HJA client's conviction quashed
14th June 2011
A HJA client has been cleared of all charges in relation to
the death of teenager Stephen Lewis.
Background to the case
In January 2009, the victim attended a party, which our client
Nyimbi and the two other defendants were also attending.
At some point during the evening a fight broke out and the victim
was stabbed twice in the upper torso. One of the wounds
proved to be fatal.
At 3am that morning, our client’s father called the police to
the family home, reporting a disturbance. It was clear that
members of the victim’s "gang" mistakenly believed that our client
was in some way responsible for his murder and were now causing
trouble outside the house.
Evidence from witnesses
The main evidence in relation to our client potentially came
from two witnesses.
One independent eye witness recalled a swell of youths dressed
in black fighting, but could not make out any precise details –
only that when the fight was over, the victim was lying immobile on
the floor. The testimony of this witness later proved crucial
in relation to the identification evidence.
Another witness, who was the best friend of the victim, said
that he had seen the main defendant Chris Mazekelua and our client
stab the victim together. Mazekelua had a history of bad
blood with the victim.
When the case was taken to court, the jury convicted Mazekelua
of murder and our client of manslaughter. However, by the
time the case came to trial, the witness who claimed he had
actually seen our client and the other defendant stab the victim
had now become a “hostile witness” – meaning that he had become
reluctant to testify.
Court of Appeal
HJA took the case to the Court of Appeal, arguing firstly that
the conviction was unsafe (perverse verdict), and secondly, that
the 8 year sentence our client had been given was excessive.
We argued that the court erred in its approach to the hostile
witness and that the so-called supporting evidence (i.e the
identification evidence) could not be relied upon, given that this
witness has claimed that all men who had been involved in the fight
had been wearing black, whereas that evening our client had been
On hearing submissions, the conviction was quashed and our
client walked away from the court cleared of all charges in
relation to the victim’s death.
Pamela Reddy, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen LLP
commented: “We are so pleased that our client has been saved
from eight years imprisonment for a crime he did not commit.
It was just a shame that the case had to go to the Court of Appeal
to get the right verdict”.