Murder Accused Escapes Death Penalty

FRANCISTOWN: A 27-year-old herdsman from Maun escaped capital punishment by a whisker after the court found extenuating circumstances in his case.

Young Kesotegile Double was accused of the murder of Thopho Keabile on August 17, 2005.

Passing sentence last week, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi noted that having found extenuating circumstances in this case he had no option but not to pass the death sentence.

The judge took into consideration all the mitigation factors submitted by Double's attorney Chipo Gaobatlwe of Gaobatlwe Attorneys. Justice Phumaphi considered that Double was a first offender, who had pleaded guilty thus saving the court's time. He also considered that Double had a clean record until the August 2005 incident. He said youthful exuberance and immaturity might have played a part in his (accused's) action.

Justice Phumaphi said that he had not lost sight of the fact that the crime committed was a serious one. He said the accused terminated an innocent life and that he must pass a sentence that suited the accused's personal circumstances and that of the community, and at the same time reflect the seriousness of the offence.

The appropriate sentence the judge considered was 12 years' imprisonment beginning from Double's first day of incarceration. Since Double had entered a plea of guilty the chief state counsel Antoinette Kula submitted a statement of agreed facts. Kula said at around 2pm of August 17, 2005, the accused and the deceased were among people who had assembled at one Mma Kamandaku's yard for a beer drinking session.

She said the drinking went on until about 7pm when the accused suddenly emerged from behind a hut holding a piece of wood. "Without any warning, he approached the deceased, who was lying on the ground, singing, and struck him once on the head with the said piece of wood.

"The deceased, who bled a little from the head, did not say a word, and after a short while appeared as if he had stopped breathing. The deceased was later taken to the hospital where he was certified dead on arrival," submitted Kula. Dr Varaprasad Patnaik conducted a postmortem examination on the deceased cadaver on August 24. Dr Patnaik concluded that the cause of death was shock and haemorrhage due to head injuries.

"By so hitting the deceased on the head with a piece of wood the accused acted unlawfully and without lawful justification for his conduct. Such an unlawful act caused the injury found by the pathologist on the deceased's head, which resulted in the death of deceased's person Thopho Keabile," she submitted. 

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