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CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE MUST BE IRRITABLE

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The ascription of these injuries to the application of a stick, which was not produced, the size of which was not testified to or ascertained, and which was not acknowledged by the doctor P.W.1 as capable of causing the injuries is a serious misapplication of facts and miscarriage of justice. The chain of evidence necessary to lead irresistibly to the guilt of the appellant is not complete in this case. It may well be helpful to remind ourselves what circumstantial evidence is – Circumstantial evidence is as good as, sometimes better than any other sort of evidence, and what is meant by it is that there is a number of circumstances which are accepted so as to make a complete unbroken chain of evidence. If that is established to the satisfaction of the jury, they may well and properly act upon such circumstantial evidence.

— Obaseki, JSC. Adie v. State (1980) – SC24/1978

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CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE MUST BE CAPABLE OF PROVING A PROPOSITION WITH THE ACCURACY OF MATHEMATICS

Speaking of circumstantial evidence, Lord Heward, CJ, said, inter alia: “… but circumstantial evidence is very often the best. It is evidence of surrounding circumstances which, by undesigned coincidence is capable of proving a proposition with the accuracy of mathematics. It is no derogation of evidence to say that it is circumstantial.” See R v. Taylor & Ors (1928) 21 CAR 20 at 21.

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CIRCUMSTANTIAL PIECE OF EVIDENCE MUST BE COGENT, COMPLETE, UNEQUIVOCAL

Pius Nweke v. The State (2001) 84 LRCN 482 at 506, was held: “To secure a conviction in a criminal trial, circumstantial piece or pieces of evidence must be cogent, complete and unequivocal. Such evidence must be too compelling and must lead to the irresistible conclusion that the accused and no one else committed the crime. Indeed, the facts must be incompatible with the innocence of the accused and incapable of explanation upon any other hypothesis than that of his guilt.” See the decision of this Court in Joseph Lori v. The State (1990) 8-11 SC 86 at 87. See also Iyaro v. The State (1988) 1 NWLR (pt.69) 256; Mbenu v. The State (1988) 3 NWLR (pt. 84) 615 at 630; Ukorah v. The State (supra); Adie v. The State (1990) 1-2 SC 11 at 22.

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CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE THAT IS CAPABLE OF TWO INTERPRETATIONS CANNOT BE RELIED UPON

Oguntade, JSC while allowing the appeal in Cyriacus Ogidi v. State Ors. (2005) LPELR-2303 (A) (SC); (2005) 5 NWLR (Pt. 918) 286 Estated at page 30 as follows: “In the State v. Muhtari Kura (1975) 2 SC 83 and 89, this court decided that when circumstantial evidence is capable of two possible interpretations, one against and the other in favour of the accused then in that circumstance, there has been no proof beyond reasonable doubt. Circumstantial evidence to support a conviction in a criminal trial, especially murder must be cogent, complete and unequivocal. It must be compelling and must let lead to the irresistible conclusion that the prisoner and no one else is the murderer. The facts must be incompatible with innocence of the accused and incapable of explanation upon any other reasonable hypothesis than that of his guilt. Per Humphrey, J. in R. v. Taylor & 2 Ors. 21 Cr. App. 20.”

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CERTAINTY IS REQUIRED TO CONVICT ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

In Majekodunmi v. The Queen 14 W.A.C.A. 64. Foster-Sutton P. (as he then was), dealing with circumstantial evidence stated at p.69 In view of the conflict and discrepancies in the evidence of the prosecution can it be said that the case against the appellant was proved with that certainty which is necessary in order to justify a verdict of guilty? …… Moreoever we are not satisfied that the only inference that can be drawn from the evidence given at the trial is one of guilt……. See also Spiff v. Commissioner of Police 19 N.L.R. 81 and the views of this Court in Stephen Ukorah v. The State (1977) 4S.C. 167 at pp.176 et seq, and Udo Akpan Essien v. The State (1966) N.M.L.R. 229

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CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE REQUIRES PRECISION OF MATHEMATICS

It is true that there are cases in which circumstantial evidence may be the best evidence when it is capable of proving a proposition with the precision of mathematics but I am afraid this is not the case here. An inference of the guilt of the accused cannot be drawn from mere coincidences and suspicions as the learned trial Judge has done in this case. It is my view that the evidence in this case is very inadequate to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant was guilty of the offence of murder.

– OMOBONIKE IGE, J.C.A. Etumionu v. AG Delta State (1994)

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CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE MUST BE NARROWLY EXAMINED

In R v. Teper (1952) AC 480 at 489, it was held: “Circumstantial evidence may sometimes be conclusive, but it must always be narrowly examined, if only because evidence of this kind may be fabricated to cast suspicion on another… It is also necessary before drawing the inference of the accused guilt from circumstantial evidence to be sure that there are no other co-existing circumstances which would weaken or destroy the inference.”

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