May 3, 2012, 1:23 PM
Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul had ordered one Anna Jatta, convicted for murder, to be confined at the Tanka Tanka Mental Home.
The court further ordered that she shall be confined with access to her family and under proper medication at the expense of the state, until the pleasure of the President is known.
“I order that a copy of this judgment be forthwith forwarded to the Honourable Minister of Health by the Principal Registrar of the court,” said the judge.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Nkea stated that the convict, Anna Jatta, was indicted with murder, and the particulars of offence stated that on 10 March 2012, at Sanyang village in the West Coast Region, the accused caused the death of her newly-born child by brutally cutting off its head.
The accused denied the charge, and the prosecution called one witness and tendered eight exhibits in support of the indictment, while the accused gave sworn evidence and called one witness in support of her defence.
He said the facts of the case are that on 7 March 2012, the accused who was a known psychiatric patient gave birth to a baby boy at their family home in Sanyang.
“On 10 March 2012, when the accused was left at home unattended with the baby, she brutally cut off the head of the baby. After she beheaded the child, she held the head in her hands and was running all about the village,” he said.
She was arrested and taken to the police station at Sanyang where statements were recorded from her. These statements were in evidence as exhibits, said the judge.
She was later sent to police headquarters in Banjul where further statements were recorded from her, and these statements were received in evidence as exhibits, he added.
“Suspecting that the accused was mentally sick, she was sent for psychiatric assessment at the Tanka Tanka Home, where she was held for 3 months whereupon a comprehensive medical report was issued of her mental condition, and the report was in the exhibits,” he stated.
He said she was further assessed on 12 March 2013, and declared fit to plead, and the assessed report was in exhibit, the outpatient card of the accused was in evidence as an exhibit, as well as the death certificate of the baby.
Upon the evidence of exhibit “B”, which indicated that the accused was now in a temporary state of lucidity, the court proceeded with her trial, he indicated.
He said in her evidence before the court, the accused said it could not be true that she killed her own baby as she was never pregnant, adding that the accused wept profusely when the charge was read over to her.
Her sister who testified as DW2 said that at the time the family discovered that the accused was pregnant, she was mentally sick and continued in that state until when she gave birth to the deceased baby. She testified that the accused had given birth before in similar circumstance but the baby was taken from her after two months, he stated.
“There is no dispute that the accused unlawfully killed the deceased baby by cutting off its head. The manner in which the deceased baby was killed left no doubt that grievous bodily harm or death would be the probable outcome,” stated the judge.
Ordinarily, he went on, the case of murder was made out, but the only issue that has arisen for determination was whether the accused person could be held criminally responsible for the murder taking into consideration the apparent defence of insanity.
To rely on insanity as a defence in criminal proceedings, the defence must prove on the balance of probabilities that at the time of committing the offence, the accused was suffering under a defect of reason from a disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act; she did not know what she was doing was wrong.
Whether the accused was insane in the legal sense at the time she decapitated the three-day-old baby was a question of fact to be determined by the court, and this was dependent upon the previous and contemporaneous acts of the accused, and not solely by medical evidence, he added.
“There is unchallenged and compelling evidence of previous insane delusional disposition of the accused. There is also strong and compelling circumstantial evidence of the contemporaneous acts of the accused in support of this fact. For example, when she beheaded the baby, she held the head in her hands and ran all about the village. This is obviously not the conduct of a sound-minded person; it is clearly an insane delusional disposition,” he said.
He said the unchallenged evidence that she was mentally sick when she got pregnant makes it reasonable for the court to believe her when she told the court that she did not know that she was pregnant, but also suggests that some ungodly man must have ravished her in that state of madness.
He said the evidence given in exhibit “A” does not only confirm that the accused was a mental patient, suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia” but also portrays a total blackout or cut out of the mental functioning of her-self at the material point in time when the heinous crime was committed.
“The conclusion I reach on this is that the accused was insane at the time she committed the offence, and this I shall hold as a fact,” he added.
“I now enter this special verdict of guilty but insane against the accused person, Anna Jatta,” he said.
“Since the accused has demonstrated such violent insane disposition, I am of the view that she constitutes a danger to the general public when in the state of insanity,” he added.
“I order that the accused be confined at the Tanka Tanka Mental Home, and she shall be confined with access to her family and under proper medication at the expense of the state until the pleasure of the President is known,” the judge declared.