DPP to appeal in High Court Kitui ex-priest's acquittal

Veronica Musali Mutua

Veronica Musali Mutua (left) goes down in tears outside a Kitui court on June 16, 2021 following the acquittal of a former Catholic priest, Japheth Mwove Kimanzi, who had been charged with attempting to kill her and her child in 2015.

Photo credit: Kitavi Mutua | Nation Media Group

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said he will appeal a ruling by a magistrate’s Court in Kitui which freed a former Catholic priest who had been accused of attempting to kill a woman and a child he is alleged to have fathered.

Senior State Counsel Bonnie Okemwa said the office of the DPP disagrees with Kitui Chief Magistrate Stephen Mbungi’s judgment and will be moving to the High Court to lodge an appeal.

Fr Japheth Mwove Kimanzi, a former Catholic priest, was acquitted on Wednesday last week, prompting protests and loud wailing from the victim, who claimed that she had been denied justice.

Veronica Musali Mutua burst out crying inside the courtroom as soon as the trial magistrate delivered the judgment, saying that the trial court had sided with her persecutor.

Permanent disability

Mr Okemwa, who is the head of prosecutions in Kitui County, said the appeal will be lodged in the interest of the nine-year-old child who was left with permanent disability. Following the attack allegedly committed in November 2015, the child was left deaf, blind and crippled.

“We are wondering what more evidence the court required in the case. Unless it is challenged, the judgment sets a bad precedent on the rights of minors in assault cases," said Mr Okemwa.

No concrete evidence 

The Kitui head of prosecutions told the Nation that the proceedings and the judgment are already being typed in preparation for the notice of appeal which will be filed at the High Court next week.

The magistrate ruled that there was no concrete evidence placing the accused person at the scene of crime or linking him with the assault that caused grievous harm to both the child and her mother.

“The court could not rely on the testimony of the victim alone as there was no forensic evidence to prove the case. The accused brought witnesses who testified (that) he spent the night at Kabati Catholic Parish on the night the attack happened,” said the magistrate. 

With her  child tucked in her back, Ms Mutua broke down, fell on the ground and started wailing following the acquittal of the former priest.

“Am devastated by this judgment. After enduring a near-death experience with my child, an acquittal is the least I expected. But I leave everything including our safety to God,” said a sobbing Ms Mutua.

The young single mother urged people of goodwill to intervene and ensure that justice for her child is served through an appeal of the case.

Witnesses intimidated 

And after the judgment by the magistrate's court, the former Catholic priest, who has since been kicked out of priesthood, walked out with a beaming smile after escaping conviction for criminal charges whose maximum penalty may have seen him languish in jail for life.

During the six-year trial, nasty details on how the priest planned to destroy evidence linking him to the child in a desperate attempt to cover up infidelity to his celibacy vows were laid bare in court, as the prosecution tried to secure a conviction for assault.

Several witnesses who had been lined up to testify against the priest, including his neighbors who rescued Ms Mutua and took her to Muthale Mission Hospital after the brutal attack, failed to attend court, despite recording statements with the police.

The prosecution claimed that the witnesses were intimidated by the accused.

Kitui Law Courts

Veronica Musali Mutua (left) is assisted as she leaves a Kitui courtroom on June 16, 2021 following the acquittal of a former Catholic priest who had been charged with attempting to kill her and her child in 2016.

Photo credit: Kitavi Mutua | Nation Media Group

Both Ms Mutua and her child survived the brutal attack on the night of November 16, 2015, which happened near Father Kimanzi’s home in Mutonguni, Kitui West Constituency.

The minor suffered permanent disability including loss of sight, damaged brain and crippled legs.

Last month, the chief magistrate apologised after he postponed, for the second time, the judgment of the case, saying his work had been disrupted by a weekend power blackout in Kitui.

“I was unable to conclude the writing of the judgment because there was an interruption of power the whole weekend and I want to say sorry for that. I'll therefore deliver the judgment on June 16 at 2pm, ” said Mr Mbungi.

The court was initially supposed to deliver the judgment on Friday, May 21.