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Driver sentenced to death in Lagos’ first virtual court sitting

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An Ikeja High Court in Lagos yesterday sentenced a driver, Olalekan Hameed, to death by hanging for the December 1, 2018 murder of Mrs. Jolasun Okunsanya, 76, the mother of his employer, Adetayo. Justice Mojisola Dada delivered the judgment in the Lagos State Judiciary’s maiden virtual court session.

The proceedings were approved by the Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, in line with the Lagos State Judiciary Remote Hearing of Cases COVID-19 Pandemic Period Practice Direction. The court session for the charge marked ID/9006C/2019, held online via a mobile app, Zoom. It began at 11:00a.m. and ended before 2:00p.m.

The judge, defendant, his team of counsel, the prosecution team led by Lagos State Solicitor-General, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey and all witnesses participated in the session remotely from different locations via the Zoom app.

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Hameed was arraigned on March 6, 2019 on a two-count charge of murder and stealing. The court heard that he committed the offence at about 12:30p.m. at plot 83, Owukori Crescent, Alaka Estate, Surulere, Lagos. He pleaded not guilty, following which trial commenced.

The prosecution called several witnesses and tendered exhibits including the coroner’s report, stolen N97,500 and $117 recovered from the defendant and a confessional statement, among others. “The only money I took was N1,000, any other money I don’t know about it. I did not kill Mrs Jolaso Ogunsanya,” Hakeem told the judge during the trial.

But Justice Dada noted that the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies that Hakeem was the only one with the deceased at the time of death and he was also seen scaling the fence of the deceased’s building afterwards, among others, were not disproved.

She said: “It is an established fact that although the defendant went to the house of the crime to steal, the surprise of the deceased stumbling upon him led him to not just push the deceased, but actually strangulate her in a bid to keep her from crying out. The case is clear. I have not found any contradiction with the evidence of the prosecution witness that can be deemed material or weighty enough to cast any doubt on the case of the prosecution against the defendant in this case. The defendant is hereby found guilty of this count two of murder and is hereby convicted as charged and accordingly sentenced to death.

“The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you be pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court.”

Top members of the judiciary and Ministry of Justice also participated in the proceedings virtually. Justice Dada conducted proceedings from High Court 10 in Ikeja, the defendant Hameed was at Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre, Apapa while the counsels were at different locations. Prison officials and select members of the press also participated remotely.

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