Katanga murder trial: Highlights from day 1 of deliberations

Molly's co-accused, Martha, Kakwanza, Amanyire and Otai standing in the dock

The hearing began Tuesday, July 2, in businessman Henry Katanga murder case. His wife Molly is the key suspect.

She denies the charges and her defence team insist she was a victim of domestic violence.

The outcome of this high profile case has for now been placed in the hands of Justice Isaac Muwata of the High Court Criminal Division.

By 8 am relatives, friends, media etc had already started making their way to the premises of the High Court, Kampala which is undergoing a facelift.

At first, there was confusion on courtroom to use. The case schedule indicated courtroom 6, but courtroom 1 was used.

By 9am, the courtroom was already packed.

Molly’s co-accused—her two daughters Patricia Kakwanza and Martha Nkwanzi, medic Charles Otai and shamba boy George Amanyire had already taken their seats in the second front row seat.

They were later called outside only to be shifted to sit near the defence lawyers where they emerged to appear in the dock.

Defence and Prosecution lawyers could be seen consulting from there and there while moving in and outside the courtroom.

At 10:6 am, key suspect Molly Katanga under the tight guard of five female prison wardresses commanded by a cadet officer, made their way to the courtroom. She arrived in wheel chair, a key fixture of her physical support for the last 8 months.

Molly, dressed in her usual brown-silk African dress and with her head wrapped in a white scarf, was visibly frail and was helped to walk and later into a wheelchair by the female prison wardresses.

At 10:20am, Justice Muwata walked in.

He first questioned why Molly’s co-accused were seated near defence lawyers only to be told it was because of space issues. He cautioned those concerned to always prioritize suspects’ sitting arrangement.

The case before court was then read.

Defence lawyers introduced themselves first, followed by prosecution and then those on the watching brief.

The state was represented by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Samali Wakholi, Chief State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya and Anna Kiiza who represented state interests.

The defence team was led by Peter Kabatsi, MacDosman Kabega, Jet Tumwebaze, Bruce Musinguzi, Elison Karuhanga, Zuraika Kasaijja, and Hannat Nabaggala.

Molly and three of the co-accused were all read their charges in English language which they understood and pleaded not guilty.

On the other hand there was an issue of language barrier when it came to shamba boy George who doesn’t understand English.

The court had to take a five minutes break to get an interpreter for his preferred Rutooro language.

At 10:50am, court resumed.

A female Counter Terrorism officer identified as Advance Ayesigwa later offered to interpret though she struggled with some English words.

Nevertheless, George was also able to plead not guilty.

Proceeding with deliberations, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Samali Wakholi requested to amend the charge sheet in line with the sections (50, 51) governing the Trial and Indictments Act (TIA).

Defence lawyers also requested the prosecution to disclose the summary evidence it intends to rely on in the charge of destroying and tampering evidence faced by Kakwanza and Martha.

The issues raised forced Justice Muwata to give court another break of 20 minutes for prosecution and defence lawyers to harmonise.

Later when court resumed, prosecution agreed to provide a summary of evidence it intends to rely on in the count of destroying and tampering evidence, a move defence lawyers welcomed.

However, it also emerged that prosecution wanted to add more counts to Molly’s co-accused.

According to the original charge sheet, Patricia Kakwanza and Martha Nkwanzi face one count of destroying and tampering evidence. However, prosecution wants this amended to add the second count of being accessories after the fact of murder.

Likewise medic Charles Otai and shamba boy George Amanyire were charged with being accessories after the fact of murder on the original charge sheet—prosecution now wants to add a second count of destroying and tampering evidence.

This was out rightly rejected by defence lawyers while citing various sections of the law.

Kabatsi challenged the rationale behind moving to charge suspects fresh in the High Court. He further stressed that a person who wasn’t properly indicted and committed to the High Court can’t be smuggled in the trial stage. His arguments were corroborated by Musinguzi who insisted that the fact that the co-accused were not committed for the new offences being brought, they can’t be tried over the same.

Prosecution led by Wakholi however, citing sections of the Trial and Indictments Act (TIA) insisted that the law permits alteration of the charge sheet at any stage of the trial stressing that the merits of the case require so. Assuring that no injustice will be occasioned, she said it will meet the ends of justice if the amendment is allowed.

Kabatsi described the attempts to amend the charge sheets as preposterous and oblivious to the dictate of causing injustice and consequent prejudice.

Justice Muwata then adjourned the case hearing to Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024.

Defence lawyers were however quick to interject only to request that Molly be allowed to appear via zoom moving forward.

They cited poor health which gives her difficulty to walk on stairs, appear and stand or sit in court for a long time.

Justice Muwata in turn ordered Molly to be physically returned to court on Wednesday and thereafter the court will decide.

An attempt by the prosecution to challenge the request was quickly shot down by Justice Muwata who advised the defence and prosecution not to make everything contentious.

At 11:50 am Justice Muwata then adjourned the case hearing to Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024 at 10:00 am.

 

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