The trial judge in the murder case where businessman Matthew Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari are accused of killing Kenneth Akena has declined to halt the trial to give room for plea bargain.
On Tuesday, Kanyamunyu’s lawyers including Caleb Alaka, Evans Ochieng and MacDusman Kabega asked court to halt the trial so as to allow the conclusion of the plea-bargaining process that has kicked off.
“We have filed an application with the DPP that we think is very crucial for us. We, therefore, seek for a stand over of the matter to allow the DPP handle the application,”Alaka told court.
The lawyers argued that it would defeat justice if the trial continued before their application before the Director of Public Prosecutions is disposed of, adding that the application will have a great bearing on the trial and how to proceed with the case.
“If the application proceeds, it will reduce on the process the case has taken. The danger with us proceeding with the current witness and cross-examining him is that it will jeopardize the entire process,”Kabega averred.
Kanyamunyu’s lawyers argued that the plea-bargain process has already started with two meetings already completed and that if the trial continues without the application being disposed of, it would prejudice the matter.
The lawyers put up a spirited fight to ensure they convince the judge to halt the trial as the plea-bargain process with the DPP continues.
Judge drags feet
However, the judge asked the prosecution (DPP) lawyers led by Jonathan Muwaganya to respond to the request by their accused’s colleagues.
In response, Muwanganya told court that there would not be any prejudice if the trial proceeded, noting that both processes can continue at the same time.
“We are aware of the proposals in writing for a plea-bargain and I can confirm the two meetings (of plea-bargain), the last one being yesterday. However, there is nothing prejudicial if the trial continued,”Muwaganya argued.
The lawyer said that during one of the two meetings, Kanyamunyu’s side requested for two months in order to be able to make up their minds for any and that the same was put in writing, adding that the DPP declined to grant the same.
“The proposal (of two months) was not accepted and we(DPP) indicated that we were constrained on the time frame in anticipation of future events,” the state prosecutor said.
“This court cannot be moved to make an adjournment on an application which is not before it. It would be speculation.”
In a manner that added injury to insult on Kanyamunyu’s side, the judge said a trial is the best way to achieve justice in any criminal case, adding that any other processes are only alternatives.
“Plea-bargain is not the best option. I am only giving preference to the trial. I am not concerned with out of court processes being prejudiced by the trial but rather the other processes should not prejudice the trial,” Justice Steven Mubiru said.
The judge said he would only adjourn the case for a few days to allow Kanyamunyu’s lawyers prepare for cross-examining of one of the witnesses.
“I can only give you time to prepare for cross-examination but trial will continue. During those few days, if you can come up with alternatives to shorten the trial, they are welcome,” the judge said.
Justice Mubiru adjourned the case until November,6, 2020 for trial to resume but added that by next month, the case will have been disposed of.
Matthew Kanyamunyu, the director Quantum Express Logistics and his girlfriend, Cynthia Munwangari are accused of the murder of Kenneth Akena, a former child rights activist who was shot in November 2016 at Lugogo and died a few hours later at Nakasero hospital from bullet wounds.
However, last month, Kanyamunyu opted for Mato Oput, the Acholi justice system where he made a confession to the heinous crime at a meeting presided over by Acholi Paramount Chief David Onen Acana II as a chief witness at the Ker Kwaro Acholi compound.
At the function, a council of six elders cross-examined Kanyamunyu as is required during Mato-oput but he apologized for what he did.
“It is foolishness that I didn’t know about and I don’t think I will ever comprehend fully the magnitude and that is the reason that I am remorseful and the reason I ask for your forgiveness, understanding and for time for this healing process to begin and time for me to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy,”Kanyamunyu told the Acholi leaders.
Consequently, he applied to the Director of Public Prosecutions to enter into a plea-bargain agreement, a deal that has not yet finalized as negotiations are still continuing.
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and the accused where the latter agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor.
The accused pleads guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.