A funeral atmosphere descended on the Lusaka High Court as lawyer and lawmaker Keith Mukata was given the death sentence yesterday for the murder of a security guard last year.
Mukata, 47, was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging for maliciously shooting and killing his security guard, Namakambwa Kwenda, on May 6 at his law firm in Lusaka.
Some among the throng of family and friends of Mukata, MP for Chilanga under the United Party for National Development (UPND), who attended the session broke into wailing and others fainted when the death sentence was pronounced by Ms Justice Susan Wenjelani.
However, Ms Justice Wenjelani acquitted Mukata's co-accused Charmaine Musonda saying she found no evidence linking her to the murder that took place at an address owned by Mukata's law firm in Lusaka's Rhodes Park residential.
Justice Wenjelani said her findings could only be shaken if there were extenuating circumstances, without which she was left to pronounce the only sentence available to her under Section 200 of the Penal Code Chapter 87: death by hanging.
Mukata's lawyer Milner Katolo described the judgment as shocking, immediately indicating intentions to appeal against the judgment.
Ms Justice Wenjelani dispelled Mukata's testimony that there were intruders on the night of the shooting, because he had time to hide both the firearm and the car keys after incident.
"The convict's actions of hiding the car keys in the basket and putting it in the flower bed and the firearm in the boot of his seized BMW dispels the assertions that there were intruders and an indication of malice aforethought," she said.
In a more than two-hour long judgement, Ms Justice Wenjelani said the MP's defence did not help the court as it was mostly hearsay and unwarranted attacks on the prosecutions.
She said the prosecution had proved its case and claims that there witnesses reported to have overheard a conversation between police officers planning how they should hide the other cartridges outside the gate could not true, as none of them had been called to give evidence in court.
"On the dereliction of duty by the police, the court stated that the police conducted thorough investigations and established that Mukata did not try to lift the deceased as earlier claimed because his confiscated, white shirt did not contain any blood stains," Justice Wenjelani said.
In mitigation, Mukata pleaded for a non-custodial sentence on grounds that he was a first offender and was remorseful of his actions which he carried out under the influence of alcohol and provocation.
Through his lawyer, Mr Katolo, Mr Mukata also said he was taking care of an ailing mother whose condition could kill her upon hearing that her son had been sentenced to death.
Katolo also told the court Mukata was running three orphanages with more than 400 orphans.
"He is a married man with four children and very responsible and respected member of society who served as deputy minister at some point and a lawmaker," he continued.
In the emotional scenes that ensued, a grief-stricken sister of Mukata's was reported to have needed treatment and rushed to hospital.