A series of blunders by the prosecution led to the collapse of an attempted murder case, leading to the acquittal of a former Catholic priest by a Kitui court on Wednesday.
According to the judgment delivered by Kitui Chief Magistrate Stephen Mbungi, the prosecution failed to produce crucial witnesses to testify against former Catholic priest Japheth Kimanzi who was facing charges of attempting to kill a high school student he had impregnated and sired a child with as well as the toddler.
But in his judgment, the magistrate ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to link the former priest with the attack which left the complainant, Veronica Musali Mutua seriously injured and the child deaf, blind and crippled.
The judgment drew outrage from the complainant and her relatives who accused the magistrate of denying them justice.
Mutua sobbed uncontrollably in the courtroom after the magistrate delivered the ruling, lamenting that she had been denied justice.
“Mimi sijapata haki na mtoto wangu, mtoto wangu ni mlemavu kwa sababu Father alituchapa, akafanya mtoto wangu kuwa mlemavu, haoni na hatembei (I have been denied justice, both my child and I, my child is blind and crippled following the attack on us by Father (Kimanzi),” a sobbing Mutua told journalists outside the courtroom.
“Mimi niko na mzigo mkubwa, Father hanisaidii kulea mtoto wangu, na alinikosanisha na wazazi wangu (I have a big burden to shoulder because Father (Kimanzi) does not help me take care of the child, he also messed up my relationship with my parents),” she added before breaking down.
At some point, Mutua’s relatives were forced to take the child, aged nine from her, when she got hysterical.
“I urge people of goodwill to intervene and ensure that justice for my child is served through an appeal of the case,” Mutua said.
In his ruling, the magistrate said there was no concrete evidence linking Kimanzi to the assault that caused grievous harm to the child and her mother.
According to the magistrate, the priest had presented witnesses before the court who testified to support his alibi, that he was not at the scene of crime on the night of the attack.
The magistrate also faulted the prosecution for failing to table forensic evidence to link the accused person to the attack.
It also emerged that many witnesses who had witnessed the attack on Mutua and her baby, and even rescued her from the attackers and took her to hospital, declined to testify in the case despite recording statements with the police.
The magistrate noted that as a result, the court could not rely on Mutua’s testimony alone to convict the former priest.
Ensnared with gifts
The prosecution had accused Kimanzi, who has since been ex-communicated by the Catholic Church, of causing grievous bodily harm on Mutua, with whom he had fathered the child while she was in Form Two.
According to the prosecution, Kimanzi plotted and executed the attack on Mutua and her child with a view to covering up his philandering ways. The attack took place on the night of November 16, 2015.
The minor suffered permanent disability including loss of sight, damaged brain and crippled legs. The girl has since become deaf and blind.
According to witness testimonies and documentary evidence including a DNA report presented in court, Kimanzi, who was in charge of Kabati Catholic Parish under the Kitui Diocese, refused to take responsibility for the child and frustrated efforts by Mutua’s family to get justice.
The court heard how the priest ensnared Mutua with cash and material gifts before impregnating her.
“I dropped out of school in shame having let down my parents. My peers ridiculed me for coveting a priest and I’ve been struggling to raise the baby on my own since February 2012,” she narrated in her testimony.
She had told the court that on the fateful night, the priest had invited her to Kabati Parish offices to discuss the child’s upkeep and medication, only to attack her and the baby, injuring them seriously.
She said the priest emerged from a thicket and attacked her with a blunt object. Tarnish name
“I recognised my attacker was the same priest who had invited me to his home for reconciliation. I shouted his name but he responded by hitting my child who was strapped on my back, on the head and blood started oozing from her nose,” she narrated to court.
Mutua told the magistrate how the priest lured her into an illicit relationship while in form one at Mwambiu Mixed Secondary School in Mwingi.
Before the attack, Mutua had written a personal letter to the then Kitui Catholic Bishop Anthony Muheria which she dropped at his residence explaining her troubles, prompting an internal investigation.
But the former priest denied the assault charges telling the court that Mutua was out
to tarnish his name. COURT VERDICT
• The magistrate said there was no concrete evidence linking Kimanzi to the assault that caused grievous harm to the child and her mother.
• The magistrate also faulted the prosecution for failing to table forensic evidence to link the accused person to the attack.