Court of appeal clears man of murder after 10 years in jail

By Douglas Mubiru

Justices madrama kakuru and mulyagonja 350x210

COURT|CRIME|MURDER

A man has been cleared of murder and freed after spending 10 years in jail.

Asuman Katende was Thursday (November 19, 2020) cleared of killing Aida Bukirwa by a panel of three justices of the Court of Appeal, sitting in Fort Portal, Kabarole district.

In their judgment, justices Kenneth Kakuru, Christopher Madrama, and Irene Mulyagonja said Justice Faith Mwondha, now at Supreme Court, wrongly relied on circumstantial evidence to convict him.

Mwondha handled the case in 2011 before being elevated to the highest court on the land.

"We find that the learned trial judge erred when she convicted the appellant on the basis of circumstantial evidence that did not make out a case for the participation of the appellant in the unlawful killing of the deceased," they ruled.

The court said although it was intimated in the prosecution evidence that Katende had formed the intention to kill someone over his land, it was not followed with any other strong evidence to make out a case against him.

The justices, however, apologised for the delayed trial of the appeal, which they said resulted in Katende's long stay in jail, on baseless allegations.

The justices have advised lower court judges to be cautious in the evaluation of evidence in order to avoid such glitches, which result in citizens losing confidence in the justice system.

"In the result, the appellant is acquitted of the offence of murder and discharged. He should be released from prison, forthwith, unless he is being held on other charges," they ordered.

Katende appeared in court via video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His lawyer, Collins Acellam, however, was in court.

Immediately after the ruling, assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Vicky Nabisenke said they would study the judgment and take appropriate action.

Background

On July 1, 2011, Katende was sentenced to 25 years in jail by justice Mwondha over Bukirwa's murder in April 2008.

Prosecution alleged that in April 2008, Katende killed Bukirwa over a land dispute.

Bukirwa was a resident of Nakwaya village A, Kikandwa sub-county in Mityana district.

It was alleged that Katende and Bukirwa had a long standing dispute over land and, on April 25, 2008, LC1 chairperson Bernard Wamala scheduled a meeting between the two, in order to settle the dispute.

On April 23, 2008, Katende, however, purportedly vowed to die with someone because of his land and that after he uttered the words, he picked up a panga and disappeared.

Bukirwa was killed the following day. Her body was found wrapped in a towel in a bush nearby, with signs that indicated that there had been a struggle in the vicinity.

Katende's arrest

Katende, however, did not show up at her funeral, which caused suspicion among the residents that he could be behind her death.

The matter was reported to the Police, which arrested him in Kampala on May 30, 2008, and took him to Kikandwa Police post at Busunju, for interrogation.

Investigations by the Police established that Bukirwa had finger marks around her neck and died of respiratory cardiac failure, due to suffocation, as a result of strangulation.

Consequently, Katende was indicted for her murder.

In his defence, Katende stated that he did not attend her burial because his wife informed him that they would kill him if he appeared there.