Kampala International University student Jane Ndichu can afford a sigh of relief after court acquitted her of the murder of her boyfriend and instead convicted her of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
On Friday, Judge Jane Kiggundu of the High Court in Kampala sentenced Ndichu to a nine-year jail term for manslaughter of her boyfriend David Musunga.
The judge took into account the two years and eight months she has spent in remand at Luzira Prison. She was given 14 days to appeal.
Musunga, 24, was allegedly stabbed in the throat with a knife and bleed to death in their one-roomed apartment in Kansanga area near the university on March 10, 2010. Musunga was a Mass Communication student at the university.
As Kiggundu delivered her judgement a pensive Ndichu stood in the dock. She said the prosecution had failed to prove that there was malice aforethought by Ndichu.
"I considered the conduct of the accused after the act. She had no intention to murder. I acquit her of murder and convict her of the offence of manslaughter," said Kiggundu.
Manslaughter refers to the crime of killing a human being without having pre-planned it. It is a lesser charge than that of murder, whose maximum sentence on conviction is death.
Kiggundu said she took into account Ndichu's conduct after the stabbing, where she frantically sought help, and also dashed to the university clinic.
The judge said that Ndichu stabbed Musunga in a fit of anger. She said Ndichu expected him to apologise for the previous night's outing after he broke the curfew rule and returned late after a night of heavy drinking and partying.
Kiggundu dismissed Ndichu's assertions that Musunga committed suicide. The judge said the prosecution evidence placed Ndichu at the crime scene, and that it was evident she stabbed him.
"The injury on Musunga was not a suicide as the defence lawyer would want us to believe, I reject it. I got the impression that the accused was trying to protect herself. She made contradicting statements," said the judge.
Kiggundu further said that Ndichu impressed her as a person who wanted to portray herself as the victim. Testifying in July this year, Ndichu under guidance from her lawyer Rose Sengendo, said he committed suicide after battling depression. She said Musunga always intimated to her that he was haunted by the dead souls of his three brothers, who had committed suicide.
Ndichu described him as a troubled, but loving man who indulged in alcohol, bhangi and miraa. She said Musunga held the knife at the tip, ordered her to hold the handle, and that as she hesitated and tried to pull the knife away, he grabbed her hand with both his hands and thrust the knife into his neck.
But during cross-examination, prosecutor Julius Tuhairwe branded her a liar, saying she murdered the deceased in a fit of anger. Asked why she did not indicate in her Police statement that the deceased had a troubled life, Ndichu said Police told her to show restraint and not misuse the limited stationary.
Tuhairwe, who produced 14 prosecution witnesses, said she had an imaginative mind, from which she spurned a fictitious story to fit her deceit.
Before sentencing, prosecution asked for a deterrent sentence, saying she had led to the loss of a young man who had a promising future. However, Ndichu pleaded for mercy, saying she had reformed. Sengendo did not indicate whether she would appeal.