Goons on Trial

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I have never been in a bar brawl. I have heard of them, but I have never been involved in any. But I have witnessed a few. They are usually ugly, because drunken men foaming at the mouth will hit you with anything. The first thing they see next to them will automatically transform into a missile- he will hurl it at your head aiming for a bull’s eye on your forehead. At RnB Club in Westy, one guy tried to hit the other guy with the DJ decks- that was hilarious though. 

Imagine you are the local campus bar, imbibing the devil’s piss, probably with a friend or two.  You are having a good time checking out the lady in a short black sequin dress shake her behind like it’s on batteries. Probably you are out watching the game, talking intoxicated gibberish or just offloading some stress after a long week.  Imagine you are on your third bottle- the stage of inebriation where your eyelids are hugging, but you can still see through them, and your head feels super light. You are not thaaaaat drunk yet, but soon you shall get there.

Then some inebriated bloke, who has clearly been around more than you, stumbles on your table and then spills your beer. Are you allowed to be angry? Hell yeah! Are you justified in swelter his cheeks with a slap that echoes over the smattering cat calls and blaring Caribbean bar music? Well, yes. For one, beer nowadays costs between Ksh 200 to Ksh 600 depending on where you are buying. Spilling that kind of money is a waste. And that drunk needs to be woken up from his drunken stupor.

There is this student from UoN Kikuyu Campus that responds to the name Salim. He was out with his friends, a small gang of goons well reknown for cheating on classes with beer glasses. They were chilling at the campus bar having a tipple and slapping each other hard on the back in this manner that they presume is not painful. Then the unthinkable happened. James Muturi, a fellow student, stumbling out to call it a night, knocked down Salim’s drink.

Now, the idea behind comradeship is security; you attack one of our own, you attack all of us. All for one, and one for all.

But this crew went a tad further. They didn’t let him get away easy. A mere slap or punch would be like a slap on the wrist. So what do they do? They descend upon him with jabs and blows and kicks. Mark you they are also drunk, so it is not easy for them to understand or appreciate the consequences of their own actions.

By the time they were done with him, he was a gory mess, skin ripped at the mouth, wounds hemorrhaging blood, and unconscious. Thinking that they had not done much damage, they do him a favour by carrying him to his hostel and left him by the stairs. Little did they know that they had taken a route up a blind alley.

The following morning, a small congregation of bible thumpers on their way to morning devotion found this guy lying comatose at the foot of the staircase. Luckily enough, the faithfuls from this particular campus learnt a thing or two about good neighbourliness from the parable of the Good Samaritan. They could not just walk away from this man shrouded in bloody clothes and open fresh wounds to his own fate.

They called for help; an ambulance fetched the victim and took him to hospital. He remained in a coma for several hours but he did not pull through. Damage had been done- too much internal bleeding, said the doctors. He was pronounced dead hours after admission to the ICU. Life support machines can only do so much.

Last we heard, Salim and his gang have taken to the wind. They vamoosed from campus vicinity when they heard the news of J.M’s demise. Guilty ones are always afraid, we are told.

And while we are in the topic of guilt, here is basic Criminal Law 101 for those of you pursuing boring courses.

Truth is, he is as guilty as it gets. A good lawyer may get him off a charge of murder. Intoxication is a defence. He would say that he was too drunk to appreciate the value of his actions at the time of the offense. That is because our legal system sets a standard too high for criminal offenses i.e. beyond reasonable doubt.

Those of you reading this from an accounting school, you might have heard that phrase being bandied around in thriller movies and legal series.  It simply means that before one is convicted for a criminal wrong, it has to be proven completely by the prosecution that the alleged offender did it. That he also knew what he was doing- had a mental understanding of his deeds.

As meek and charming as that phrase beyond reasonable doubt may sound, however much you may love the way it strolls out of the tongue, it is a pretty high standard of proof. One that we lawyers hold dear. Because we know that the moment we allow people to be convicted with less, it doesn’t just make prison more likely for the guilty, but also for the innocent.

In case Salim and the gang of goons is caught and the prosecution is dumb enough to only charge them with murder, then it might as well have offered them their freedom back in a hand basket. The facts are not in dispute that he might have killed JM.  Even though the temperature was not taken, others may call it ‘murder in cold blood’. He and his friends bludgeoned a man to death, made a daunting spectacle of his body. That is a dispassionate sadistic method of depriving a person on his life.

But come on, he was drunk stupid.

The ebb and flow of our penal laws shows leniency to such persons. It offers the lesser option of Manslaughter. Why? Because in as much as one may want to make a judge believe that Salim had the malice aforethought to kill JM, he simply cannot be so convinced beyond all reasonable doubt. There was a motive, yes, but no evil intent.
But with manslaughter, the gravity of the offense is appreciated, and Salim’s state of mind becomes irrelevant. And he is still liable to imprisonment, if found guilty, of between one day and incarceration for life.

Either way, Salim and his gang is screwed.

After reading these facts, I am curious to know what you make of all this mess. Who do you weep for? Who do you feel sorry for in all this? It is easy to say that JM is the one our pity and prayers should go to. And that is fine.

But what about Salim?

What about the man who is centrally responsible for the hammering of a student to a purée? He too lost his life when he killed JM, but nobody bothers to think of him. To pray for him- to ask God to remove the black cloud hovering above his head; to save him from alcohol- because the brown bottle has been his love interest for years now, and it caused him to deny a woman somewhere, the joy of watching his son grow up into a man. Nobody want to be afforded that glimpse of humanity in this guy; in the eyes of many, he is an animal.

Murder is not always a decision.

Sometimes when you have had a little too much to drink, and your emotions become undisciplined, an obituary will be scripted. It happens when we are too blotto for own damn good. I am yet to meet a mother who raised and educated her kid to be murderer. No kid was raised to take life, even though Hollywood may beg to differ.

Murder can sometimes be an accident as was in this case. Yes, and that may make a person guilty, and he may be damned to a crumbling, unproductive and decaying prison life. But that doesn’t necessarily make one a villain now does it?

It’s only that “Ooops, My bad” is an excuse you are allowed to shamelessly offer for cheating on your girlfriend; it’s not a defence for murder or manslaughter in a court of law.

So to Salim and his pack of hounds who made a chalk outline of Jame Muturi’s body, there is no need to be on the run. The moment one of you rears his head, you will be nabbed. And we know you did not mean to kill him. We get that in a moment of irrationality, in an instant, you lost yourselves. In an impulse occasioned by a besotted dissociate state of mind, you committed a felony. He spilled your drink, you got mad and then you got even. It happens, shit happens. But such shit also makes for a good old fashioned, classic manslaughter slam-dunk.

Wherever you guys are, search my words and you shall find this single truth; that the judge will surely throw the book at you- and there is no dodging it. Make no bones about that.

Until then, let’s have a moment of silence for the fallen comrade.


The Real G Inc blog has been nominated for Best New Blog category in the on going BAKE Awards 2014. Feel free to vote for via this link . Select the item and click on the green button at the bottom left written “VOTE NOW”. 
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  1. Brilliant writing there G. I always look forward to your pieces. Am no law pundit, but I understood. You write well. You bring about the humanity in Salim, even though he is undeserving of it

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