In 2017, thousands of people on Kenya’s death row – and their families – breathed a sigh of relief. The Supreme Court declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional.
The verdict is the Muratetutu judgment. It happened because two men – Francis Karioko Muratetutu and Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi – challenged their death sentences all the way to Kenya’s Supreme Court. They argued that the mandatory nature of their death sentences violated their right to a fair trial – and they won.
They argued that the mandatory nature of their death sentences violated their right to a fair trial – and they won.
Thousands of people became eligible for resentencing overnight because of the Muratetutu judgement. But Kenya’s lower courts were overwhelmed with petitions from people on death row demanding resentencing.
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That’s why the Supreme Court is now looking back at this judgement. In July 2021, it declared that the Muratetutu judgement only applies to cases where the person is charged with murder. That means people automatically sentenced for other crimes that fall under the scope of the mandatory death penalty – such as robbery and attempted robbery – cannot apply for resentencing.
Instead, they will need to take their own cases all the way up to the Supreme Court – and present the same argument as Francis and Wilson: that the mandatory nature of their death sentences violated their right to a fair trial. This could take years, and delay the release of thousands of people who have already spent decades already on death row.
The Court’s clarification of the Muratetutu judgement does not bring justice.
Instead, it leaves thousands of people in limbo.
Thanks to you, Reprieve’s investigators, lawyers and campaigners are fighting to get people off death row in Kenya – and abolish the death penalty. If you can, please chip in to support this vital work.