Maryam Sanda appeals death sentence

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Maryam Sanda

Maryam Sanda, the wife, sentenced to death for killing her husband, Bilyaminu Bello, has asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to void the judgment by an Abuja High Court.

In her appeal, the convict claimed that the trial judge was tainted by bias and prejudices leading to her denial of the right to a fair hearing and consequent conviction.

Maryam Sanda averred that the conviction was based on circumstantial evidence despite the reasonable doubt created by evidence of witnesses, lack of confessional statement, absence of murder weapon, lack of corroboration of testimony by two witnesses and lack of autopsy report.

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In her 20 grounds appeal filed by her counsel Rickey Tarfa (SAN), Maryam Sanda pointed out the alleged failure of the judge to rule on her preliminary objection challenging the charge preferred against her and the jurisdiction of the court.

“The trial judge erred in law when having taken arguments on her preliminary objection to the validity of the charge on the 19th of March, 2018 failed to rule on it after the trial or at any other time,” she said.

Sanda claimed he “exhibited bias against the defendant in not ruling one way or the other on the said motion challenging his jurisdiction to entertain the charge” and fundamentally breached the right to a fair hearing of the defendant.

In-ground 2, the appellant contended that the trial judge erred and misdirected himself by usurping the role of the police when he assumed the duty of an Investigating Police Officer (IPO).

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In the said page, Justice Halilu had said: “I wish to state that I have a duty thrust upon me to investigate and discover what will satisfy the interest and demands of justice.”

The appellant submitted that the wrongful assumption of the role of an IPO made “the trial judge fail to restrict himself to the evidence adduced before the court” and instead went fishing for evidence outside those that were brought before the court.

She stated that while “the duty of investigation is the constitutional preserve of the police, “the constitutional duty of a trial court is to assess the credible evidence before it and reach a decision based on its assessment.”

The convict argued that “the court’s usurpation of the duty of the police by taking it upon itself to investigate and discover, negatively coloured its assessment of the available evidence and resulted in it reaching an unjust decision contrary to the evidence before it.”

In-ground 5, Sanda claimed that “the trial judge erred in law and misdirected himself on the facts when he applied the doctrine of last seen and held that the appellant was the person last seen with the deceased and thus bears the full responsibility for the death of the dead, and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice.

“There is no evidence before the trial judge that the defendant was the last person who saw the deceased alive”.

She added that the statement of Sadiya Aminu, tendered before the trial court (who was initially charged as 4th defendant in the amended charge) also confirmed that the deceased was alive though injured when she saw him.

“The circumstantial evidence which the trial court relied upon in its application of the last seen doctrine does not lead to the conclusion that the defendant is responsible for the death of the deceased”, Sanda’s lawyer argued.

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