An opinion/concept note by The Oyemaja Institute of Law.
My heart skipped a beat as I ran with the 'Blood Sisters'.
Have you seen "Blood Sisters"?
See ehn, the thing is; this article is based on the movie so you might want to see it first to have some sort of context. Also, I did give out a bit of the story line; so there is that too.
If you don't care about spoilers or if you have seen the movie already; grab your popcorn and let's proceed.
It was intriguing to see how they (Kemi and Sarah), in a split second, went from innocent drop dead gorgeous ladies to fugitives on the run after causing the death of a man; and just when it seemed like they had finally figured exactly "how to get away with murder", they were caught like a deer in headlights.
While I pondered on the story line, I found myself fascinated particularly by the theme of death and mortality. More importantly, it was intriguing how every death sparked different emotions. Even though I know for a fact that killing is morally and legally wrong, I found myself sympathizing with the girls and hoping that they escape somehow.
Funny, isn't it? The society we live in is so binary that we are so quick to put people in categories; you either killed or you didn't and the judiciary is biased if you get less punishment than what they think you deserve. No wonder the girls found themselves committing more and more crimes because they were afraid of owning up in the first place.
Thankfully, the law recognises situations that may fall short of cold blooded murder and even makes allowances for justice to be served appropriately, considering each individual circumstances.
I'm glad you asked.
Not all killings are the same. Homicide, in general, refers to the killing of one human being by another. Homicide is lawful in circumstances where it is authorized, justified or excused by law and unlawful where it is not. Unlawful homicide can be subdivided into murder, manslaughter, suicide and infanticide.
Murder and manslaughter
I like to call them the notorious duo. In fact, the killings in the movie fall into either of these two categories.
Murder is the most grievous form of homicide. It is defined in Section 316 of the Criminal Code. For an offence to be murder, there must be an intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. In other words, murder is usually the product of a deliberate and malicious act. Also, if a person intentionally does an act that would ordinarily put another in danger of suffering grievous bodily harm and such a person dies, it is still considered as murder.
One very obvious case of murder in the movie was Blade's as it easily qualifies as a product of a deliberate and malicious act. Also, while Timilehin obviously did not plan to kill Uncle B, her brother and his wife, she pulled the trigger knowing fully well that death or grievous bodily harm will be the result of her actions. Therefore, her actions check the second box.
Manslaughter, on the other hand, according to Section 317 of the Criminal Code, covers all grounds that murder does not. Unlike murder, manslaughter is usually not premeditated. Manslaughter can be subdivided into two categories; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills another in the heat of the moment, where he loses his self control because he was provoked. In other words, the killing was not pre-planned.
Involuntary manslaughter on the other hand means that a person killed another accidentally as he did not foresee death as a probable consequence of his actions.
While murder is punishable by death (Section 319 of the Criminal Code), manslaughter is punishable by life imprisonment (Section 325 of the Criminal Code).
Killing in Self Defense
Now there is something that we should note. At common law generally and in Nigeria specifically, homicide committed in self defense ( a reasonably necessary act committed to resist real and unlawful violence against him or another in his presence) is excusable (Section 32(3) of the Criminal Code). There are however a number of conditions that have to be met.
First, a person is expected to avoid trouble by retreating when he has a chance to. Secondly, the person claiming self defense must not have provoked the assault (Section 286 of the Criminal Code). I think a classic example will be the situation between Sarah and Kola as well as Kemi's intervention that resulted in Kola's death.
On the other hand, if he did provoke the assault, he must have retreated by the time that the necessity for self defense arose (Section 287 of the Criminal Code).
Remember the nosy photographer? I could easily argue that his own situation falls here. So Sarah initially attacked and then retreated. As at the time he was killed, he was the aggressor.
Now throw in a bit of African voodoo into the mix and a couple of desperate youths into the mix and then we have ritual killings. Although this also comes under murder, it is important to note that the Criminal Code criminalises the possession of human head.
Although we thankfully never got to see what the intentions of the "good" doctor were, we know he was up to no good. If I were to take a wild guess, I'll probably argue that the organs were for ritual purposes based on his methods and the viability of the organs.
This is another form of homicide. Infanticide refers to the willful killing by a woman of her child who is under 12 months old. It refers to the death of a child as a result of any act or omission after his or her birth by his mother.
In terms of punishment, infanticide is generally no different from murder or manslaughter. According to Section 307 of the Criminal Code, LFN 2004, a child becomes a human being capable of being killed when he or she proceeds out of his or her mother's womb in a living state.
If the woman was suffering from childbirth in a way that the balance of her mind was disturbed, she will be convicted for manslaughter. If this is not the case, she will be guilty of murder.
The movie, "Blood Sisters" had so many twists and turns that almost mimicked life's reality. The movie also explored important themes like domestic abuse, family relationships, homicide and substance abuse.
In the end, it is all about the sanctity of human life. The right to life is a fundamental human right that is internationally recognised. Although there are ongoing debates about when life starts and whether or not mercy killing is permissible, there is a general consensus that the right to life is to be protected at all cost.
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