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R. v. YEBOAH


  • appeal
  • 1959-12-04
  • COURT OF APPEAL
  • GLR 434-436
  • Print

KORSAH C.J., VAN LARE J.A. AND GRANVILLE SHARP J.A.


Summary

Murder?-Defence of insanity?-Hysterical amnesia is not a defence.

Headnotes

Kwame Yeboah killed his mother (aged 45-50 years) by five cuts with a cutlass, one of which passed through the ribs and injured the heart. He was arrested and charged with murder. The defence was insanity.In his statement to the Police he said:?"About ten months ago I became sick. I was unable to see properly, and some people said it was nervousness. I was sent to a certain Medicine-Man near Takyiman ... About two or three weeks ago I was discharged, as I felt quite all right. When I was about to leave the Medicine-Man informed me that he had given me a medicine to protect myself, and that my brother had come to collect it. I asked my brother the whereabouts of this medicine, and he refused to give it to me. He said that some people, including his brother and himself, had sold me at a price of 3d. Since my return home from Takyiman, whatever I say to my people they say I am mad, and that I should not be listened to."After describing how and why he became annoyed with his mother, he said:"She annoyed me, and when I got annoyed I did not realise anything more until I learned at the Police Station that I have killed my mother with a cutlass, then I know that I have done bad and I ask for forgiveness."In his evidence at his trial before Adumoa-Bossman J. he said that the sickness which attacked him was such that he did not know what he was doing, or where he was. After coming home from Takyiman he found his sickness return, and on the day of the killing "the whole of my mind was confused." He described the incidents that upset him, including the loss of a letter. "I went back to the room and searched for the letter, but could not find it. Thereafter, I do not know how I managed to get out of the room, and I did not know what had happened till next morning at Kibi Police Station, when I was shown this cutlass and was told what had happened."Neither side asked the Police officers who gave evidence any question about the accused's manner or condition on arrest, or during the first 24 hours of his detention; and neither side adduced any medical evidence as to the accused's state of mind, though a Constable gave evidence that the accused had been taken to Dr. Forster, the Psychiatrist Specialist, who gave the Constable a report. The brother and daughter of the woman whom the accused had killed denied the existence of any mental abnormality in him.Kwame Yeboah was convicted of murder. He appealed to the Court of Appeal (Crim. App. 108/1959). That Court, in dismissing the appeal, recommended a reprieve. [p.435]

Judgement

JUDGMENT OF GRANVILLE SHARP J. A.

The appellant in this case was convicted before Adumua-Bossman J., sitting with a jury, of the murder of his mother at Asiakwa in the Eastern Region on the 11th January, 1959. On the evidence there could be no doubt that the appellant caused the death of his mother by stabbing her with a knife, after there had been between him and the mother some trivial dispute as to money, as to a missing letter and as to the appellant's desire to travel to Jasikan, to which his mother would not consent.

The only defence that could be (or was) set up by learned Counsel for the appellant was that he was insane at the time he committed the offence. There was, in our opinion, insufficient evidence to establish this in law. No medical evidence was called and the case for the appellant rested on no more than a suggestion by the appellant that he had been under medical treatment for a considerable time before his return to his mother's house, which was about a week before he killed her, and that his illness at that time had been a mental illness. He was not supported in this by members of his family who gave evidence for the prosecution. His uncle said that the illness consisted of "pains all over the body", and although it might be said that this could include pains in the head it cannot be said, upon such a conjecture, that it in any legal sense supported a plea of insanity.

The case for the prosecution was pointedly put by learned Counsel to the appellant in a question as follows:- ?"You were annoyed because your mother did not provide you with the money you asked for?"

In answer to the appellant, in effect, put the whole essence of his defence. He said "My answer is that it was sickness; because even if my mother had annoyed me, it's not a cutlass or a knife with [p.436] which I should attack her." Earlier in his evidence he had said that on the morning in question his whole mind was confused, and that after his mother had said she did not want him to return to Jasikan, and later denied any knowledge of a letter for which he was searching, and in which his wife had said she no longer wished to continue in marriage with him, he remembered no more as to what happened until he was told at Kibi Police Station on the following day.

The suggestion of hysterical amnesia does not provide a defence, however, and cannot be said in law to support a plea of insanity (see the case of R. v. Podola ( [1960] I Q.B. 325)).

Upon a full consideration of the recorded evidence, however, we formed the opinion that the frenzy into which the appellant was thrown by grievances that were undoubtedly of a trivial nature may well have resulted from, and possibly were the aftermath of, some nine months of illness which had rendered him prone to "lose his head" even to the point of attacking his mother. We could not find in all this any defence in law, and we therefore dismissed the appeal. We felt however, that in all the circumstances the facts are so much in mitigation of the offence of murder as to justify our recommending for consideration a reprieve from sentence of death.

Decision

Appeal dismissed.

Plaintiff / Appellant

Swaniker

Defendant / Respondent

Glasgow

Referals

R. v. Podola ([1960] 1 Q.B. 325).
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