Maryan Sanda, who was convicted by the High Court of the Federal capital territory and sentenced to death by hanging for stabbing her husband to death, has appealed the judgement of the Court. The trial court had found her guilty and convicted her for stabbing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, a real estate developer to death at their Abuja residence in 2017.
Sanda filed a 20-ground of appeal before the Court of Appeal in Abuja through her counsels, led by Rickey Tarfa, SAN where she accused the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, of miscarriage of justice, having been tainted by bias and prejudice.
According to her, Justice Halilu failed to grant her the right to fair hearing in the determination of her case by refusing to rule on her preliminary objection which she filed to challenge the validity of the charge preferred against her on March 19, 2018.
She argued that “the honourable trial judge erred in law when having taken arguments on the appellant’s preliminary objection to the validity of the charge on the 19th of March, 2018 failed to rule on it at the conclusion of the trial or at any other time.
“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.”
She further argued that the trial judge relied on circumstantial evidence when he arrived at his conviction and sentencing despite the failure of the prosecution to present a good case.
According to her, the prosecution failed to present a confessional statement, the murder weapon, no autopsy report to determine the true cause of her husband’s death and the evidence of two prosecution witnesses lacked corroboration.
Some of the grounds of appeal which she relied on also argued that the trial judge failed to restrict himself to the evidence presented by the prosecution when assumed the position of the “investigating police officer” rather than relying on whatever evidence presented to him by the prosecution.
In her appeal she said;
“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) as contained in Page 76 of his judgment”.
“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 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 her 5th ground of appeal, Sanda argued that the trial judge misdirected himself when he also arrived at his judgement by applying the doctrine of last seen without any evidence portraying the fact that Sanda was the last person seen with the deceased before he died.
“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”,
“The trial judge erred in law and misdirected himself on the facts when he applied the doctrine of last seen and held at pages 82 – 83 of his judgment 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.”
“There is no evidence before the trial judge that the defendant was the last person who saw the deceased alive” since “PW2 (Prosecution Witness 2), 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.”
Maryam Sanda then prayed the appellate court to set aside the conviction and sentence of the trial court and acquit her of the charge.