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63-year-old Mombasa death row inmate to be freed in 2026

By Willis Oketch | April 6th 2020

A 63-year-old man escaped the hangman’s noose after the High Court quashed his death sentence and jailed him for 18 years.

Joseph Muthoka has been on death row for 12 years after he was convicted for the murder of a woman on September 30, 2007 in Taita Taveta County.

However, Muthoka’s hopes of reuniting with his family were dashed after the High Court in Mombasa rejected his application to be set free.

Justice Erick Ogola said his ruling was on the strength that Muthoka’s actions led to the death of an innocent woman.

Muthoka, who has been serving time at Shimo la Tewa Prison, will stay in prison for another six years, effective from the day he was convicted 12 years ago.

The judge allowed him to appeal the new sentence within 14 days.

Muthoka is among hundreds of death row inmates who have petitioned the High Court for a review of their sentences. Their appeals follow a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2017 that Section 204 of the Penal Code, under which they were tried and convicted, was unconstitutional for prescribing the mandatory death penalty for capital crimes.

The Supreme Court said such a law limits judges’ and magistrates’ discretion by requiring them to impose a sentence predetermined by the Legislature.

Justice Ogola proclaimed the new sentence via video conference to Shimo la Tewa Maximum Security Prison.

Justice Ogola said that since the Supreme Court had pronounced itself on the issue of death and declared this aspect of the law illegal, he had no choice but to set aside the death sentence.

“This court has noted, however, the fact that the petitioner is of good character and is clearly reformed. It is because of this that this court hereby sets aside the death sentence imposed on the petitioner by the trial court, and instead jails the petitioner for a term of 18 years from the date of arrest considering the age of the petitioner,” said Justice Ogola.

The judge said the crime committed by the petitioner was grave and caused death to an innocent person.

Justice Ogola said since the crime committed was grave it must be met with an adequate punishment to send a clear message that crime does not pay and should be heavily punished once guilt is established.

The petitioner, in his documents, submitted that the imposition of mandatory death sentence was arbitrary and unconstitutional and denial of rights enshrined under article 25 (C) and 50(2) of 2010 Constitution.

He also said he was remorseful of his action.

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