The trial Judge in the murder case against businessman Mathew Kanyamunyu has rejected his request to halt proceedings pending the conclusion of the plea bargaining exercise and a cultural ritual process he is going through.
Kanyamunyu last month went for a traditional cleansing ritual- Mato Oput- which provides a mechanism for forgiveness and reconciliation in the traditional Acholi community. At the ceremony, Kanyamunyu reportedly admitted to killing Akena and was ordered to pay ten cows and three goats by the elders in Acholi.
Subsequently, his lawyers engaged the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for a plea bargaining exercise which is not yet concluded. Plea bargaining is a negotiation process between the prosecution and defense where the accused pleads guilty to a lesser offence like manslaughter instead of murder.
Today the trial was expected to resume with cross-examination of the 13th prosecution witness after eight months before the trial Judge Stephen Mubiru of High Court Criminal Division. But it did not resume because the defense lawyers led by Caleb Alaka wanted an adjournment as they have filed an application seeking to first halt the proceedings for about two months to conclude the plea bargaining exercise and also the said cultural ritual.
Alaka who was being supported by lawyers MacDusman Kabega and Evans Ochieng noted that cross-examining the witness would prejudice the plea bargaining exercise and render their pending application useless.
However, the State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya opposed the request for adjournment arguing that they have a witness for cross-examination. Muwaganya added that he was not briefed by the deceased’s family that once the trial resumes, there will be prejudice to the plea bargaining exercise.
In response to Alaka’s request, Justice Mubiru explained that he is supposed to conclude the session by next month adding that once a criminal trial has started, plea bargaining can’t stop it unless it is concluded. The Judge added that he has heard many times plea bargaining exercises failing and it would be a wastage of his time and that of the people involved in the trial should it be delayed due to plea-bargaining.
Here, Mubiru a Criminal Law Lecturer, informed the Defense lawyers of the three ways how one can get out of a criminal trial once it has started. Justice Mubiru explained that one can get out of court once proceedings have either been terminated by the State or court when one has been tried or convicted and thirdly when the accused opts to plead guilty.
Mubiru added that the best way of finalising a criminal matter is through undergoing a trial; that plea bargaining only brings out emotions on board but it is most likely not going to bring justice like when the state is allowed to present all the evidence they have against you.
He said that through the trial, the accused expresses himself freely which he thinks under plea bargaining he may not and that there’s no way it (plea bargaining) can stop the trial if it’s not concluded.
Accordingly, Justice Mubiru advised the Defense lawyers who had labored much to explain the need for an adjournment to either reconsider their decision or to make sure their request and plea-bargaining does not prolong the trial.
He said they should return to court on November 6 2020 for cross-examination of the State Witness.
Kanyamunyu is jointly charged with his Burundian girlfriend Cynthia Munangwari for shooting to death Kenneth Akena, a Children’s Rights Activist Kenneth on November 12, 2016, in Kampala.