For the first time, APP has been working together with the US Embassy to launch a plea bargaining project within prisons. The project has currently reached its fourth month and is expected to continue running for a year. 10 APP paralegals at Naivasha have been trained on the notion of plea agreements and have made good use of this knowledge by conducting awareness sessions at a number of prisons.
Sharon's Story – Death penalty reduced to 18 months
Sharon Akoth had been held on remand at Lang’ata Women’s Remand Prison since October 2014 with murder charges. For two and a half years, her case came to a standstill. Whenever she went to court, she would get disappointed. Due to various technicalities such as witnesses not turning up, her court hearings were constantly postponed.
Sharon was simply waiting for the prosecution case to come to a close so that she could have the opportunity to tell the judge her side of the story – but there was no knowing how long that might take.
In October 2016, after attending an APP legal awareness session that was conducted in conjunction with the APP paralegals in the prison, Sharon went for an interview at the legal aid clinic. She was advised by APP paralegals, Lyn and Elizabeth, to make an application for plea bargaining through her lawyer. Being wary of the implications of the process and the almost immediate result of sentencing – which in her case she feared would be a mandatory death penalty – she was hesitant to do so.
It was not until December 2016, that she decided to move forward with the plea bargain, and through the application, her charges were reduced to that of manslaughter. After the process was completed, the judge delivered the judgement and to her relief was sentenced to eighteen months. The decision was delivered on Monday 8th May 2017, a day that Sharon says she will never forget.
Understandably, Sharon was very happy with the outcome and only wished that she would have made the decision earlier. In her closing remarks, she expressed that she was grateful for the paralegals assistance and would highly recommend other inmates get assistance from APP.
Plea Bargaining Session at Naivasha
APP's Legal Aid team recently visited Naivasha Medium Prison and found that the remand count at the prison was in excess of 280 individuals.
The team conducted an introductory session with the remandees on plea bargaining, followed by a number of paralegals – who had been trained to screen cases for potential plea agreements – conducting interviews with the inmates to determine whether there was any interest in entering into a plea agreement.
The results were particularly encouraging. Of the 42 remandees who were able to be fully screened, nine had possession of their statements and were ready to move forward immediately with a plea agreement. An additional 27 inmates required statements, but has indicated that they would be willing to move forward with a plea having had an opportunity to review the statements.
As a result, out of the 42 remandees, 36 were potentially ready to resolve their case through plea agreements as opposed to trials.