Three death row inmates on Friday breathed a sigh of relief after their death sentences were commuted to years of imprisonment.
The three are Raymond Kago Leshomo and Arnold Masango who were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the murder of Mario Lottering at Mupane Gold mine in North East in 2006 and Benson Keganne, who was sentenced to 18 years for the murder of a Phitshane Molopo woman, Gloria Mahowe, in 2001.
In their judgment, in regard to Leshomo and Masango, the Court of Appeal judges said that it was their considered view that extenuating circumstances in the case were of such a nature as to reduce the moral blameworthiness of the two condemned prisoners in murdering the deceased.
They said the Court is accordingly entitled to impose a sentence other than death in terms of the penal code. That the crime is a serious one, they said is beyond dispute and that it was premeditated and executed in a dastardly manner, but that this is not to say there were no mitigating factors.
Both of them, they said, were relatively young at the time of commission of murder, at 22 and 29 years, respectively, and had displayed signs of immaturity . They also confessed to the murder at the earliest available opportunity.
They considered this as a sign of remorse and that cognizance should also be taken of the fact that they have spent almost ten months on death row and finally that they feel a sentence of 20 years imprisonment will be appropriate.
The two were represented by Unity Dow and Ernest Mosate.
Turning to Keganne, the Court of Appeal judges said that the penal code is clear that where a Court in convicting a person of murder is of the opinion that there are extenuating circumstances, the Court may impose any sentence other than death sentence.
Besides that, they said that the Court of Appeal has repeatedly said that a sentence must be balanced and must take into account the triad consisting of the offence, the offender and the interests of the society. The appellant, they said, had committed a brutal murder against a defenceless woman and deserves a stiff sentence.
However, they said that taking into account the principle of uniformity of sentence, it could not be ignored that his co-accused was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.
In their view, the judges said that, having regard to what has been said above, the part they have played was equally damning as that Keganne played. As such, he has the same moral guilt and involvement in the commission of murder as Keganne has.
They then commuted the sentence to 18 years . Keganne was represented by Unoda Mack whilst Mosweu Ditodi represented Directorate of Public Prosecution.