Two murder convicts who first successfully challenged the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence have been saved after the High Court reduced their sentences.
Lady Justice Grace Ngenye quashed the death sentence handed to Francis Mwangi Muruatetu and Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi and their five co-accused, who were also sentenced to hang for the brutal murder of businessman Lawrence Githinji Magondu.
Justice Ngenye ruled that although Magondu was murdered in the most horrific manner, the death penalty did not meet the end of justice and replaced the sentence with jail terms of between 20 and 50 years, which means one of the convicts will walk free after being in jail for 19 years.
“The murder of the deceased [sic] person was most foul. It was utter grief which his family has not been able to overcome. It is the reason why the punishment must be proportionate to what each accused person contributed towards his death,” ruled Ngenye.
Mwangi and his sister Annah Ngonyo will suffer the most as the judge resentenced them to 50 years in jail each, ruling that they bore the heaviest burden as the key people who executed the plan to kill Magondu.
According to the judge, Mwangi was the henchman who coordinated and recruited the murderers while Ngonyo was the one who lured Magondu to his death trap on February 4, 2000, inside a thicket in Kitengela.
“The two were the architects of the murder and although they are remorseful, they must get the heaviest penalty considering that the family of the deceased is still hurting and suffers trauma any time the case is mentioned,” ruled Ngenye.
Muruatetu and his sister Rose Njoki were resentenced to 35 and 30 years respectively, with Justice Ngenye ruling that they are the ones who initiated the plan to kill Magondu and paid Mwangi to execute the murder.
David Karuya Njuguna and Stephen Njoki whose role was to kidnap the victim were handed 40 and 30 years respectively, while Stephen Wambua got the least sentence of 20 years after the judge found his role was only to dupe the businessman's driver.
Lady Justice Ngenye ruled that the sentences will take effect from the time the seven were arrested on February 10, 2000.
Magondu, a renowned city land dealer, was murdered in cold blood on February 4, 2000 in a dispute that involved former Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja and his wife Elizabeth Gitiri, who were also charged with the murder but were later acquitted.
According to the prosecution, the plan to eliminate Magondu started on January 17, 2000, when he received a call from two people seeking to buy his land.
On the fateful day, Magondu received a call from the two land buyers requesting that they meet to finalise the deal after the caller identified himself as Wilson Mwangi.
The businessman, accompanied by his driver Harrison King’ori, drove to the appointed meeting place and they were joined by the buyers who included Mwangi, his sister Ngonyo, and three men who were introduced as workers.
After they inspected the land, they all left in two cars and headed towards Maasai Ostrich Farm.
Magondu drove away with Mwangi and the woman while King’ori was to carry the three men said to be workers.
King’ori later learnt that one of his three passengers had switched to the other car carrying his employer and when he asked what was happening, the two men ordered him to take them to a butchery.
After a few minutes at the butchery, the other car zoomed past and stopped a short distance away. The man who had left King’ori’s car came and asked him to follow Mwangi’s car, saying it was on Magondu's instructions.
King’ori followed the speeding car, but as they neared Portland village, he noticed that Magondu was not in the vehicle. When he asked, the men ordered him to shut up and as they approached Nairobi National Park, he was pulled out, attacked, and left for dead. A passerby rescued him.
That evening, Magondu’s body was found at Kitengela, his hands tied with a sisal rope and deep wounds on the forehead.
After their sentence, Muruatetu and Mwangi moved to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence. The judges agreed that the death sentence should not be the only punishment for capital offenders.
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