September 20, 2020

Supreme Court delivers ruling on mandatory death sentence

The Supreme Court of Kenya has delivered a verdict on section 204 of the penal code which prescribes a mandatory death sentence for murder.

The highest court in the land, however, indicated on Thursday (14/12/2017) the ruling does not affect the validity of the death sentence under the Constitution.

“The mandatory nature of the death sentence as provided under section 204 of the penal code is hereby declared unconstitutional. For the avoidance of doubt, this order does not disturb the validity of the death sentence as contemplated under article 26(3) of our Constitution,” reads a section of the verdict.

The judgment will be presented to the National Assembly for legislation on what constitutes a life sentence and any other any necessary amendments to the law.

“The Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and other relevant agencies shall prepare a detailed professional review in the context of this Judgment and Order made with a view to setting up a framework to deal with sentence re-hearing cases similar to that of the petitioners herein,” reads the judgement.

The ruling was issued in a case in which two death row convicts, Francis Muruatetu and Wilson Mwangi, who have been behind bars for 14 years asked the court to scrap the mandatory death penalty.

The convicts were sent back to the High Court for fresh sentencing.

The two were convicted in 2003 by High Court judge Msagha Mbogholi alongside five others — including Elizabeth Gitiri Gachanja, the wife of former Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja — for the murder of businessman Lawrence Magondu.

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and judges Njoki Ndungu and Jackton Ojwang’ delivered the verdict.

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