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Chief Justice Martha Koome (right) receives the official Judiciary flag from her deputy Philomena Mwilu (left) on May 24, 2021 when she took over office.

Kenya

CJ Koome to chair Supreme Court inaugural session Tuesday

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – Chief Justice Martha Koome will on Tuesday chair the inaugural session of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court which is fully constituted following CJ Koome and Supreme Court judge William Ouko’s assumption of office will hear 20 cases, among them the Muruatetu case alongside 19 others between July and October 2021.

The case which featured prominently during interviews for the position of Chief Justice came to light in 2017 when the Supreme court ruled that the mandatory death penalty was inconsistent with the progressive Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

During the interview, Koome said doing away with mandatory aspects of the death sentence helped justice while observing that sentencing is a judicial authority but the death penalty is still a provision of the law.

“But the death penalty as the only penalty is unconstitutional because it takes away judicial authority,” she said.

The case is back in court for application directions following various applications of its principles in the Court of Appeal, High Court, and Magistrate’s Courts.

The Seven-judge bench will be tasked to ensure that its decisions are understood by the courts below it to guarantee the consistent and predictable application of the law which is still applicable as a discretionary maximum punishment.

“Discourses before the court are clear that the decision did not outlaw the death penalty, which is still applicable as a discretionary maximum punishment,” Judiciary noted.

The Supreme Court had ruled that all trial courts conduct a pre-sentencing hearing to determine whether the death penalty is deserved.

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Several convicts sentenced under the minimum mandatory sentences, including robbery with violence and sexual offenses, have since flocked the courts seeking sentence re-hearing.

In 2018, former Attorney-General Githu Muigai appointed a 13-member task force to review the legislative framework on the death penalty and other matters.

It was tasked to create a framework that will deal with the re-hearing of the sentencing of persons on death row.

In its report, the task force noted that “there were disparities in the length of imprisonment of offenders committing same offenses in more or less similar circumstances.”

In September 2020, the Court of Appeal allowed 120 applicants who were on death row or facing life imprisonment to withdraw their appeals to pursue re-sentencing.

“Since the landmark Muratetu case, statistics show that more 500 appeals have been withdrawn, with convicts opting to seek re-sentencing,” Judiciary added.

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