Nyangasi appeals to Supreme Court
What you need to know:
- Nyangasi had been tried in the High Court and convicted of the murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dalton Apollo Nyangasi filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Uganda contesting the ruling of the Court of Appeal that was delivered on November 30, 2015, which ruling was not in his favour.
Nyangasi had been tried in the High Court and convicted of the murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He appealed to the Court of Appeal, which sustained the conviction but reduced the sentence to 25 years imprisonment.
Nyangasi was, however, aggrieved by the decision of the Court of Appeal and sort justice in the Supreme Court by way of an appeal. He prayed that the conviction and sentence be set aside and the appeal be allowed and, in the alternative, that the sentence be substituted with one that the court deemed appropriate.
Why Supreme Court
Nyangasi’s appeal was against the whole judgment and the decision of the Court of Appeal. To him the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and in fact when they held that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had participated in causing the death of his wife. He also dissatisfied that the Court of Appeal disregarded his defence of alibi as well as the sentence of imprisonment of up to 25 years that he deemed illegal, manifestly harsh and excessive in the circumstances of the case.
The duty of the Supreme Court in such a case is to decide whether the Court of Appeal applied or failed to review and re-evaluate the evidence adduced in the initial trial. The gist of the appeal to the Supreme Court was that the Justices of Court of Appeal failed or neglected to exercise their duty as required by law.
Particulars of offence
The particulars of the offence were that Nyangasi, on July 24, 2010 at Kireka B Zone, Kireka Town Council in the Wakiso District, with malice aforethought, unlawfully caused the death of his wife Christine Nyangasi Dambio. The evidence before the trial court was that on the early morning of that day, Nyangasi walked to the house Christine slept in and banged the door until it was opened. Christine then walked out of the house and went to the washroom which was outside the house. Nyangasi, however, followed her there and before long Christine screamed loudly, which scream attracted her relatives.
One of the relatives told court that she saw Nyangasi strangling Christine but that he let go her neck on seeing the witness and fled. Christine’s relatives found her struggling for breath and got a vehicle and rushed her for medical help. She died on the way or on arrival at the hospital. A postmortem examination carried established the cause of death as an acute heart failure. The pathologist initially mistakenly called this pneumonia.
Pressure applied on the neck has been known to cause the heart to slow down and fail. However in this case, there were no injuries found in the neck of the victim although there were fresh on the arms and on the head.
The pre-hearing of the appeal filed in the Supreme Court took place on September 14, 2021 and Nyangasi’s lawyer was directed by the Supreme Court to file and serve written submissions a week later, that is, by September 21. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was to file a reply to the written submissions by September 28, 2021. A rejoinder, if any was to be filed by October 1, 2021.
A day before the pre-hearing, that is, on September 13, 2021, Nyangasi’s lawyer had filed his initial submissions and these were premised on three grounds. The DPP responded to the submissions on October 5, 2021 at 11:14 am.
Nyangasi’s lawyer then filed an amended submission that was received in the Registry on the same date of October 5, 2021 at 12:24pm. The amended submission had four grounds of appeal. In other words, Nyangasi’s lawyers filed an amended Memorandum of Appeal with four grounds accompanied by his submissions, an hour and ten minutes after the submissions from the DPP.
Defence lawyer submissions
Nyangasi’s lawyer faulted the Court of Appeal for relying on the evidence of two prosecution witnesses to prove that Nyangasi killed his wife. The lawyer contended that these two witnesses never actually saw Nyangasi actually killing his wife. Instead, the lawyer added, their evidence could not even amount to circumstantial evidence, given the fact that the deceased was suffering from pneumonia.
The Court of Appeal found inconsistencies in the evidence of one of the key witnesses but did not proceed to decide in favour of Nyangasi. The lawyer went further to discredit the evidence of injuries found on the body of the deceased as being caused by pneumonia attacks and therefore self-inflicted by the deceased.
The lawyer concluded that the trial court and the Court of Appeal failed to explain the grave inconsistencies and contradictions in the prosecution case that would have led to the acquittal of Nyangasi.
Nyangasi’s lawyer also contended that the justices of the Court of Appeal, while reviewing the initial sentence given to Nyangasi, did not take into consideration the time that Nyangasi spend on remand.
The position of the law is that time spend on remand must be deducted from the final sentence. The law also gives the Court of Appeal the power to either acquit or pass a sentence that it considers appropriate. The lawyer therefore prayed court to set aside Nyangasi’s conviction and sentence.