Dar es Salaam — The Court of Appeal has acquitted a resident of Mwajasi Village in Mkuranga District, Amani Justine, who had been condemned to death after confessing to killing his lover.
The prosecution's case that Mr Justine purportedly killed a woman he was cohabiting with - Gaudencia Leonce Mabuli - was entirely built on his confession that he committed the crime after he allegedly caught her cheating with another man. But, the bench of Justices Shaban Lila, Sivangilwa Mwagesi and Barke Sehel said the prosecution's case lacked material evidence for the court to believe there was a connection between the alleged confession and the prosecution's evidence.
The body of the deceased [Gaudencia] was found lying on a roadside in the Vianzi area on 23 May 2012, with deep cut wounds on her left shoulder, forehead and palm, three days after she was reported missing.
Justine cohabited with Gaudencia at Malela area in Mkuranga Township for nearly three years that many people believed they were husband and wife.
In his appeal, the accused argued that the High Court Judge erred in convicting him without considering the defence of provocation and that the prosecution's evidence was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
A witness had told the High Court during trial that he saw Mr Justine with the deceased walking towards Vikindu area the day the woman disappeared.
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A police officer who appeared in court as a witness on the side of the prosecution told the court he arrested the accused, and that during the arrest the accused was found holding a black T-shirt stained with blood.
When cross-examined during the hearing of the case, the accused asked for forgiveness for causing the death of his partner.
"What transpired on that day was the devil's work. I pray for forgiveness for having caused the death of the deceased. Yes, I was arrested in the house I used to cohabit with the decease," he testified.
When the High Court further pressed for explanation, Mr Justine went on: "Yes, the devil pushed me to react because I suspected the deceased was cheating on me. I found the deceased [Gaudencia] with another man in the bush after which I took a knife and stabbed her on the neck and went to Magengeni. When I returned after a while, I found her dead."
However, this admission was not sufficient evidence for the Court to uphold the death sentence against Mr Justine.
"Even so, the alleged admission of the appellant cannot be taken as a true admission on part of the appellant.
"As correctly submitted by counsels of both parties, legally speaking, the evidence of the accused could not lead to someone's guilt," the judge said.
"There is no scintilla of evidence from the prosecution to suggest that the appellant's evidence carried the prosecution's case further for the trial court to arrive to the conclusion that there was a true admission by the appellant," the judge further added. The conviction of the accused was largely based on the elementary principle of law that if an accused person is alleged to have been the last person to be seen with the deceased, in absence of sufficient evidence to explain circumstances leading to the death, he or she will be presumed to be the killer.
"The finding of the trial court was based on the principle which we have stated (times) without numbers that, in a criminal trial, the very best of witnesses is an accused person who confesses to his guilt," the Judge remarked.
A witness had told the court that the appellant and the deceased used to go to the same church and that Gaudencia was the church's secretary.