Convicted murderer of Bilyaminu Bello, cousin of former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Bello, Maryam Sanda has prayed the Court of Appeal in Abuja to reverse her conviction and the death sentence handed to her.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama had, in a judgment on January 27 this year, convicted Sanda for murdering her husband by stabbing him to death, and proceeded to sentence her to death by hanging, a decision she has now appealed at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
In a notice of appeal she filed, Sanda claimed that the trial judge (Justice Haliru) was tainted by bias and prejudices leading to her denial of right to fair hearing and consequent conviction.
Sanda, in the court document filed by her lawyer, Rickey Tarfa (SAN), argued that her 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 evidence by two witnesses and lack of autopsy report to determine the true cause of her husband’s death.
In her 20-ground notice of appeal, Sanda is equally contending among others, that the judgment of the trial court was completely “a miscarriage of justice.”
She argued that the the trial judge’s failure to rule her preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the charge brought against her by the police and the court’s jurisdiction were evidence of bias and a denial of her right to fair hearing as constitutionally guaranteed.
The convict argued that “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 at the conclusion of trial or at any other time.
She stated: “the trial judge 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 “therefore fundamentally breached the right to fair hearing of the defendant.”
In one of the grounds, Sanda argued 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).
She noted that Justice Halilu, in a page of the judgment, 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 convict 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 insisted 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.”
Sanda 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 another ground, she argued 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 deceased, and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice.”
She argued that “there is no evidence before the trial judge that the defendant was the last person who saw the deceased alive” since prosecution witness in his evidence before the trial judge stated that he was called by the deceased, he saw the deceased and asked the deceased what was the problem.”
Sanda added that the statement of Sadiya Aminu, which was 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.
She averred that “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.”