Court takes final pleas in lawyer Willy Kimani’s murder case

Four police officers at a Milimani court on Monday, September 20, 2021, where the court ruled that they have a case to answer in connection with the murder of Lawyer Willy Kimani. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The fate of four police officers and a civilian accused of killing a lawyer, his client and a taxi driver is now in the hands of the judge after parties concluded their final pleas to the court.

Whereas the prosecution urged Lady Justice Jessie Lessit to find the five accused guilty of killing lawyer Willy Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, the defence lawyer argued that there was no evidence to prove the murder and that the accused should be set free.

State prosecutor Nicholas Mutuku told the judge that they have proved their case beyond reasonable doubt backed by 47 witnesses who recounted and recreated the murder scene and 117 exhibits to show how the accused executed the cold-blooded murder.

“We have been able to prove the deaths were caused by the accused persons through a well-planned scheme where the architect of the murder Fredrick Leliman recruited the other accused and together killed the three deceased persons,” he said.

The prosecution told the judge how Lelimian, his fellow police officers Stephen Morogo, Sylvia Wanjohi, Leonard Maina and the civilian Peter Kamau Ngugi hatched the plot and what role each of them played in the murder before they tried to cover it up.

They recounted how Leliman had an issue with Mwenda who had sought assistance from Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the International Justice Mission and since he felt his job was in danger, he planned to eliminate them.

“He hatched the murder plan by bringing the other accused on board. His colleagues received and detained the three at the police station before they removed them at night which proves they had malice aforethought,” said Mutuku.

The prosecution asked the judge to consider the confession by Ngugi which detailed all the plans undertaken to execute the lawyer and his client to find the accused guilty as charged.

The submissions were supported by Dr Fred Ojiambo on behalf of the Law Society of Kenya who urged the court to consider the painful circumstances the deceased went through before their death.

But the defence lawyers led by Cliff Ombeta argued that the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt to warrant convicting the accused.

“The three deaths were heinous and painful but what we are saying is that the case has not been proven to the required standard. There is nothing to prove the connection between the accused persons or their role in the murder,” said Ombeta.

The defence lawyers also pointed to contradictions in the witnesses’ statements, arguing that they could not correctly identify the vehicles used in the murder.

According to Ombeta, Leliman did not plan the murder of the three deceased persons and that the confession by Ngugi should be disregarded by the court for being a falsehood, and that it is unsafe to convict the accused due to the gaps left in the prosecution’s case.

Sylvia Wanjohi on her defence stated that none of the witnesses had connected her to the planning and killing of the three and that her involvement is mere suspicion on account that she was at Syokimau police station on the day the lawyer was arrested.

“She did not know any of the deceased and did not see any of them being booked at the cells. Even the fifth accused did not mention her in his confession or place her in any of the murder scenes,” she said through her lawyer. [Paul Ogemba]

Justice Lessit’s involvement in the case after being promoted to the Court of Appeal also came into question as the accused persons argued that she had no authority to try them.

According to the accused, the judge should not proceed to determine whether they are guilty and should instead declare the case a mistrial since the law only allows her to hear an appeal after the promotion last year.

But the prosecution defended the judge arguing that it is not a new thing that a judge who had been promoted is allowed to finish cases she was handling before the lower court.