What you need to know:
- Justice Waweru stressed the prosecution's responsibility to anticipate and address the challenges faced by the witness, identified as PW11.
- The court expected the prosecution to seek an expert opinion on the reliability of her testimony, especially given her stuttering problems.
A witness with a stammer played a pivotal role in the acquittal of one of the convicts, Rael Mayaka, in the Baby Junior Sagini case.
The complexity of the witness's condition raised questions about the handling of her testimony, and the lack of expert assessment by the prosecution.
Justice Kiarie Waweru, who presided over the case, stressed the prosecution's responsibility to anticipate and address the challenges faced by the witness, identified as PW11.
The court expected the prosecution to seek an expert opinion on the reliability of her testimony, especially given her stuttering problems.
"I also expected the prosecution to engage the services of a sign language interpreter, which they did not do. It was left to the trial court and this court to decide. This is not an easy task," said Judge Waweru.
Referring to an article on the testimony of people with mental disabilities, the judge stressed the importance of verifying eyewitness testimony given by people who face such challenges.
Prior to the witness's testimony, the prosecutor asked for her privacy, describing her as a stammerer with below-average intelligence.
Despite her difficulties, the witness, who is proficient in sign language, asserted her ability to testify.
Her evidence was that the appellant, Mayaka, did not assist her accomplices in putting the complainant, Baby Sagini, in a sack after his eyes were gouged out.
However, Judge Waweru stressed the need for corroborating evidence, given that the prosecution had failed to subject the witness to expert examination.
"The appellant's conviction is therefore quashed and the sentence set aside. She is released, unless otherwise lawfully detained," the judge said.
Mayaka, 80, had been sentenced to five years in prison by a Kisii Magistrate's Court for allegedly gouging out the eyes of her grandson, Sagini.
The acquittal, according to Judge Kiage, was due to the prosecution's failure to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
Mayaka, along with her daughter Pacificah Nyakerario and grandson, Alex Maina Ochogo, were originally sentenced in June 2023.
Ochogo and Nyakerario did not appeal the verdict, and the case highlights the challenges and responsibilities involved in presenting evidence from witnesses with communication difficulties.