plea. The learned trial Judge was not satisfied and decided to take the plea of the Appellant again at that point. The charge was read to the then accused and he pleaded Not Guilty. The High Court immediately after the Appellant re-took his plea delivered judgment, found the Appellant guilty and accordingly sentenced him to death. 

Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court determined the appeal on the Appellant's first issue couched as follows:

"Whether the trial Court having failed to read the charge to the appellant and the appellant not taking his plea before the trial commenced did not amount to a breach of his fundamental right of fair hearing."

On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The decision of the High Court was therefore set aside. It was ordered that the case file be sent back to the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State for retrial before another Judge.

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