When Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate Ms.Stella Atambo embarked on reading the long awaited judgement of a convict who had been sentenced to death back in 2001, Tedium Rodger Leneni Mzungu stared in disbelief at her presumably with a silent prayer.
The courtroom was jammed to capacity by friends and his relatives who appeared tense and calm earlier when the court took a health break and postponed it to 2.30p.m.
The 43 year old man had appealed against the sentence on grounds that the sentence was excessive and punitive. He also averred that he had reformed and that he was remorseful to the public and the complainant whom he assaulted on the fateful day. “I have apologized to the public and the complainant and he forgave me” he told the court in his mitigation
“I am a changed person and the Football team club which I used to coach is ready to take me back so that I can continue working for them. I also pursued upholstery course and a counselling and trauma course while in prison which I want to use to change the lives of many young people out there” he told the court in his mitigation prior to the day of the Judgement.
His prayers had been answered.
“The appellant has furnished this court with documentary evidence from his former football club that they are willing to take him back as a coach. He has also learnt a lot of life skills while in prison which will help him and other people in the community and I would say the 19 years have not been wasted years as laymen will put it.
The magistrate summed up events that led to the accused being convicted and sentenced to death by Kiambu court in 2001.
However, looking at the period that the appeallant has been in jail, this court is of the opinion that he has learnt a lesson. “How old were you when you were convicted? The magistrate asked and he said he was 24 years. That means you are now 43, and this means you are now wiser and mature never to repeat the offence.
“Did you pray this morning when you woke up? Posed Ms Atambo with an assuring smile that confused the appellant and his relatives.
He responded and clarified to the court that he had even been converted and accepted to follow the lord after going to prison where he converted to Islamic faith and is now Jamal Rodgers.
“You actually deserve to be given a second chance so that you can utilize the skills and experience gained while in prison to serve the public and more so the young people.
Pensive and his eyes glued on the magistrate, Rodger maintained his cool until the end of the Judgement which ended with an applause from his friends and relatives who waited eagerly. “The court had two options. Either to parole him or to have him continue serving the jail term”
Rodgers had jointly been charged with Peter Mwangi Kangethe with an offence of robbery with violence contrary to section 296(2) of the penal code.
Facts of the prosecution case are that on 4/7/2000 PW1 Peter Mburu had locked his house opposite Kiambu Law courts by his wife. He intended to find out who steals from his house as he had been a victim of thefts all of which occurred in mornings. The thieves appeared to have had a master key as they used to open the door.
On the material day, after being locked inside the house, he heard the main door being opened while he was in the bedroom. After a while, he opened the door and saw the duo. They had taken his television set and wrapped it with his baby’s blanket and placed it in a sack.
They had closed the main door. A struggle ensued for about 2 hours. The first accused ran out with the TV and the second accused who was armed with a Somali sword slashed him on the face. He chased them but could not go far as he was bleeding profusely. Members of the public gave chase which yielded in the apprehension of the first accused who was consequently handed over to the police. The second accused was arrested 2 days later and upon completion of the investigations, they were charged with the present offence.
The prosecution called 7 witnesses who buttressed the case to a conclusion that S.R.M Njuguna ruled that the evidence of the witnesses presented in court corroborated well with the evidence of PW 7 who conducted the identification parade involving the two accused.
The photographs of the TV and the stolen baby blanket were produced as exhibits.”
“The complainant had no problem identifying the 2 accused persons during the identification parade, and evidence against him is overwhelming. It is important to note that the first accused was more or less arrested on spot. The complainant received very serious injuries as a result of the robbery”.
While sentencing him, the court held that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, as required by section 215 of the CPC.
The law relating to this offence is well stated. “If the offender is armed with any dangerous weapon or instrument, or is in company with one or more other person or persons or if at, immediately before or immediately after the time of robbery, he wounds, beats, strikes or uses any other personal violence to any person, he shall be sentenced to death in the manner authorized by the law. I therefore convict the two as charged. Delivered and signed in open court this 7/11/2001 in the presence of both accused persons.”
Upon being convicted to death, they were whisked away and started serving but appealed against the sentence twice. His co-accused was released in 2007 as Rodgers pursued his in a higher court.
Rodgers has been a beneficiary of the people who had been convicted and sentenced to death but had their cases being returned to court for re-sentencing after the constitutional changes that abolished the death sentence, thus commuting it to life sentence.
When he was jailed, he left behind an 8 year old boy who is now 27 years old and was among the relatives who jammed the court and his mother. The mother told KNA that she had been prayerful and was grateful that God had answered her prayers. “I know he has learnt a lesson and he shall never repeat the mistake” she added as she paced behind the Kiambu law court cells as his friends processed his release order.
By Lydia Shiloya