September 30, 2017


Even if you agree with the death penalty this is madness.

More by Martin Minns

The Death Penalty in Kenya

The Death Penalty in Kenya



It was on March 30, 2008, that John Kanyingi was walking to a bus stage in Khanda Wendani at about 5am when two men, one armed with a panga, the other with a piece of metal, held him up, frisked his pockets, stole a black bag he was carrying and slashed the left side of his face just below the eye. The assailants ran off, getting away with a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and Sh16 that were in the black bag.

The attack was undoubtedly frightening for Mr Kanyingi, he was injured in the vicious attack and all for a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a few shillings but the two perpetrators were caught and sentenced by a magistrate’s court in 2010. They appealed. Earlier this week the original sentence was upheld. The Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence handed down to the surviving attacker, James Muchangi (the other attacker died in prison) : death by hanging.


The Court of Appeal has been busy with such matters this week. On the same day as John Kanyingi’s death sentence was confirmed three men lost their appeal against the death sentence that was originally handed down to them in 2008. They had been charged with threatening security guards, stealing 30 pineapples and unlawfully injuring a dog.

Julius Mugambi, Edward Mburu and Francis Maina were found to have stolen the pineapples valued at Sh1,500from the Delmonte farm in Thika  . That’s right – fifteen hundred shillings of fruit. Not that they got away with their ill-gotten gains. They dropped the pineapples when being chased by a guard dog.

No person was injured in the robbery even though the three young men were armed with a sword and a machete but a guard dog did receive a deep wound.


Actually, the dog’s testimony was quite important in prosecuting the case. Yes, you did read that correctly.

The Appeal Court judges Roselyne Nambuye, Patrick Kiage and Katherima M’inoti, said the case was moved by “evidence of the dog”.

The learned judges found that the ability of the tracker dog to sniff out an intruder and its training on arrest could be used in court. They ruled that although the evidence given on behalf of the dog by its handler should be taken cautiously, it could be admitted as opinion evidence.

“The evidence of tracker dogs may be admissible in certain circumstances. A dog handler is competent to testify as to the tracking ability and reliability of the dog,” the judges ruled. “The dog handler testified that his dog was trained in a manner that when it sensed the presence of intruders, it usually stood on the pineapples… For that reason, it can be safely concluded… that the scent led to the bush where the appellants entered.”

So justice has been served. Four men who are unquestionably guilty of the crimes of which they were accused are in theory to face the death penalty for robbery with violence. No one died. The toothpaste, toothbrush and 30 pineapples were recovered. A total of Sh1,516 was stolen. Even if you agree with the death penalty (and I do not, on the grounds that you cannot reprieve a dead man) this is madness.


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