Court of Appeal Overturns Man's Conviction for Murder

Adiga was then convicted of murder by Justice Wilson Kwesiga and sentenced to life imprisonment on July 29th 2010. However, Adiga through his lawyer John Patrick Adar appealed against the sentence based on four grounds.
Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera.
The Court of Appeal in Lira has set free Johnson David Adiga, more than 10 years after he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court in Arua.

Adiga is alleged to have murdered Dorcus Enjekia on November 4th 2002 while in Drimindra village in Arua District and dumped the body at Micu River.

Adiga was then convicted of murder by Justice Wilson Kwesiga and sentenced to life imprisonment on July 29th 2010.

However, Adiga through his lawyer John Patrick Adar appealed against the sentence based on four grounds.

The first ground was that the trial judge Kwesiga erred in law when he failed to sum up the law and evidence to the assessors which led to a miscarriage of justice.

According to section 82 of the trial on Indictment Act, the judge is supposed, to sum up, the law and the evidence in the case to the assessors and that though the judge is not bound by the assessor's opinion the provision is couched in a mandatory manner. The lawyer argued that this forms part and parcel of the right to a fair hearing.

Adiga’s second ground of appeal was that the judge failed to adequately evaluate the evidence as a whole regarding the charge and caution statement and a result came to the wrong decision.

Adiga through his lawyers argued that he never made a charge and caution statement yet the prosecution presented one and the judge accepted it.

Court also heard that the judge erred in law when he failed to properly evaluate the contradictions in the evidence of one of the witnesses which were major and pointing to deliberate falsehood and hence came to a wrong decision.

Adiga also argues that the judge passed a sentence that was harsh and excessive as to amount to a miscarriage of justice.

In their judgement dated February 25 2021, a panel of three justices comprising of Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Justice Hellen Obura and Remmy Kasule found that indeed there was no record that the trial judge had summed up the assessors. 

"We agree with both counsel that this provision as couched in mandatory terms and that the failure of the learned trial judge to adhere to it rendered the trial a nullity and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice. " reads the decision in part.

The panel also found that indeed the appellant had told the trial judge in the High Court that he had not made a statement. The judge too agreed that Adiga had raised the matter.

According to the panel, the judge should have conducted a trial to ascertain whether what Adiga was saying was true or not before they could continue with the main trial.

The panel further faulted the judge for failing to assess the statement issued by the prosecution and weigh it against Adiga's denials. The panel says this was a fatal omission.

"It is, therefore, our conclusion that the findings of the learned trial judge should be quashed and the sentence set aside based on these irregularities, and we so order", they said. 

The panel found no point in considering the other two grounds. They declined to order for a re-trial as had been asked by the prosecution and consequently ordered for the immediate release of Adiga who appeared via video conferencing during the case hearing due to measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

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