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When a US soldier killed a Kenyan girl, and was freed
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|When a US soldier killed a Kenyan girl, and was freed by Kenyans247(1): Sun 01, November, 2020 10:46am|
What you need to know:
Frank Joseph Sundstrom was arrested and tried for murder before a Mombasa resident judge, Justice L. G. Harris.
The prosecutor, who had assumed the role of defence counsel, said because the sailor had voluntarily confessed to killing, the charge be dropped from murder to manslaughter.
Kenya and the Unites States have a cordial relationship going back many years. One of the favours we do them is to allow their naval ships to dock at Mombasa from where they watch on their enemies in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. In return they boast our tourism sector with green bucks.
But there is a woeful side to it. After taking all the booze there is in town, the youthful soldiers sometimes go wild.
Once in a while, the US sailors cause a lot of trouble, as it happened in August 1980. Within hours of naval ship, US La Salle, docking in Mombasa, some 19-year-old brat by name Frank Joseph Sundstrom and his colleagues hit town like a Tsunami, consuming every drop of alcohol in Mombasa and having reckless sex.
Sundstrom’s first stop was at Florida club, where he drunk himself silly and had sex with a twilight girl by the name Margaret. He returned to have more beer with another girl, Monical Njeri, a mother of two children. Then they agreed to go to the woman’s house nearby.
When they returned, a quarrel ensued when the drunken sailor snatched from Monica the Sh200 he had paid for “services” rendered. A fight started and the youngster smashed her head with a beer bottle and used the broken pieces to stab her. She died from the injuries.The sailor was arrested and tried for murder before a Mombasa resident judge, Justice L. G. Harris. The prosecutor was Nicholas Harwood.
Great justice for my sweet son
In a signed confession, the sailor admitted to killing the Kenyan girl. He said they had met at the club where he bought her alcohol. They agreed to have sex in Monica’s house. The agreement, he said was Sh500. He paid Sh200 so he was denied additional “services”. They returned to have more beer. In the process he forcefully took away from Monica even the Sh200 paid. In attempt to resist, he hit her on the head with a beer bottle then used the broken pieces to stab her all over. She died on the way to hospital.
The prosecutor, who had assumed the role of defence counsel, said because the sailor had voluntarily confessed to killing, the charge be dropped from murder to manslaughter. The judge agreed and the young sailor pleaded guilty. The court set him free but said he should pay Sh500 fine and sign a bond to be of good conduct for the next two years.
His mother, who had flown to Mombasa for the hearing of the case, hailed the verdict as “great justice for my sweet son”. Amazingly for a mother, she didn’t utter a word about two young girls orphaned by the murder by her “sweet” son.
Kenyans went into an uproar. The Nation newspaper devoted an entire page to let readers ventilate on the outrage from the courts.
One reader screamed in a letter to the editor: “My blood boils with fury and words fail me when I read the case of one Frank Sundstrom who after confessing to killing a poor woman was set free. It sounds like fiction. What justice is this?”
Another one wrote: “What a judgment! In the same court a man who had stolen chicken was jailed for five years. And now a murderer has been let go! What kind of judiciary do we have in the country?”
In Parliament, angry MPs demanded a statement from the then Attorney General James Karugu. He was honest enough to tell the House: “I am not satisfied that justice was done. I am frustrated but legally impotent. It is the price we have to pay for independent judiciary.”
Lest you see only a racist angle in the Monica case, three years later in 1983, a Kenyan judge by the name Zaccheus Chesoni set free another US navy soldier who had murdered another woman again in Mombasa on grounds that no evidence was “produced” that the soldier was at the scene of murder. It is like the judge was suggesting the victim murdered herself! Justice Chesosni would later be appointed chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. He was head of the electoral body in 1992 elections when in some constituencies the votes cast for the ruling party were more than voters registered! In weird humour, President Moi would later appoint him Chief Justice.
He was jailed for 14 years but released on pardon five years later
Murderer Sundstrom hurriedly sneaked back to the US and continued serving in the navy, and drinking himself silly – and killing.
Thirty two years later in 2012, he was arraigned in a US court for causing death by drunken driving. The charge at a court in Warwick, Rhode Island, read that “driving under influence of drugs and alcohol, he struck an oncoming car driven by Tamara Nolin, 71, of Branford at around 9pm on December 11, 2012. The driver and her two passengers died on the spot.”
He was jailed for 14 years but released on pardon five years later. He continued drinking. He died on September 22 last year.
Postscript: BBI proposes the judicial ombudsman be appointed by the President. Deputy President William Ruto disagrees.
On the other hand, opposition leader Musalia Mudavadi thinks the ombudsman should be appointed by the Chief Justice, which would mean the Judiciary overseeing itself! So my two cents worth opinion: Let the office of judicial ombudsman have three people – one nominee from the Executive and the other two picked by religious leaders and the Judiciary, respectively, and vetted by Parliament. What do you think?
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