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How Vihiga man convicted of murder may have saved his life

By Julius Chepkwony | December 9th 2020 at 10:09:05 GMT +0300

The odds were stacked against William Amasa. In November 2005, he was on trial for a capital offence in a country where a death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment.

By the time Amasa was on trial, courts were handing down the death sentence until 2016 when the president commuted death sentences to life in jail. Currently, there is no policy to abolish the death penalty. Despite the lack of executions, death sentences are still passed.

Before the Appellate judges would decide his fate, Amasa knew he was going to be hanged because courts were still handing out death sentences.

It took ten years for his case to end up in the Court of Appeal.  On August 20, 2005, Amasa, armed with an offensive weapon namely- a panga, robbed Daisy Wasita of a mobile phone- a Nokia 110 valued at Sh7,000.

The offence was committed at Ebusakami Village, Ebusakami sub-location, South Bunyore location in Vihiga District. An alternative charge of handling stolen goods was also preferred against him.

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During the trial, Wasita, a student at St. Philips Theological College as per court documents, had left her house to call her friend on the phone as she was experiencing network problems at her house.

While on the call, she saw Amasa walking towards her armed with a panga. On reaching her, he ordered her to hand over the mobile phone. When she refused, he slashed her left hand.

A struggle ensued and he slapped her with the panga, causing her to scream and throw the phone on the ground.

Witnesses Joram Oyando and Oliver Nyabinda- who testified during the hearing of the case heard Wasitia scream and rushed to find out what had happened.

The two said they saw Amasa assaulting Wasitia. They tried chasing him but were unable to apprehend him.

After hearing the evidence and the parties, the trial magistrate convicted and sentenced Amasa to death as per the law.

In 2010, Amasa was dissatisfied with the decision and appealed to the High Court in Kisumu, which upheld the death sentencing by the lower court, stating that the conviction and sentence were in order.

He was aggrieved by the High Court’s decision and appealed to the Court of Appeal. He claimed that the court failed to take into account his justification.

And on December 4, 2020, Court of Appeal Judges Wanjiru Karanja, Fatuma Sichale, Agnes Kalekye Murgor reduced the death sentence to 20 years’ jail term.

When he told State his case, Amasa moved the court saying he was young and a first offender.

"I'm my parents' only son. I want the court to show me mercy," he pleaded. He said he was remorseful and that the years he has been behind bars has taught him a lesson.

“In view of his mitigation, and taking into account that the mobile phone was recovered soon after the assault, we consider it appropriate to interfere with the sentence,” the judgment read.

The judges noted that by the time of the earlier pronouncement, the trial court was duty-bound to impose the death penalty, notwithstanding that he had mitigated.

They, however, noted that the Supreme Court’s decision which held that the mandatory death sentence prescribed for the offence of murder was unconstitutional similarly applies to the mandatory death sentence imposed for the offence of robbery with violence.

William Amasa Life Imprisonment Robbery with violence
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