THE Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State, has responded to the queries from International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network and the family of the late Joy Adole over the postmortem report performed on the body of the deceased.
In the response addressed to human rights lawyer, and Managing Partner of ABOPE CHAMBERS, Femi Adorisade Esq., counsel to ILWA and the late Joy’s family, entitled: “Re: Petition for Another Autopsy to Determine the Cause of Death of Joy Adole,” the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, noted that his office “is aware of the content of the [postmortem] report and has issued a Legal Advice dated the 10th day of August, 2020 to that effect.”
The Attorney-General also invited Aborisade and the family the family of the deceased to a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions scheduled for September 28, 2020 by 10am for “a brief discussion in proffering a solution on this issue.”
The response, signed on behalf of the Attorney-General by Sule Yusuf Adekunle Esq., Assistant Chief State Counsel, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, contended that though postmortem examination is important in establishing cause of death, it is however not indispensable where there are other substantial evidence to prove the particular act of a defendant.
“Though, it is trite that as much as medical evidence is desirable to establish the cause of death, it is clearly not a “sine qua non” as cause of death may be established by sufficient satisfactory and conclusive evidence showing beyond reasonable doubt that the death of a deceased resulted from the particular act of a defendant. See the case of Akpa V. State (2008) 14 NWLR (pt. 1106) 72.
“Also, it is trite that the cause of death may be inferred from other evidence in the case where medical evidence is not available or has been rejected. See the case of ONWUMERE VS STATE (1991) 5 SCNJ 150,” the Attorney-General stated.
He further emphasised: “It is important to state that in as much as the Post mortem [sic] Report was inconclusive due to the non-performance of toxicology, it does not mean that toxicology cannot be perform [sic] to determine the cause of death.”
It will be recalled that Aborisade, in a petition dated 12th September 2020, addressed concurrently to the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State Commissioner of Police and the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, queried the conduct of an autopsy conducted on the body of Joy Adole and requested for another autopsy to be conducted to ascertain the actual cause of death.
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Aborisade was particularly not comfortable with the claim in the medical certificate of death which states that “the cause of death is ‘unascertained’ due to non-availability of toxicology.” He therefore the petition was a request for another autopsy to determine the cause of death of the deceased domestic worker who was suspected to have been beaten to death by her employer, one Mrs Fortune Nwankwo.
How Joy allegedly met her death
On Sunday, April 20, 2020, the Lagos State CID, Alagbon arrested and detained a couple, Mr and Mrs Stephen and Fortune Okonkwo, over the death of 19-year-old Joy.
National Record had reported that the couple went to the police station to report Joy’s death as suicide by hanging. The police however detained the couple upon suspicion of foul play after visiting the crime scene at the residence of the Okonkwos where they reportedly discovered that the suicide by hanging story appeared not convincing as the deceased’s two legs were securely on the floor and the noose, which was tied to the ceiling, barely supporting the body of the deceased.
The deceased’s uncle, one Mr Eje Philip Agwu had told National Record in a telephone that a day prior to the death of Joy Adole, her relation who facilitated her domestic job with the Okonkwos was called on phone by Mrs Fortune Okonkwo who reported that Joy was being very stubborn.
According to Mr Agwu, in the course of the telephone call, the family member overheard Mrs Okonkwo beating Joy and her husband was pleading with her wife to stop as the housemaid must have learnt her lessons.
“When on Monday Joy’s madam called our sister to tell her that Joy had died, she immediately told her she was lying, that she must have died as a result of the beating she gave her the day before,” Mr Agwu told National Record, while insisting that the family is convinced that the couple is culpable and must have stage-managed the suicide to disguise their crime.
Suspect has been remanded in prison
Mrs Nwankwo was arraigned on Wednesday, 29th April, 2020 before Senior Magistrate Ojo at Yaba Magistrates’ Court, Lagos. The then counsel to the late Joy’s family, Benjamin Ogbu, told National Record that Mrs Nwankwo was arraigned for murder by beating to death the deceased.
Senior Magistrate Ojo remanded Mrs Nwankwo at the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service and adjourned the matter to Monday, June 1, 2020 for advice from the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).