Horrific Kiruhura murders: The judgment

Saturday July 25 2020

 

By Dr Sylvester Onzivua

On December 1, 2015, court convicted three men, James Asiimwe, Nathan Mugooha alias Juju and Amon Twabagye alias Bujoro of the death of Daniel Karuhanga and five of his workers.

The six were killed on the night of Friday August 16, 2013 in Kiruhura District. That night Karuhanga’s grand-daughter, a 17-year-old school girl was also raped and the family car stolen. Asiimwe was, in addition, convicted of the rape.

Sentence
A day later court sentenced the convicts to 43 years of imprisonment for each of the six counts of murder, 38 years for the offence of aggravated robbery. Asiimwe was also sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment for the offence of rape.
All the sentences were to run concurrently from the date of conviction. Each convict had, however, a right to appeal against their sentence within 14 days, which right they hopefully exercised.
Nuwagaba acquittal
Three other people were acquitted of the offences, amongst who was Fred Nuwagaba, a herdsman of Rwandese origin. Nuwagaba was charged mainly because of evidence of soil on his gumboot. However, there was no other evidence especially of any telephone communication between him and the other accused persons.

A gumboot of the left foot was apparently recovered at the scene of crime and the police recovered another gumboot of the right foot at Nuwagaba’s residence. The government analyst who testified as a prosecution witness told court that the soil on the gumboot recovered from Nuwagaba’s room was 99.9 per cent similar to that from the scene of crime.

The implication of this was that Nuwagaba must have picked the soil from the crime scene. Scientifically this evidence was bogus as soil samples cannot be matched to this statistical accuracy; it is only in DNA analysis that such high statistical accuracy is obtained. Court was simply taken for a ride by this so-called expert.

Court, however, relied on the principle that an expert’s evidence is considered together with other relevant facts in reaching a final decision in a case. Court, therefore, could not consider the soil analysis evidence in isolation.
Nuwagaba denied knowledge of any of his co-accused and they all denied knowing him.

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Evidence before court was also to the effect the two gumboots exhibited in court were not of the same make and were, therefore, not a pair. Nuwagaba admitted that one of the gumboots was his but denied ownership of the other.
Suspicious
Police did not pick any soil samples from Nuwagaba’s home to compare with that from the crime scene to rule out the possibility that the soil samples were similar and this omission created a doubt in the prosecution evidence.
This doubt was resolved in Nuwagaba’s favour. To court the prosecution failed to prove to the required standard the participation of Nuwagaba in the commission of the offences he was charged with.

He was accordingly acquitted. Jovia, the estranged wife of Daniel Karuhanga and her son, Grace Nuwamanya were also acquitted by court of the same charges. Nuwamanya, a lawyer by profession, put up a defence of an alibi in his testimony. In law the defence of alibi should be raised at the earliest possible opportunity and this was done. The alibi was investigated and found to be true.

Nuwamanya denied going to his mother’s home on the night in question. He testified that on August 16, 2013 he attended the burial of his uncle and drove straight to Kampala in his vehicle with three other people.

Missing gaps
The investigators and the prosecution had attempted to fabricate evidence to the effect that Nuwamanya came back to his mother’s house the night of the murders in a Prado Land Cruiser.

Nuwamanya denied ever owning such a vehicle. And to court no evidence was adduced by the prosecution to prove that on the night of August 16, 2013, after his arrival at his home in Kampala, Nuwamanya ever left his home to travel back to Kiruhura in a Prado Land Cruiser.

To court the witness who attempted to implicate Nuwamanya appeared unsteady, unreliable and untruthful. To court prosecution, therefore, failed to disapprove Nuwamanya alibi and failed to place him at the scene of crime. He was therefore acquitted of the charges.

The prosecution submitted to court that Jovia and some of her children facilitated the assailants to murder Karuhanga and the proof of this was the several meetings to plan the murder. Prosecution presented evidence of the existence of a long standing dispute between the late Karuhanga and his first wife, Jovia.

The dispute developed into division of the family into two and ultimately resulted into the divorce of Daniel and Jovia Karuhanga and the distribution of the family property between the two. Prosecution showed and submitted that Daniel Karuhanga continued to live in fear of his life following threats from his family members.

Court, however, ruled that past threats on the deceased by his or her assailant can be evidence leading to conviction. However there must have sufficient proximity between the threats and the occurrence of the death in order to form a transaction.

To court there was no evidence adduced by the prosecution to show that Jovia and her children were in the pursuit of threatening Karuhanga. Both the prosecution and defence evidence instead showed efforts of resolution of the disputes. To court prosecution failed to adduce evidence to corroborate these fears and suspicions and found it unsafe to rely on uncorroborated fears and suspicions to convict any of the accused persons.

Next: The flaws in the judgment

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