By Bruce Asemota
The Supreme Court of The Gambia, on Thursday affirmed the conviction of murder and death sentence passed by the Gambia Court of Appeal on one Terrick Bright.
Delivering this judgment Justice Gibou Semega Janneh disclosed that the convict, Terrick Bright was charged with the offence of murder but the High Court convicted him of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
The state was dissatisfied with the conviction and on 13th April 2011 filed a notice of appeal to the Gambia Court of Appeal.
Justice Semega Janneh further disclosed that in a well thought out and written judgment the Court of Appeal zeroed in on the vital issue of whether Mr. Bright had the requisite intent of murder at the time Miss Bah was killed.
Justice Semega Janneh further asserted that the Court of Appeal, after a thorough analysis of the evidence and law relevant to this essential ingredient of the offence of murder, found Mr. Bright guilty of murder and consequently set aside the conviction of manslaughter.
Justice Semega Janneh revealed that Mr. Bright was not happy with the decision of the Court of Appeal and appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Judge further stated that the High Court judge, in the judgment of 7th April 2011, made a detailed analysis of the evidence and application of the law and the trial judge concluded that Mr. Bright caused the death of Miss Bah and that the killing was unlawful.
Justice Semega Janneh then disclosed that at the trial, the trial judge found that the essential elements that constitute the offence of murder were established except that of the element of intent to cause the death of the deceased which is phrased in the definition of murder as “malice aforethought” in section 187 whilst the offence of manslaughter for which the trial court convicted Mr. Bright is defined under section 186 of the Criminal Code.
Justice Semega Janneh pointed out that the relevant part of the definition of manslaughter is the wording “A person who by an unlawful act … causes the death of another person commits the felony termed manslaughter.”
He stated that a significant difference in the definitions of murder and manslaughter is the absence of “malice aforethought” or “intention” to cause the death of another in the definition of manslaughter but which is a requisite element in the offence of murder.
Justice Semega Janneh further stated that the first act of Mr. Bright in striking at Miss Bah (deceased) may have been induced by the statement of Miss Bah that a certain classmate of Mr. Bright was ten times better than Mr. Bright.
Justice Janneh said this act may have been a sudden re-action to the statement adding that the situation is definitely different in respect of the act of the cellotaping her mouth and nose.
The Supreme Court Judge indicated that Mr. Bright as a reasonable adult had or ought to have had the foresight that his action of cellotaping both the mouth and nose would cause the death of Miss Bah.
Justice Janneh further indicated that the first act of striking Miss Bah (deceased) with his bangled hand was not the cause of death adding that the cause of death was deep asphyxia due to airway obstruction citing the Medical Report Exhibit “R”.
Justice Janneh said the statement attributed to Miss Bah (deceased) can amount, in the circumstances, to provocation which is defined by section 192 of the criminal code.
Justice Semega Janneh indicated that the trial judge’s conviction of Mr. Bright of the offence of manslaughter was not premised on the partial defence of provocation but on the basis of insufficiency of evidence of intent to ground a conviction of murder.
Justice Janneh explained that the Court of Appeal was right to intervene and substitute the manslaughter conviction with that of murder.
Justice Gibou Semega Janneh disclosed that the Court of Appeal was right to “interfere with the findings” of the trial court and accordingly affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal in convicting Mr. Bright of the offence of murder and sentencing him to death – a mandatory sentence.