Ruto decisive pen grants freedom, alters sentences for 37 convicts

Kamiti Maximum Prison, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

With a single stroke of a pen, President William Ruto pardoned 37 people who had been convicted and jailed by courts. 

The Standard on Saturday delved into the lives of the persons who were  pardoned by the president and the crimes that landed them behind bars.

In an intriguing revelation, Dr. Ruto forgave the majority of individuals who were cooling their heels in jail for murder. Meanwhile, the President also commuted death sentences handed to convicts as of November last year to life imprisonment.

“The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of the Republic of Kenya, upon the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy, commuted the death sentence imposed on every capital offender as of November 21, 2022, to a life sentence,” the notice published by Attorney General Justin Muturi read in part.

However, two weeks ago, the Court of Appeal declared life sentences to be unconstitutional.

At the same time, the court also stripped the President of his powers to determine how long those found guilty but insane should serve.

Some of those who have been freed were serving at the President’s pleasure. From the court records, some of the incidents are bizarre, while others are fit for a thriller movie or a novel.

Such is the story of Edwin Maina Thuo, who was jailed for killing his child in a deadly attack meant for his wife. At the heart of the bizarre act was a Sh50,000 dowry demand by his in-laws. During this time, Maina’s wife had just given birth and named the child after his mother.

However, he said his in-laws had given him until September 2000 to pay the amount, or else they would come for their daughter.

He went berserk. Maina got married to Grace Wangui in 1997, and the couple lived together in Nakuru county.

In her testimony, Wangui told the court that she entered the marriage with one child, and she became pregnant for Maina. On October 23, 2000, she was taken to the hospital in labour and delivered a baby girl the next day.

After being discharged from the hospital the following day, she went home to continue nursing the baby girl.

However, on the fateful day, she fell asleep from the fatigue of childbirth, only to be woken up by a sharp pain on her head and shoulders after her husband inflicted cuts on her with a panga. 

During the trial, Wangui said that she was able to break free and run outside, leaving their newborn behind.

Maina went after her, claiming that the baby was born six days after her due date, which he said was supposed to be October 18.

She hid at her neighbour’s place and was later taken to Solai Centre before she was transferred to the Nakuru District Hospital, where she was admitted for a week.

Edwin Maina Thuo was jailed for killing his child in a deadly attack meant for his wife. [iStockphoto]

When she was discharged from the hospital, Wangui was informed that her child had been killed. A prosecution witness said that Maina not only attacked his wife, but he also attacked three other people who were responding to Wangui’s pleas for help.

Maina’s brother, Joseph Kariuki Thuo, said when he visited him in the hospital, his brother did not seem to know what he had done. A doctor who examined Maina was of the opinion that he suffered from schizophrenia.

When put to his defense, Maina said that on the day his wife went into labor, two people had been sent to collect her dowry on behalf of Wangui’s father, and they had a quarrel which led to him attacking his wife.

The other person pardoned by the president is David Maina Irungu. His story revolves around a rabbit meat meal. What was supposed to be an easy afternoon after enjoying rabbit meat ended tragically for Irungu Kariuki Ngoru. Ngoru was a close friend of Irungu.

Ngoru and his two other friends, Francis Maina Migwi, and Nicholas Mwai Kihoru, contributed some money on June 27, 2002, and bought a rabbit.

They then decided to go and have the meal at Ngoru’s place.

After having the meal, the three friends decided to go rest outside the house, and that is when Irungu and another friend visited the trio.

While the friend joined the three men, Irungu decided to help Ngoru’s grandmother split firewood.

Ngoru got him the axe and showed him where the firewood was, and Irungu began the activity. As he split the firewood, the four men cautioned him to move further from them, and that is when he swung the axe in their direction, threatening to kill them.

Irungu swung the axe again, and that is when he struck Ngoru, killing him.

The other friend ran, calling for help, and reported the matter at the Karuthi Chief’s camp.

When Irungu was arrested, Dr. Abraham Gatangi examined him and concluded that Irungu was experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations.

Justice Hannah Okwengu found him guilty of the offense on June 5, 2006, and it was noted that he was insane and was to be remanded at Kamiti Prison.

Meanwhile, Wafula Wamukota was also freed. A police officer attached to the Mwingi Police Station on the night of June 2, 2007, picked up his G3 rifle from a house he was sharing with his colleague.

He shot and killed Thomas Kimilu, his wife Margaret Nthambi Kivuva, and their two daughters, Felista Ndulu Kimilu and Benendeta Ndile Kimilu, who were all living with him at the house. Police officers who testified in court said that they heard gunshots at night, and after a closer examination of the location, they found out that it was from within the camp.

G3 rifle. [File, Standard]

When they broke into Kimilu’s house, they found out that their colleague and his two daughters had been fatally shot. However, his wife Nthambi was still alive.

She told the officers that Wamukota, who was still in the house at the time, had shot them.

He had an injury on his neck and was taken to Mwingi District Hospital. After he was discharged, he was arrested and charged.

Dr. Catherine Syengo, who examined Wamukota, formed the opinion that when he committed the offense, he was mentally incapacitated.

In his testimony, Wamukota said that he did not know what he had done, and it was a doctor at Mathari Hospital who informed him that he had committed the offense.

He stated that he had no reason to kill Kimilu, his wife, and children since they shared a house. He admitted that in the past, he was almost knocked down, and he also mentioned that he almost drowned due to his condition.

In his judgment, Justice Isaac Lenaola found that even though Wamukota was guilty of killing the four, he was insane when he committed the act, ordering that he be detained at the president’s mercy. Another person who is now free is Linus Maina Wanyambura. He was good friends with Lazarus Warui Frengi, and on February 16, 2001, he invited him for a sleepover at his place in Kirinyaga county.

At around 2 am, Maina’s stepson Simon Njagi heard screams from the house and he tried to open the door but found that it was locked from the inside.

Njagi alerted neighbours, and among the people who responded was Maina’s wife, Lucy Wanjiru Warui. She convinced him to open the door. When he did, they found Warui’s body lying in a pool of blood, and Maina was holding a panga he used to kill Warui.

In his testimony, Maina did not even recall being taken to Mathari Hospital, claiming he found himself in the hospital.

Justice Hannah Okwengu found Maina guilty of murder, sentencing him to death. She said he was insane and ordered that he be remanded at Kamiti prison.

A land tussle between two brothers and claims of witchcraft ended Peter Mwangi Macharia’s life.

This happened after his uncle, Simon Gachogu Githinji, claimed that Macharia’s father, John Macharia Githinji, was bewitching him and that he had been given a large piece of land as inheritance compared to his.

In the end, Justice Hannah Okwengu found Gachogu guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. She also found Simon Mwangi guilty of the offence but ruled that he was insane. She ordered that he be detained at the president’s mercy at the King’ong’o prison.