Woman collapses in court after she was sentenced to death for killing her neighbor during fight

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A young Nigerian woman was Tuesday sentenced to death by Ikeja high court in Nigeria, for stabbing her neighbor, Mrs Stella Godwin, during a fight at their residence in Ajegunle, Lagos.

36-year-old Stella Gilbert stabbed the deceased on the chest and arm with a knife during a fight, according to court document.

In accordance with Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011, murder is punishable with death by hanging.

Stella Gilbert and late Mrs Stella Godwin were neighbors who live in separate one room apartments also called ‘face’me-I-face you’ at Ajegunle, Lagos

According to court papers, fighting started between the two after altercation over who should be using a seat also called ‘bench’ belonging to their former neighbor. Mrs Stella Godwin died in the process.

Gilbert told court that she acted in self-defense but Justice Raliatu Adebiyi dismissed her self defense claim and handed her a death penalty for murder according to law.

The judge held that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. She said:

The defendant in this case used a knife on the deceased; by any standard, a knife is a lethal weapon. The evidence of PW2 (Prosecution Witness 2), the cousin of PW1 (the deceased’s husband), and that of PW3, the female police officer, was that the deceased was stabbed on the chest. The coroner’s report tendered in evidence by PW4 confirmed that the deceased was stabbed on the chest. The chest is where the heart is; the defendant, by stabbing the deceased on the chest, a very fragile part of the body, clearly intended to cause the most harm to her. The death of the deceased occurred as a result of grievous injury caused by the defendant. The defendant is culpable of the offence of murder.”

The judge added:

“From the evidence, the fight took place in a room; though no evidence was given about the size of the room, it could not have been a very large room. The evidence was that the deceased and the defendant lived in a house consisting of rooms occupied by families popularly called ‘face-me-I-face-you’. It is worrisome that the level of violence, unnecessary animosity and death, which occur among our citizens as a result of living together in close proximity without sufficient personal space and boundaries, remain unabated. There is clearly a need to improve social housing and living conditions. The court hopes that this message will be conveyed to the necessary authorities through prosecutors who have the responsibility to prosecute these cases and should be able to provide vital statistics,” she urged.

Following the conviction of the Gilbert, her counsel, Mr Y. E. Yusuf, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy.

“The defendant has been in detention for six years; during that time, she lost both parents and her brother. She is in her late 30s and unmarried, she has gone through a lot. She was not harboring the intent to murder when the incident occurred. I want my lord to temper justice with mercy and refrain from giving the defendant the maximum sentence,” Yusuf urged.

The judge, however, declined and passed death sentence on Gilbert.

“The defendant, Stella Gilbert, is hereby sentenced to death. May God that grants life have mercy on your soul,” she said.

Upon hearing the sentence, Gilbert collapsed on the dock. Wailing loudly, she said:

“Please ma, temper justice with mercy, why me oh, only me…”

While still crying and pleading, Gilbert was taken of the courtroom by a mobile policeman and a prison warden to avoid disruption of proceedings in other courtrooms due to the commotion.

According to the state counsel, Mrs O. R. Ahmed-Muili, the convict murdered Godwin, mother of three, on June 22, 2013, at No. 59, Ojora St., Ajegunle, Lagos.

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