Convicted General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, a.k.a Rev. King, yesterday pleaded with the Court of Appeal, Lagos to quash the death sentence passed on him by Justice Joseph Oyewole of an Ikeja High Court, five years ago.
Ezeugo was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on January 11, 2007 , for the alleged murder of a church member, Ann Uzoh. He was arraigned on September 26, 2006 on a six-count charge of attempted murder and murder.
At the hearing of his appeal, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, who handled his brief, while adopting his written address as well as his reply brief, urged the court to set aside the judgment of the trial court.
Lagos State government, represented by Solicitor-General, Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, as respondent also adopted its written address.
The state, however, urged the court to uphold Justice Oyewole’s verdict. “We urge your Lordships to dismiss this appeal,” Pedro said.
He said the Evidence Act permits the expulsion of inadmissible evidence, adding that the fact counsel did not address the court did not matter, as the judge was the master of the evidence before him.
Pedro said there was enough corroborating evidence, both written and oral, upon which the conviction was secured.
During the trial, the prosecution had argued that the convict poured petrol on the diseased, Uzor and five others. Uzoh died August 2, 2006 , 11 days after the incident.
In his brief, Ezeugo, through his counsel, had prayed the appeal court in his notice of appeal dated January 16, 2007 to set aside the judgment, based on16 grounds of appeal, while the Appeal Court granted him leave to argue additional 16 grounds of appeal through an amended notice of appeal filed on June 15, 2008 .
According to Ojo, he said Ezeugo did not commit the crime and was not at the scene, arguing that the deceased, Uzoh had in two statements made after the incident and before her death, stated that she got burnt in a generator accident and that the cleric was not responsible for her injuries.
Ojo said the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, had tendered statements which stated that Ezeugo was not responsible for the burns which led to Uzoh’s death, but they were not admitted in evidence.
The lawyer said had those “vital exhibits” been admitted rather than expunged by the trial judge, they would have operated to cast serious doubt on the case of the prosecution.”
He added that Justice Oyewole’s refusal to admit the exhibits in evidence “occasioned a great miscarriage of justice.”