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RESOLVE DOUBT IN ACCUSED FAVOUR

Dictum

There is no doubt whatsoever that from the conflicting evidence adduced by the prosecution as to how the deceased was killed, strong doubt had been raised from the evidence which the law requires to be resolved in favour of the appellant.

— M. Mohammed, JSC. Udosen v State (2007) – SC.199/2005

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WHAT REASONABLE DOUBT MEANS IN CRIMINAL TRIAL

The term “Reasonable doubt” has not been defined in the definitions Section 2 of the Act, but its connotation has received many definitions from judicial authorities. For instance, the very famous and erudite Denning, J (later M.R.) in the case of MILLER V. MINISTER OF PENSIONS (1947) 2 ALL E.R. 372 said that- “It need not reach certainly, but it must carry a high degree of probability. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt.” The term is therefore of common law origin and was incorporated in our law of evidence.
In the case of BAKARE V. STATE (1987) 579 @ 587, our own version of Denning, J and equally erudite and eloquent OPUTA, JSC put the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt thus:- “Proof beyond reasonable doubt stems out of the competing presumption of innocence inherent in our adversary system of criminal justice. To displace the presumption, the evidence of the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond the shadow of doubt that the person accused is guilty of the offence charged. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including administration of criminal justice. Proof beyond reasonable doubt means what it says. It does not admit of plausible and fanciful possibilities but it does admit of a high degree of cogency consistent with an equally high degree of probabilities.”

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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WHEN A CASE IS SAID TO BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

It must however, be emphasized that the burden of proof of the guilt of an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution in criminal cases should not be taken to mean that the prosecution must sustain its case beyond every shadow of doubt. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including the administration of justice. Thus, once the Prosecution has been able to prove that an offence has been committed and that no person other than the accused committed the offence, the prosecution is said to have established its case beyond reasonable doubt.

– Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)

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BURDEN ON PROSECUTION – STANDARD OF PROOF IS REASONABLE DOUBT

The standard of proof required in a murder case as in all criminal cases is proof beyond reasonable doubt. The onus of proof is on the prosecution and not on the defence. It is after the prosecution has produced necessary evidence to establish its case that the burden shifts unto the defence if he has any contradicting evidence to call his own witness to establish such evidence.

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

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GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IS THE BASIC

The basic necessity before a verdict of guilty in a criminal charge can be pronounced is that the jury are satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.

– Nnamani JSC. Lori v. State (1980)

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PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Dibie v. The State (2007) LPELR 941 (SC) said thus: “Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond every shadow of doubt. Once the proof drowns the presumption of innocence of the accused, the Court is entitled to convict him, although there exist shadows of doubt. The moment the proof by prosecution renders the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused useless and pins him down as the owner of the mens rea or actus rea or both, the prosecution has discharged the burden placed on it by Section 138(3) of the Evidence Act”.

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EXPLANATION OF PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Lord Denning explained proof beyond reasonable doubt in Miller v Minister of Pensions (1947) 2 ALL ER p.372 and this explanation was adopted by this Court in Lori & Anor v State (1979-1981) 12 NSC p.269 and in innumerable decisions of this Court. His Lordship said: “Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of doubt. The law would fail to protect the community if it admitted of fanciful possibilities to deflect the course of justice. If the evidence is so strong against a man as to leave only a remote possibility in his favour which can be dismissed with the sentence of course it is possible but not in the least probable the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt but nothing short of that will suffice.”

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Nwankwoala v FRN (2018) – SC.783/2015

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