Trial by jury: Sanity cannot be ‘switched on and off’, prosecution contends

Trial by jury: Sanity cannot be ‘switched on and off’, prosecution contends

trial by jury sanity cannot be switched on and off prosecution contends - Trial by jury: Sanity cannot be ‘switched on and off’, prosecution contends

Prosecutors are presenting their closing arguments to a jury impanelled to decide whether Michael Emmanuel was insane when he strangled the mother of his children in 2018.

Emmanuel stands accused of the murder of his partner, Maria Lourdes Agius, a mother of seven, who was found strangled inside their apartment in September last year.

The jury is to decide on whether or not the accused was legally insane at the time of the murder on 15 September 2018. A verdict of insanity would render him inculpable at law and unable to stand trial for murder – although in that event, he would likely be confined to a psychiatric hospital for the foreseeable future.

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Prosecutor Matthew Xuereb from the Office of the Attorney General addressed the jurors this morning. The defence had accepted that Michael Emmanuel was not insane before or after the crime, he said, but were alleging that for minutes he was insane, “like it was something he could switch on and off.”

Emmanuel had told police that he simply had pressed a cross on the woman’s neck in a superstitious act and that she had died unexpectedly, but yesterday, jurors heard forensic expert Dr. Mario Scerri explain that the man had clearly strangled his victim after delivering a number of blows to her head.


Not only did he have capacity of forming an intention but of forming criminal intent, Xuereb said this morning. The prosecution have suggested that Emmanuel may have been motivated by the fact that Agius had told him that one of the children he thought was his, was actually fathered by another man.

“We believe that all evidence concludes that Michael Emmanuel was sane at the time of the offence,” Xuereb said.

He picked on the fact that the accused had gone to the police station to report that his wife was not waking up, instead of calling an ambulance or going to the nearby Paola Health Centre.

“If you wake up in the morning and find your partner unresponsive, would you go to a police station or a health centre, both being equidistant as was the case here? As if the police ever woke people up!

“With the same effort Emmanuel had put in going to the police station, he could have gone to the Paola Health Centre. This shows that the guilty mind started operating legally from the outset.

“He was so sane legally in his mind that the first thing he thought of was responsibility.”

Emmanuel, whose father is a pastor in Africa, had been assessed by two psychiatrists after being taken into police custody and had told them that he had been given signs from God.

But in Emmanuel’s first statement he had denied any fantastic episodes, Xuereb pointed out. When the man was questioned again the next day, he started lying, said the prosecutor. “In the second statement he blames her.”  

“Dr. Mario Scerri said that no mark compatible with the cross was found on her neck. If the defence have rested their case that the accused was under an honest belief that Maria Lourdes Agius asked him to kill her with the cross, how come we found blows to the head, blunt trauma and the cross undamaged?”

After the prosecution wrap up their final submissions, the defence will begin theirs, after which the judge will address the jury, who will then retire to deliberate. This process is expected to take at least another 24 hours.

Lawyers Charles Mercieca and Matthew Xuereb from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting. Emmanuel is being defended by legal aid lawyers Marc Sant and Dustin Camilleri.
Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera is presiding.

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