Death row inmates fight for freedom

Sunday May 26 2019

DEATH ROW

Inmates on death row want to secure their freedom, arguing that they are rehabilitated and ready to contribute to the economy dutifully. ILLUSTRATION | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOSEPH WANGUI
By JOSEPH WANGUI
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Inmates on death row have filed petitions seeking to regain their freedom, bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision to declare mandatory death sentence unconstitutional.

Most of the petitioners, sent to the hangman after being found guilty of robbery with violence and murder, have been behind bars for more than a decade.

They argue that though they will not be hanged, the sentence puts their lives on hold.

The country also has no serving hangman. Besides, the death sentence was commuted to life by the President.

The inmates have filed the petitions after exhausting the criminal appeal process against the judgments rendered on their cases.

One of the petitioners is Mr Peter Hiuhu Gachau, 45, who was jailed at the age of 24 years for robbery with violence.

MURDER

He was found guilty of killing a teacher, Mr Charles Mwariri Wachira, during a robbery on January 13, 1999. He committed the offence alongside another convict named Simon Njoroge Wairimu.

The two, while armed with daggers and rungus, attacked the deceased and robbed him of a jacket, a pair of Wellington boots and Sh60. Later, the body of the teacher was recovered from Honi River.

Mr Gachau is now seeking to be released on grounds that the period served is enough punishment and he has learnt vocational courses such as carpentry that will help him earn a decent living upon release.

While saying he committed the offence out of greed and lack of knowledge, Mr Gachau vowed to never engage in crime.

“I have exhausted avenues to secure freedom. All avenues have been unsuccessful,” he told Nyeri Principal Magistrate Harrison Adika.

REHABILITATION

But the prosecution opposed the petition, bringing to the attention of the court that Mr Gachau has a pending murder case at the high court.

“His character and record are still wanting. The sentence imposed on him was not just a formality but to help him reform. The sentence is also supposed to deter further commission of offences. But he has not fully embraced values of rehabilitation,” the prosecution stated.

In the murder case, Mr Gachau is said to have killed a fellow prisoner, an Administration Police officer Shem Mugendi, using a hammer on August 17, 2015 at the prison facility.

He is said to have committed the offence following disagreements on how to share Sh27,000 they had collected from unsuspecting members of the public through mobile money transfers.

But the inmate explained that in the pending murder case he was fixed by prison warders whom he claimed sacrificed him following the death of his cell-mate.

FAMILY

In another petition, Mr Kiama Macharia, 40, says he was jailed at the age of 26 over attempted robbery with violence.

He was sentenced to death in 2005 at the age of 26, leaving behind a wife and three children.

While urging the court to consider the time suffered as enough punishment, Mr Macharia insisted that he is not a threat to the community neither is his life endangered. He committed the offence away from his home village.

The prosecution did not oppose his petition saying his records are clean.

In the case, Mr Macharia had claimed he was carjacked by robbers and dumped in a coffee plantation. He said robbers broke his leg as they forced him to enter into the boot of the car they were reversing.

The incident is said to have taken place on November 21, 2005 at Kianduma village in Nyeri.

ROBBERIES

In the same village, a Mr Peter Macharia had been wounded and robbed of Sh15,000, and in the same vicinity a second robbery against Ms Margaret Wanjiru took place.

Ms Wanjiru and her daughter Lydia Njeri Maina picked the inmate as one of the robbers during a police identification parade.

Fifty-eight-year-old Samuel Waithaka was sentenced in 2000 over robbery with violence.

He also wants freedom on grounds that he has learnt upholstery and perfected his craft.