Two Innocent Men Facing Life Imprisonment Finally Set Free

The IJM Kenya team celebrates freedom with Collins
The IJM Kenya team celebrates freedom with Collins

NAIROBI, KENYA – Today in Kenya, two men framed for stealing a police officer’s radio were finally declared innocent. The battle in court has taken two years.

“I have gone through a lot of agony since I got arrested and imprisoned,” Collins told the IJM team fighting for his innocence. “I have seen God work through you, and he has used you to save me.”  

Framed For a Crime

Two years ago, Collins was working as a night guard at a small shop when a group of police officers came by asking for directions. Collins began walking with them to the nearby place, but the officers suddenly arrested him.

Another man named John was also working as a private security guard nearby. The group of police officers showed up at his post. The same story unfolded, and both John and Collins were taken to the police station.

The men later learned that a police officer had been robbed of his expensive police radio—and losing this valuable item could cost him his job if he didn’t find someone to blame fast.

Even though they were innocent, Collins and John were charged with Robbery with Violence, a serious crime with a mandatory life sentence in Kenya.

Not Alone

A recent government study of police performance in Kenya shows that Collins’ story is not unusual. Scores of innocent men and women are being framed for crimes that did not commit.

In nearly two-thirds of the felony criminal cases reviewed, men and women were being tried for crimes where the police did not have even the minimum amount of evidence to charge them in the first place.

Since the state does not have to supply a lawyer, nearly all those charged with crimes are left to defend themselves, sometimes having to stand before a judge who does not even speak his language.

This means innocents like Collins will spend months—if not years—behind bars, waiting for their trial to conclude.

Standing Up for Justice

A prison guard told IJM about John and Collins’ story in May 2013. The guard explained that their case simply didn’t make sense—it seemed like the two men were totally innocent.

The trial to prove their innocence could have ended last summer but has dragged on, with many hearings delayed or postponed for frustrating reasons. IJM supporters around the world prayed and even sent Christmas cards to the men in prison.

John’s family was able to raise the money to get him out on bail, but Collins remained behind bars for 19 long months, until December 2014. His wife, Nancy, and their two children had to move in with Collins’ parents in a rural village more than 250 miles away just to survive. She had been pregnant when Collins was arrested, and he didn’t meet his son until he was 4 months old.

In December, IJM successfully advocated for Collins to be released on bail, and he got to spend Christmas with his family.

Free At Last

Wamaitha was inspired by John and Collins’ faith as the final court hearing drew in January.

“We have been waiting and longed for the release of Collins and John. Collins has been faithfully praying and fasting in the lead-up to his judgment,” says Wamaitha, adding that she has witnessed dramatic change in both men.

“When we first met Collins, he seemed so afraid. He came to know the Lord in prison—his faith really helped him remain hopeful, and he would always smile and encourage us telling us that it will soon be over.”

On January 21, 2015, the magistrate read the judgment: Both Collins and John were acquitted. Their names are completely cleared. As he heard the news, Collins let out a deep sigh.

Back at the IJM office, the team celebrated with Collins and John, rejoicing and even dancing that the fight is over.

“You have helped me get out,” John told the IJM team. Then he added, “I pray for you all.”

Collins cheered, “I am free. I thank God and thank you IJM.”

Africa, Illegal Detention, Kenya