The Court of Appeal yesterday heard and concluded the appeal in which death row convict Thomas Nkulungira aka Tonku is seeking to avoid the hangman’s noose.
Through his lawyers, Benson Tusasirwe and Jonny Patrick Barenzi, Tonku shifted the murder blame onto his then shamba boy Fred Ssempijja for the murder of his former girlfriend Brenda Karamuzi.
Brenda’s half naked body was discovered by a fumigator dumped into a septic tank at Tonku’s Muyenga home in 2010.
He was subsequently charged with murder and convicted by High Court judge Rugadya Atwoki who sentenced him to death by hanging.
However, today, Tonku’s lawyers faulted the same trial Judge for having overlooked the other pieces of circumstantial evidence that implicated his shamba boy in the murder.
Ssempijja was convicted for being an accessory by helping Tonku to carry and dispose off Karamuzi’s body into a septic tank and never reported the crime to police.
He was subsequently sentenced to 5 years.
In his submissions, lawyer Tusasirwe argued that Tonku’s shamba boy should have been held accountable based on the fact that police arrested him with some of the deceased’s property like her cell phone, moments after her murder.
The murder appeal was being heard by justices; Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, and Kenneth Kakuru.
Tonku’s lawyer further convinced court that his client used to return home late in the night and that on that fateful night of January 22, 2010 when Karamuzi was murdered, he was away, yet his shamba boy was home throughout the day and night.
The lawyer also went on to tell court of how the killer weapon (hoe) was recovered from the pit latrine, which was being used by Ssempijja.
Tonku’s lawyer also cited other circumstantial evidence that he said was over looked by the judge like the phone call print-outs, which he said did not place his client at the scene of crime as the phone print outs indicate he was in Kansanga area and not at his home in Muyenga.
He further punched holes in the prosecution’s case that Tonku was able to account for his movements on the fateful night, legally called alibi, which he said placed him away from the scene of crime.
While concluding his submissions, lawyer Tusasirwe asked court to lessen Tonku’s death sentence in alternative if it upheld the conviction on grounds that death sentences are only imposed only in the “rarest of rare” scenarios.
However, prosecution through Senior Principal State Attorney Jane Okuo Kajuga asked court to uphold Tonku’s conviction and death sentence on grounds that the trial Judge properly arrived at the right decision of finding Tonku guilty of the murder.
Kajuga told court that it’s not Ssempijja who killed Karamuzi on grounds that the circumstantial evidence adduced did not implicate him as the killer but Tonku.
She argued that Tonku had access to his home all the time and that on the fateful night, he returned home at 3am, sent his shamba boy for cigarettes and on returning, asked for his help to dispose Karamuzi’s body into the septic tank.
Kajuga prayed to court to hand him a life sentence if it reduced the death sentence.
Relying on the pathologist’s report; Kajuga justified the commuting of the death sentence to life on grounds that Karamuzi died a brutal death at the hands of Tonku as he hit her on the skull with her brain matter coming out.
Its prosecution’s case that between 18th and 30th January 2010 in Bukasa, Makindye division, Kampala district, Tonku, together with Ssempijja murdered Karamuzi.
After hearing the submissions from both sides, court said it will give its decision on notice.