The death penalty should not be awarded where there is a lack of premeditation and motive is unproven. The Supreme Court considers a single shot fired as evidence of lack of premeditation.
Any mitigation is sufficient to justify a lesser sentence. Deliberately inflicting an injury on a lower part of the body, and not inflicting repeat injuries, constitutes sufficient mitigation. Additionally, where the accused has already served a long period in imprisonment the ‘expectancy of life’ arises.
Mitigating factors that prevent the imposition of the death penalty include: (1) lack of premeditation – which can be evidenced by the incident occurring at the ‘spur of the moment’; (2) failure to inflict repeat injuries where there was opportunity to do so; (3) co-accused received a lesser sentence; and (4) lack of clarity about who inflicted the fatal injuries. Further, a death sentence should be commuted to life where the accused has already served a full life term of imprisonment (25 years), giving rise to the ‘expectancy of life’ doctrine.