“We go to the prisoner’s village to question the witnesses”

on 28 February 2010

Caroline Muchuma is Legal Officer with the “death penalty” project at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in Uganda. She explains the different means lawyers employ to help those facing capital punishment.
Firstly, a lawyer can provide legal representation at the Appellate Court. If the person is sentenced to death, the lawyer can provide legal representation by looking for mitigating circumstances. They can be used to reverse the ruling.
Caroline Muchuma gives a few examples of FHRI activities: “To defend a client, we go to the village and question witnesses and those who knew the prisoner. We also engage doctors who carry out psychiatric examinations to know the mental status of the person at the time of the crime and on Death Row.”
These steps are completed by social enquiry reports with the prison authorities and other inmates to understand the behaviour of the prisoner. “We also ask the prisoner if he is sorry and we look at the time he has spent in prison,” explains Muchama. “We then compile all this information and we present it to the Court with our client. We plead in his favour for an alternative punishment to execution,” she concludes.

See also the contribution from Indian human rights lawyer Navkiran Singh about his experience defending the rights of death row inmates after they are sentenced.
Click here to download his speech (PDF)

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