At least 400 inmates have applied for a review of their death sentences since the Supreme Court did away with the penalty in December last year, Chief Justice David Maraga has said.
Mr Maraga said that the Judiciary will embark on the process of resentencing in 2019 and give a chance to several inmates to persuade the courts to review their sentences.
“I don’t have the exact numbers right here but they are quite many. There are about 400 but we will deal with them. Even when we were making the judgment at the Supreme Court, we knew that there will be quite a number,” said Mr Maraga on Sunday during a visit at Kamiti Maximum Prison.
In a landmark judgment in December 2017, six judges of the Supreme Court found that the mandatory nature of the death sentence as provided for under Section 204 of the Penal Code was unconstitutional.
The judges, led by Justice Maraga, said a person facing the death sentence deserves to be heard in mitigation because of the finality of the sentence, adding that during mitigation the offender’s version of events might evoke pity, necessitating the court to consider an aspect that might have been unclear during the trial.
Justice Maraga said that during the resentencing process they will take into consideration other factors such as rehabilitation success of an inmate based on reports from the prison management before finalizing the new sentencing.
“Resentencing is not a long process. It is a question of coming and one is given an opportunity to say why his sentence should be reviewed,” he said.
Although Kenya has not executed anyone on death row since 1987 when Hezekiah Ochuka was convicted and hanged for the 1982 attempted coup, the sentence is still handed to offenders.
Documented reports indicate that from 1963 to 1987, 280 persons out of 3,584 people sentenced to death were executed in Kenya.
But since 1987, those on death row have been kept waiting for the hangman’s noose. It was not until 2009 when President Mwai Kibaki commuted the sentences of more than 4,000 convicts on death row to life.
According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, a total of 6,058 prisoners have been sentenced to death since 2011 with the majority of persons on death row mainly convicted for robbery with violence.
In March, the Attorney-General (AG) named a 13-member task force chaired by Maryann Njau-Kimani, Secretary for Justice at AG’s office, to gather views from Kenyans on life sentencing, and establish a framework to deal with the resentencing of persons on death row as directed by the Supreme Court.
The task force will define life imprisonment and whether Parliament should come up with minimum and maximum sentences for capital offences.
This followed a suggestion by lawyers that Parliament should come up with minimum and maximum sentences for serious offences such as murder, robbery with violence and attempted robbery with violence, which afford a prisoner a chance for conditional release.
As the law stands, those serving life imprisonment or detention are released after some years under the President’s prerogative of mercy.