Complex partial seizure, disruptive behaviours and the Nigerian Legal System

  • Aishatu Y. Armiya'u
  • Ayodele Obembe
  • Usman M. Umar
  • Ali I. Shugaba
  • Oloche Adole
Keywords: complex partial seizure, death row, murder, pardon.


Background: Complex partial seizure is an epileptic seizure which results in impairment of responsiveness or awareness such as altered level of consciousness. Complex partial seizures are often preceded by an aura such as depersonalization, feelings of de javu, jamais vu and fear. The ictal phase of complex partial seizure is often associated with complex activities where an individual may still be able to perform routine task such as walking, though such movements are not planned and are often purposeless. Witnesses' around may not recognize anything wrong.
Method: This is a case of a 43 year old commercial motor cycle driver, who was accused of first degree murder in the year 2000. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Prior to commission of crime, he was diagnosed with complex partial seizure with secondary generalization in 1990 at a tertiary hospital in Nigeria.
Results: During his 15 years stay on death row at a maximum security prison in Nigeria, he had several episodes of seizure and subsequently developed a depressive disorder. He was placed on medication which includes anticonvulsants and antidepressants by the Forensic Psychiatry team. With regular follow-ups and available medication, he became stable. He was pardoned by the state Governor in 2015 following a recommendation by the Forensic Psychiatry team.
Conclusion: Complex partial seizure comes with altered consciousness and  disruptive behaviour, which could result in  commission of a crime. Therefore, the strict adherence to the M'Naghten rule by the Nigerian legal system results in strict reliance by judges and not considering these rules in most cases bothering on  insanity. This is without taking into cognizance the peculiarity of each case.

Keywords: complex partial seizure, death row, murder, pardon.


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eISSN: 1596-2407