Saturday February 13 2016

Forensic and circumstantial evidence in Godi’s case - part 2

Akbar Hussein Godi (R) and a fellow prisoner

Akbar Hussein Godi (R) and a fellow prisoner arrive at Mukono Chief Magistrates Court in 2008. File Photo . 

By Dr Sylvester Onzivua

Akbar Hussein Godi, the then 25-year-old MP for Arua Municipality and a lawyer, was convicted and sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in jail for the murder of his wife Rehema Caesar.
Godi challenged his conviction in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In both Courts his appeal failed. At the centre of the initial trial and the subsequent appeals was the identity of the person who shot and killed Rehema.

The evidence the prosecution presented during the initial trial included the telephone printouts of both Godi and Rehema, forensic (scientific) evidence, the relationship between the two and other circumstantial evidence.
To the trial judge, the evidence that the prosecution presented in court proved beyond reasonable doubt that Godi had shot and killed his wife in the evening hours of December 4, 2008. The judge defined the term ‘beyond reasonable proof’ as follows;
“If evidence is so strong against a man as to leave only a remote possibility in his favour which can be dismissed with the sentence ‘of cause it’s possible but not probable’, that case is proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

Phone evidence
Evidence before the trial Court was that on December 4, 2008 at about 6pm, Rehema had a telephone conversation with Godi, after which she went and bathed. She told her sisters that she was going for dinner. She did not say who she was going to have dinner with. Godi admitted talking to Rehema at about 6pm that day but to him it was about a lost phone.

Telephone call printouts presented in Court showed that on the day in question, Rehema is actually the one who called Godi at 6:25pm and the two talked for about 18 seconds. At 6:30pm (five minutes later), Rehema called Godi again and the two spoke for another 31 seconds. The base station for both conversations was at Karo House in Kampala.
This means the caller and the receiver were all communicating around Karo House. Godi’s telephone number was the last number called from Rehema’s phone. One of the witnesses told Court that Rehema’s phone was still on even after she was shot and killed.

Godi’s lawyers later noted in the appellate courts that one particular telephone number called Rehema a record 10 times on the day she died and the last call to her on that day was at 5:55pm. The investigators did not apparently follow this lead. Where were the other bases this number was noted to be calling from the subsequent days following the death of Rehema?
Godi’s lawyers told Court that since Rehema did not tell her sisters where and with whom she was going to have dinner with, then there was a very strong possibility that the unidentified person she had dinner with is the one who killed her.

Why did Rehema not tell her sisters who she was going to dinner with? Or put the other way, why would she not tell her sisters that she was going for dinner with Godi?
Why did Godi not call Rehema if indeed he had asked her out to dinner? Why is it rather Rehema who called Godi? The lawyers also noted that from the phone print outs, Godi did not pick or receive any calls from Mukono which means that he was not in Mukono where Rehema was killed from.

Tracing Godi’s movements
No telephone printout showed that Godi was in Mukono. Godi’s phone printout showed that he made a call at Bweyogerere at 7.30pm and then at 11.59am at Nakawa. Prosecution contended that Godi was by then returning from his criminal mission and shortly changed his telephone lines in the aftermath of the crime.
The trial Judge, however, posed this question; was it a coincidence that the two successfully communicated on December 4, 2008 and Godi’s phone number according to MTN printouts showed him take Jinja Road up to Bweyogerere and later at midnight he was recorded at Nakawa and in between these times Rehema was murdered in Mukono? To the Judge such a coincidence of events (and many more still) would be unnatural in daily life.

Evidence before Court was also to the effect that Godi changed his phone lines soon after the death of Rehema and did not even call her sisters and other relatives when news of Rehema’s death came out. This behaviour, to the judge, was incompatible with the innocence of Godi.

Court was told that Godi and Rehema got married on December 15, 2007. Then Godi was 21 years of age and Rehema, a school girl aged 19 years. Soon after the marriage, Godi and Rehema developed discord as husband and wife. Rehema complained to her relatives and friends that Godi was beating her up and threatening to shoot her with a gun.
Godi admitted in Court that they often had disagreements and that he once slapped Rehema. This to the trial judge was an understatement. There was evidence before Court that Rehema must have once been beaten with a belt and one witness found her with swollen eyes and scratches on her face crying at their matrimonial court.

The trial judge concluded that the relationship between Godi and Rehema was full of violence, directed by Godi against Rehema, who he frequently brutalised. The discord escalated leading to Rehema separating from Godi. Rehema moved to her parent’s home and later to a hostel. Is it therefore feasible and reasonable that these two, whose relationship was described as brutal, would plan to have dinner together without Rehema telling it to her close relatives?
Godi told police he had three cars including a RAV4. He further told them that between December 3 and 5, 2008 he used the RAV4 himself but denied driving it to Mukono. One witness told court that he found a vehicle at the scene where Rehema was shot and killed and that the vehicle was moving by itself while he himself was on his boda boda motorcycle at about 10pm.

Witness account
The witness testified that the vehicle knocked him and that it had four doors. A forensic scientist who examined both the car and the motorcycle found that both were damaged.
However, the RAV4 the forensic scientist examined had three doors. Godi’s lawyers therefore put up a spirited fight that Godi’s car was therefore not positively identified at the crime scene. To the trial Judge this was a minor inconsistency as the identification by the motorcyclist occurred at night.

Evidence by two witnesses who described the circumstances of the shooting at the scene of crime stated that a man chased Rehema and shot her during a disagreement.
They stated that the first shot disabled her and the assailant assisted her to walk up to the verandah of a house by the roadside. He then went away but returned to chase her again when she moved from where he had deposited her. That he dragged her on the ground by pulling her legs and shot her in the head before he fled. These were very elaborate descriptions.

In what language were the two having the disagreement? What was actually being said? What was the description of the assailant according to these witnesses however vague? Did Rehema cry out with the name of the assailant when she was being shot? Did she actually cry out ‘so and so why are you killing me’? Did Rehema specifically call out the name of Godi at that point?

Judge’s questions
The trial judge also raised a number of questions when he considered the evidence before him. Some of these were;
- Why did Godi issue death threats to Rehema and her friends?
- Why did Godi acquire a firearm and why did he declare only five of the seven bullets he had bought?
- Was the ballistic expert’s report that found gun powder in the barrel of his pistol and evidence that the gun had fired the cartridges found at the scene of crime a mere coincidence?
- Is it possible that the soil from the shoe recovered from Godi’s house was by coincidence matching the soil at the spot where Rehema’s body lay?
- Was it possible that somebody else called Rehema for dinner and ended up murdering her in Mukono?
- Is it true that Godi was at the National Theatre and later at 10pm went to Mutungo before he returned to his home and never met the deceased that evening of December 4, 2008?

Dr Onzivua a Consultant Forensic Pathologist.

Continues next week.