One of the four police officers who were arrested five months ago together with three other people for fatally stabbing a 20-year-old customer at a Chilanga nightclub was given a 20-year prison sentence with hard labor for the murder.
Inspector Fabian Palata was convicted, but three other police officers who were simultaneously prosecuted with him were found not guilty due to a lack of evidence connecting them to the commission of the capital offense.
Lusaka High Court Judge Charles Kafunda informed the sobbing Palata that he would show tolerance due to the extenuating circumstances in the case as the decision was being made.
“The circumstances under which the offence occurred is indicative that there were extenuating circumstances,” he said.
“Accused number one [Palata] ought to have known that the act of stabbing the deceased on the neck would result in grievous harm. I hereby convict you for the charge of murder.”
Lewis Mufwempa, James Mfula, and Mulonda Mukelabai were found not guilty.
The four were detained in July in connection with the alleged murder of Moses Theu at a Chilanga nightclub in July of this year, following an altercation over beer.
The four officers are said to have become enraged when Mr. Theu allegedly picked up some of their beer bottles while they were enjoying a drink at their table.
One of the cops took a bottle, slammed it on the ground, then struck the victim on the left side of the neck in retaliation.
Mr. Theu suffered a major cut during the process and was taken to Chawama Hospital for care. He was admitted there, but he later passed away from his wounds.
In connection with the alleged crime, police responded to the location of the crime and later detained the four cops.
After being accused of murder, the suspects eventually rejected the charges when they appeared before High Court judge Charles Kafunda.
Following the testimony of seven witnesses called by the State, who testified against the defendants, Judge Kafunda determined that the accused had a case to answer.
The defendants vigorously refuted the accusations in their defense last week.
However, one of the accused identified Palata as the assailant of the victim.
Judge Kafunda ruled yesterday that it was impossible to attribute Palata’s acts to the same intent of all the defendants.
“As accused number one’s motives were ridiculous, the other accused did not share them. I thus acquit defendants two through four, the judge declared.
Judge Kafunda stated that the police should have known that stabbing the victim in the neck would cause serious harm when he sentenced the defendant.
He added that given how the situation played out, provocation could be seen as an attenuating factor.