EVIDENCE – MEDICAL EVIDENCE – Whether medical evidence is always essential to prove cause of death of the deceased

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“…Also, it has to be said that assuming Exhibit 6 was wrongly admitted, it would not be sufficient to have the judgment set aside as a medical report is not a sine qua non for the conviction in murder trials. Numerous judicial authorities bear that principle out and I shall cite some of them for clarity NWAOGU v STATE (2012) LPELR – 15420 CA. “It’s a well settled principle, that it’s not in all cases that an autopsy examination report is indispensable. In the case of CHUKWU VS. THE STATE (supra), this Court has, most aptly, reiterated the trite fundamental principle, thus: In a murder case, the cause of death of the deceased person is a fact in issue that must be proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. It is necessary for the prosecution to adduce direct evidence linking the cause of death of the deceased with the accused, where there is none, then medical evidence becomes a sine quo non. However, where the cause of death of the deceased is obvious, and has been proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution, medical evidence is not necessary and can thus be dispensed with by the trial Court. In other words, it is not in all murder cases that medical or autopsy reports are necessary in proving cause of death of deceased person. (under lining mine) The Supreme Court also in IDEMUDIA vs. STATE (1999) LPELR-1418 (SC) aptly captured the situation thus:- “It is now settled that medical evidence, though desirable in establishing the cause of death in a case of murder, is not always essential, where the victim dies in circumstances in which there is abundant evidence of the manner of death medical evidence can be dispensed with. There is abundant evidence from eye witnesses that the appellant shot and Killed Ngozi Okpara instantly. Medical evidence on the circumstances of her death was clearly not essential.” I agree with learned counsel for respondent in the submission that the identity of the deceased and/or corpse examined as well as the absence of murder weapon were not in issue at the lower Court. In BASIL AKPA vs. STATE (2008) LPELR-368(SC) it was also held that: “Medical evidence is not a desideration if the cause of death is clear. In the instant case, from evidence proffered in the Court, the death of the deceased was caused by the accused person and some other people, there was therefore no need to call the doctor who conducted the post-mortem examination before the accused person could be convicted… An accused person could be convicted of murder even if the body was not found, if there is enough compelling circumstantial evidence that the accused person killed the deceased. A Court could properly infer from circumstantial evidence that the death of the deceased was caused by the act of the accused without hearing medical evidence. For circumstantial evidence to support a conviction for murder was committed by the accused. In the instant case, there was sufficient evidence tying the accused person to the murder and he was therefore rightly convicted by the trial Court.” Per MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI, JSC in WOWEM v. STATE (2021-LCER-40502-SC) (Pp 51 – 54; Paras D – A)

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