In 2007, the High Court of Malawi, sitting as a constitutional court, declared that the mandatory sentence of death for murder was unconstitutional. At the time of the High Court’s invalidation of the mandatory death penalty, Malawi’s prisons had over 190 prisoners serving their sentences as a result of the imposition of the mandatory death penalty. Some of these prisoners were on death row, while others had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. When the mandatory death penalty was declared unconstitutional, the High Court also directed that all prisoners serving their sentences for murder should be brought before the High Court so that they could receive individual sentences taking into account the circumstances of the offense, the offender, as well as the interests of the victim(s). This paper interrogates the application of the sentencing discretion that was introduced with the outlawing of the mandatory death penalty in Malawi. Specifically, the paper analyzes decisions that have emerged from the resentencing of capital offenders in so far as judges have either considered or refused to consider the relevance of post-conviction factors during the resentencing. It is this paper’s central finding that a refusal to consider post-conviction factors, as some judges held, was not only unjustified but was also contrary to Malawi’s Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. This refusal, the paper argues, resulted in sentencing discrepancies as well as a failure to properly utilize the discretion vested in the courts for purposes of sentencing.

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