Dear Pro-Bono Partner,
My name is Rogers Lemu, my brother Jeremy Lemu was sentenced to death some time ago by a State High Court. Before his conviction, he was a police constable with the State Command. According to him, on that fateful day he was on duty with 3 of his colleagues along an Expressway, when his colleagues began to shoot sporadically at a car whose driver was attempting to speed past and escape the routine police check, unfortunately the driver of the car was shot dead. During the trial, one of the accused persons gave incriminating evidence against my brother. His evidence was not corroborated and my brother was convicted on that sole evidence. Now my brother faces a death sentence by hanging on the sole uncorroborated evidence of a co-accused person. We wish to appeal against the court’s decision.
I’m sorry about your brother’s conviction and sentence. I’m of the opinion that you should appeal to Court of Appeal against the decision of the trial court. Generally, the position of the law in respect of uncorroborated evidence of a co-accused person is that the court can ground a conviction upon which evidence are opposed to the evidence of an accomplice which must be corroborated. This is as provided in section 199(2) of the Evidence Act as amended.
However, in practice, courts are not inclined to convict upon the sole uncorroborated evidence of an accused person. They usually require the corroboration of another witness.
It was held in ONONUJU and the State (SC.298/2011) (UNREPORTED), the Appellant, a police officer was charged alongside five other police men for murder. The appellant was convicted and sentenced on the sole evidence of three of the co-accused persons who were curiously discharged and acquitted. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court cited the ratio in UKUT & ORS V, THE STATE (1966) NMLR 18 where it became established that even though evidence of a co-accused is not to be regarded as the evidence of an accomplice, it still requires corroboration or warning. It was held in OGUNDIPE & ORS v. QUEEN (1954) 12 WACA 458, where the court said:
“Obviously, a co-accused person is a person who has his own purpose to serve. The evidence of such a witness must be suspect and regarded with considerable caution.”
Therefore, even though the Evidence Act provides that the uncorroborated evidence of a co-accused person is sufficient alone to ground a conviction, the courts apply some measure of discretion in this principle. Their discretion tilts more to the side of corroboration.
In the light of the foregoing, I will advise that you appeal against the sentence and conviction of your brother.
Molindo Nkoyo Mary (07039020801)