Ex-police in Willie Kimani murder to be sentenced Friday
Three ex-police officers and a civilian found guilty of the murder of a human rights lawyer and two other people will be sentenced on Friday.
The sentencing of former officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjiku, and police informer Peter Ngugi will end one of the longest criminal trials in Kenya.
And the families of the deceased—human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and trusted taxi driver Joseph Muiruri—will, at least, get closure.
On July 22, 2022, Justice Jessie Lessit said the evidence against the three and their informer was overwhelming.
“I am satisfied that there was no other reasonable hypothesis that can be made on the basis of the evidence before me except that of guilt,” Lessit ruled.
The Judge acquitted the fourth police officer, Leonard Mwangi, of the murder, which occurred on June 23, 2016, at about 10 pm.
During the trial, it emerged that the officers contemplated for three hours whether to kill the victims, which indicated a malicious motive.
The triple murder exposed the hallmark of police brutality in the country, triggering widespread outrage and street protests.
Calls for justice raged.
Human rights groups, including International Justice Mission (IJM), where Kimani worked, toiled behind the scenes to hold the murderers accountable.
There were a series of advocacies, some by Missing Voices, to expose the gruesome face of police violence in Kenya, a country where brutal cops are rarely punished.
On April 10, 2015, police officer Leliman accidentally shot Mwendwa when he arrested him for a traffic offense. On December 14, Mwendwa was abducted, and six more traffic charges were leveled against him.
On June 23, 2016, Mwendwa, Kimani, and Muiruri were abducted after the hearing of the traffic case. They were found dead a week later in a river in Oldonyo Sabuk, 100 km from the capital, and wrapped in burlap sacks.
On July 18 and August 23, 2016, the four police officers and a civilian were respectively charged with murder.
The trial commenced on November 10, 2016. The prosecution closed its case in September 2021, with the court ruling the case was triable. The defense case ended three months later.
After dozens of adjournments, the court finally delivered the judgment on July 22, 2022.
After the court’s verdict, Kimani’s wife said, “getting justice today offers a source of comfort to our hearts”.
Friday’s sentencing will again show that police impunity is punishable, and there are no sacred cows.