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|Case Number:||Miscellaneous Criminal Application 32 of 2020|
|Parties:||Cosmas Nzuki Valiki v Republic|
|Date Delivered:||23 Sep 2021|
|Court:||High Court at Machakos|
|Judge(s):||George Vincent Odunga|
|Citation:||Cosmas Nzuki Valiki v Republic  eKLR|
|Advocates:||Mr Nthiwa for the Petitioner Mr Ngetich for the Respondent|
|Advocates:||Mr Nthiwa for the Petitioner Mr Ngetich for the Respondent|
|History Advocates:||Both Parties Represented|
|Case Outcome:||Application struck out|
|Disclaimer:||The information contained in the above segment is not part of the judicial opinion delivered by the Court. The metadata has been prepared by Kenya Law as a guide in understanding the subject of the judicial opinion. Kenya Law makes no warranties as to the comprehensiveness or accuracy of the information|
REPUBLIC OF KENYA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KENYA AT MACHAKOS
MISC.CRIM. APPL. NO 32 OF 2020
(Coram: Odunga, J)
COSMAS NZUKI VALIKI..............PETITIONER
1. The Applicant herein, Cosmas Nzuki Valiki, was charged with murder in Machakos High Court Criminal Case No. 48 of 2010. After the hearing, he was found guilty and convicted accordingly. He was accordingly sentenced to death.
2. Aggrieved with the said decision, the Applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal in Criminal Appeal No. 59 of 2016. Upon hearing the said appeal, the Court of Appeal found that his conviction was sound and dismissed the appeal. As regards the sentence, the Court expressed itself as hereunder:
“It is trite that sentencing is at the discretion of the trial court and the Supreme Court in FRANCIS KARIOKO MURUATETU & ANOTHER V REPUBLIC & 4 OTHERS  eKLR brought to light the importance of judicial discretion in the determination of sentences. We do not find anything in this case that would persuade us to disturb the death sentence as meted out by the learned judge. The appellant committed a vile patricide fuelled by a false sense of entitlement and was fully deserving of the ultimate sentence of death. Consequently, we see no reason whatsoever for us to depart from the holding of the High Court and we therefore dismiss this appeal in its entirety.”
3. This application is based on the said decision of the Supreme Court in Petition Nos. 15 and 16 of 2015 – Muruatetu & Others vs. Republic. In that decision, the Supreme held at para 69 as follows:
“47. Indeed the right to fair trial is not just a fundamental right. It is one of the inalienable rights enshrined in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the same vein Article 25(c) of the Constitution elevates it to a non-derogable right which cannot be limited or taken away from a litigant. The right to fair trial is one of the cornerstones of a just and democratic society, without which the Rule of Law and public faith in the justice system would inevitably collapse.
 Section 204 of the Penal Code deprives the Court of the use of judicial discretion in a matter of life and death. Such law can only be regarded as harsh, unjust and unfair. The mandatory nature deprives the Courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise discretion not to impose the death sentence in appropriate cases. Where a court listens to mitigating circumstances but has, nonetheless, to impose a set sentence, the sentence imposed fails to conform to the tenets of fair trial that accrue to accused persons under Articles 25 of the Constitution; an absolute right.
 With regard to murder convicts, mitigation is an important facet of fair trial. In Woodson as cited above, the Supreme Court in striking down the mandatory death penalty for murder decried the failure to individualize an appropriate sentence to the relevant aspects of the character and record of each defendant, and consider appropriate mitigating factors. The Court was of the view that a mandatory sentence treated the offenders as a faceless, undifferentiated mass to be subjected to the blind infliction of the penalty of death thereby dehumanizing them.
 We consider Reyes and Woodson persuasive on the necessity of mitigation before imposing a death sentence for murder. We will add another perspective. Article 28 of the Constitution provides that every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity protected. It is for this Court to ensure that all persons enjoy the rights to dignity. Failing to allow a Judge discretion to take into consideration the convicts’ mitigating circumstances, the diverse character of the convicts, and the circumstances of the crime, but instead subjecting them to the same (mandatory) sentence thereby treating them as an undifferentiated mass, violates their right to dignity.
 The dignity of the person is ignored if the death sentence, which is final and irrevocable is imposed without the individual having any chance to mitigate. We say so because we cannot shut our eyes to the distinct possibility of the differing culpability of different murderers. Such differential culpability can be addressed in Kenya by allowing judicial discretion when considering whether or not to impose a death sentence. To our minds a formal equal penalty for unequally wicked crimes and criminals is not in keeping with the tenets of fair trial.
 We are in agreement and affirm the Court of Appeal decision in Mutiso that whilst the Constitution recognizes the death penalty as being lawful, it does not provide that when a conviction for murder is recorded, only the death sentence shall be imposed. We also agree with the High Court's statement in Joseph Kaberia Kahinga that mitigation does have a place in the trial process with regard to convicted persons pursuant to Section 204 of the Penal Code. It is during mitigation, after conviction and before sentencing, that the offender's version of events may be heavy with pathos necessitating the Court to consider an aspect that may have been unclear during the trial process calling for pity more than censure or on the converse, impose the death sentence, if mitigation reveals an untold degree of brutality and callousness.
 If a Judge does not have discretion to take into account mitigating circumstances it is possible to overlook some personal history and the circumstances of the offender which may make the sentence wholly disproportionate to the accused's criminal culpability. Further, imposing the death penalty on all individuals convicted of murder, despite the fact that the crime of murder can be committed with varying degrees of gravity and culpability fails to reflect the exceptional nature of the death penalty as a form of punishment. Consequently, failure to individualise the circumstances of an offence or offender may result in the undesirable effect of 'overpunishing' the convict.”
4. In arriving at its decision the Supreme Court relied on a number of foreign decisions and international instruments and in so doing expressed itself as hereunder:
“ On the international arena, however, most jurisdictions have declared not only the mandatory but also the discretionary death penalty unconstitutional. In Roberts v. Louisiana, 431 U.S. 633 (1977) a Louisiana statute provided for the mandatory imposition of the death sentence. Upon challenge, the US Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional since the statute allowed for no consideration of particularized mitigating factors in deciding whether the death sentence should be imposed. In Reyes (above), the Privy Council was of the view that a statutory provision that denied the offender an opportunity to persuade the Court why the death sentence should not be passed, denied such an offender his basic humanity. And in Spence v The Queen; Hughes v the Queen (Spence & Hughes) (unreported, 2 April 2001) where the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for the offence of murder was challenged, the Privy Council held that such sentence did not take into account that persons convicted of murder could have committed the crime with varying degrees of gravity and culpability. In the words of Byron CJ;
“In order to be exercised in a rational and non-arbitrary manner, the sentencing discretion should be guided by legislative or judicially-prescribed principles and standards, and should be subject to effective judicial review, all with a view to ensuring that the death penalty is imposed in only the most exceptional and appropriate circumstances. There should be a requirement for individualized sentencing in implementing the death penalty.”
 Two Indian decisions also merit mention. In Mithu v State of Punjab, Criminal Appeal No. 745 of 1980, the Indian Supreme Court held that “a law that disallowed mitigation and denied a judicial officer discretion in sentencing was harsh, unfair and just” while in Bachan Singh v The State of Punjab (Bachan Singh) Criminal Appeal No. 273 of 1979 AIR (1980) SC 898, it was held that “It is only if the offense is of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character, and constitutes on account of its design and manner of its execution a source of grave danger to the society at large, the Court may impose the death sentence.”
 The UN United Human Rights Committee has also had occasion to consider the mandatory death penalty. In case of Eversley Thomson v St. Vincent, Communication No. 806/ 1998U.N. Doc. CCPR/70/806/1998 (2000), it stated that such sentence constituted a violation of Article 26 of the Covenant, since the mandatory nature of the death sentence did not allow the judge to impose a lesser sentence taking into account any mitigating circumstances and denied the offender the most fundamental of right, the right to life, without considering whether this exceptional form of punishment was appropriate in the circumstances of his or her case.
 The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has recommended the abolition of the death sentence as a mandatory sentence in Human Rights Resolution 2005/59: “The Question of the Death Penalty” dated 20 April 2005, E/CN.4/RES/2005/59. It urges all States that still maintain the death penalty:
‘…(d) Not to impose the death penalty for any but the most serious crimes and only pursuant to a final judgment rendered by an independent and impartial competent court, and to ensure the right to a fair trial and the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence;
(f) To ensure also that the notion of “most serious crimes” does not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences and that the death penalty is not imposed for non-violent acts such as financial crimes, religious practice or expression of conscience and sexual relations between consenting adults nor as a mandatory sentence.”
5. The Court therefore concluded as follows:
 We are therefore, in agreement with the petitioners and amici curiae that Section 204 violates Article 50 (2) (q) of the Constitution as convicts under it are denied the right to have their sentence reviewed by a higher Court – their appeal is in essence limited to conviction only. There is no opportunity for a reviewing higher court to consider whether the death sentence was an appropriate punishment in the circumstances of the particular offense or offender. This also leads us to find that the right to justice is also fettered. Article 48 of the Constitution on access to justice provides that:
“The State shall ensure access to justice for all persons and, if any fee is required, it shall be reasonable and shall not impede access to justice.”
 The scope of access to justice as enshrined in Article 48 is very wide. Courts are enjoined to administer justice in accordance with the principles laid down under Article 159 of the Constitution. Thus, with regards to access to justice and fair hearing, the State through the courts, ensures that all persons are able to ventilate their disputes. Access to justice includes the right to a fair trial. If a trial is unfair, one cannot be said to have accessed justice. In this respect, when a murder convict's sentence cannot be reviewed by a higher court he is denied access to justice which cannot be justified in light of Article 48 of the Constitution.
 To our minds, any law or procedure which when executed culminates in termination of life, ought to be just, fair and reasonable. As a result, due process is made possible by a procedure which allows the Court to assess the appropriateness of the death penalty in relation to the circumstances of the offender and the offence. We are of the view that the mandatory nature of this penalty runs counter to constitutional guarantees enshrining respect for the rule of law.
 We now lay to rest the quagmire that has plagued the courts with regard to the mandatory nature of Section 204 of the Penal Code. We do this by determining that any court dealing with the offence of murder is allowed to exercise judicial discretion by considering any mitigating factors, in sentencing an accused person charged with and found guilty of that offence. To do otherwise will render a trial, with the resulting sentence under Section 204 of the Penal Code, unfair thereby conflicting with Articles 25 (c), 28, 48 and 50 (1) and (2)(q) of the Constitution.”
6. The Court also found that:
“Article 27 of the Constitution provides for equality and freedom from discrimination since every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. Convicts sentenced pursuant to Section 204 are not accorded equal treatment to convicts who are sentenced under other Sections of the Penal Code that do not mandate a death sentence. Refusing or denying a convict facing the death sentence, to be heard in mitigation when those facing lesser sentences are allowed to be heard in mitigation is clearly unjustifiable discrimination and unfair. This is repugnant to the principle of equality before the law. Accordingly, Section 204 of the Penal Code violates Article 27 of the Constitution as well.
 It is not in dispute that Article 26 (3) of the Constitution permits the deprivation of life within the confines of the law. We are unconvinced that the wording of that Article permits the mandatory death sentence. The pronouncement of a death sentence upon conviction is therefore permissible only if there has been a fair trial, which is a non-derogable right. A fair hearing as enshrined in Article 50 (1) of the Constitution must be read to mean a hearing of both sides. A murder convict whose mitigation circumstances cannot be taken into account due to the mandatory nature of the death sentence cannot be said to have been accorded a fair hearing.
 Consequently, we find that section 204 of the penal code is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it provides for the mandatory death sentence for murder. For the avoidance of doubt, this decision does not outlaw the death penalty, which is still applicable as a discretionary maximum penalty.”
7. In addition, the Supreme Court said at para 111 of the said judgment that:
“It is prudent for the same court that heard this matter to consider and evaluate mitigating submissions and evaluate the appropriate sentence befitting the offence committed by the petitioners. For avoidance of doubt, the sentence re-hearing we have allowed applies only to the two petitioners herein …”
8. The effect of the said decision, in my view is that the death penalty is not outlawed but is still applicable as a discretionary maximum penalty for the offence of murder.
9. The Court of Appeal in William Okungu Kittiny vs. Republic, Court of Appeal, Kisumu Criminal Appeal No. 56 of 2013  eKLR held that:
“ Although the appellants’ appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 20th June, 2008, which was then the last appellate court, the constitutional petition filed in the High Court revived the case and by the time the Supreme Court rendered its decision, this appeal was still pending.
The decision of the Supreme Court only discouraged persons from filing petitions to the Supreme Court but the decision does not prohibit courts below it from ordering sentence re-hearing in a matter pending before those courts. By Article 163 (7) of the Constitution, the decision of the Supreme Court has immediate and binding effect on all other courts. The decision of the Supreme Court opened the door for review of death sentences even in finalized cases.
 From the foregoing, the learned judge having partly found in favour of the appellant erred in law in not remitting the case for sentence re-hearing and the appeal is allowed to that extent. Now that the Supreme Court has opened the door for sentence re-hearing, the matter is remitted to the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Kisumu, for sentence re-hearing and sentencing only. The Registrar of this Court to return the record of the Chief Magistrates Court at Kisumu- Criminal Case No. 181 of 2004 as soon as reasonably practicable for sentence re-hearing and sentencing by the Chief Magistrate.”
10. I must however state that on 6th day of July, 2021, the Supreme Court issued directions in the same matter (for purposes of clarity I will refer to the directions as Muruatetu 2) in which it clarified inter alia as follows:
(i) The decision of Muruatetu and these guidelines apply only in respect to sentences of murder under Sections 203 and 204 of the Penal Code;
(ii) The Judiciary Sentencing Policy Guidelines to be revised in tandem with the new jurisprudence enunciated in Muruatetu;
(iii) All offenders who have been subject to the mandatory death penalty and desire to be heard on sentence will be entitled to re-sentencing hearing.
(iv) Where an appeal is pending before the Court of Appeal, the High Court will entertain an application for re-sentencing upon being satisfied that the appeal has been withdrawn.
(v) In re-sentencing hearing, the court must record the prosecution’s and the appellant’s submissions under Section 329 of the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as those of the victims before deciding on the suitable sentence.
(vi) An application for re-sentencing arising from a trial before the High Court can only be entertained by the High Court, which has jurisdiction to do so and not the subordinate court.
(viii) Where the appellant has lodged an appeal against sentence alone, the appellate court will proceed to receive submissions on resentencing.
(ix) These guidelines will be followed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal in ongoing murder trials and appeals. They will also apply to sentences imposed under Section 204 of the Penal Code before the decision in Muruatetu.
11. While it is clear that the Supreme Court has directed that until and unless found otherwise, the principles in Muruatetu Case only applies to murder trials, the fact that a matter has been heard and determined by the Superior Courts does not deprive a resentencing hearing from being undertaken as long as the initial sentence did not comply with the principles enunciated in the Muruatetu Case.
12. However, where an appeal was filed post Muruatetu Case and the appellate Court in arriving at its decision on the appropriate sentence considered the principles in the Muruatetu Case, such a decision cannot be the subject of a resentencing hearing based on the Muruatetu Case. In this case, as the Court of Appeal did consider the said principles in arriving at its decision, this Court has no jurisdiction to revisit the sentence under the guise of implementing the Supreme Court decision in the said case.
13. It follows that this application is incompetent and is hereby struck out.
JUDGEMENT READ, SIGNED AND DELIVERED IN OPEN COURT AT MACHAKOS THIS 23RD SEPTEMBER, 2021.
G V ODUNGA
In the presence of:
Mr Nthiwa for the Petitioner
Mr Ngetich for the Respondent