How a night of merriment turned into death sentence
Posted Saturday, October 15 2011 at 22:30
The two young murder convicts looked supremely indifferent and oblivious of all that was going on around them: one played with a black pen and the other blankly stared into space, precisely the white ceiling of the court.
Yet the stakes could not have been higher for them. The setting was the Milimani law courts and the occasion was the sentencing of Alexander Chepkonga and former policeman Dickson Munene who had been found guilty of the 2009 murder of Dr James Muiruri, the son of former Gatundu North MP Patrick Muiruri. (READ: Two sentenced to death for murder)
They were the reason that the Milimani commercial court number 18 had been filled to capacity last Wednesday.
Friends and relatives of all involved conversed in low tones creating a low hum of perhaps 200 people gathered in the tiny court room.
The two convicts seemed lost in their own thoughts. Chepkonga, dressed in a stripped white shirt and a black sweater, played with a black biro pen and occasionally chatted with his sister, Vicky, who stood beside him throughout the ruling.
Munene, dressed in a white shirt and a black blazer sat pensively lost in a gaze upwards. He made little conversation.
A prison warder leaned across him, idly tapping the wooden finishing of the dock in which the two were held.
The question was not whether they were guilty or not; that had been decided by trial judge Mohammed Warsame exactly a week before.
The life and death question in the minds of those gathered was what kind of a sentence Justice Warsame was going to mete out to the two.
Seated in the front row of the court room, behind the lawyers, was the father of the deceased, Mr Muiruri, holding hands with his wife Rachel. In the second row were the families and friends of the convicts.
They were mostly quiet. Six pastors clad in black shirts listened carefully at different places in the court room. They were from different denominations and were here on invitation of Mr Muiruri’s family to offer support.
At 2.35 p.m., Justice Warsame entered his chambers and the court fell into silence. The court orderly handed him a thick file, containing the details of the case and the sentence he had just written by hand.
Journalists trained their cameras on him. For the next 12 minutes in which he read his sentence, those present hang on to every word that came from his mouth.
Chepkonga looked down and continued fiddling with the black pen. His co-convict Munene stared into space, lost in his own thoughts.
For more than 10 minutes, Justice Warsame carefully laid out the grounds for the sentence he was about to make.
Soon the words everyone had been waiting for came: “Consequently, I sentence the two accused persons to suffer death as prescribed by law.”
Muted clapping arose from the front bench where the Muiruris were seated. Mrs Chepkonga stared straight at the judge betraying no emotion.
Chepkonga continued playing with his pen and Munene continued looking up indifferently.