Acquittal in Joan Root murder trial
August 10, 2007 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Joan Root, who spent most of her life in Kenya, was a noted naturalist and filmmaker (along with her (former) husband. She was murdered by gunmen at point-blank range in January, 2006 in her home on Lake Naivasha. Lake Naivasha is the only fresh water source in the Great Rift Valley, and has become increasingly endangered by pollution and overuse for irrigation, and Root spent considerable time fighting to protect it. Today, a Kenyan magistrate acquitted the four suspects in her murder, calling the testimony of 13 witnesses "defective".
posted by mkultra (9 comments total)
Oh, and Julia Roberts is has signed on to play her in an upcoming movie.
posted by mkultra at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2007

Oh, and Julia Roberts is has signed on to play her in an upcoming movie.

We live in an odd world.
posted by billysumday at 9:48 AM on August 10, 2007

No justice, no peace.
posted by psmealey at 10:07 AM on August 10, 2007

I wish I knew more about the witnesses' testimony.

Yeah, me too. There's almost no info available about the trial proceedings.
posted by mkultra at 10:11 AM on August 10, 2007

So... *was* the testimony defective?
posted by antifuse at 10:23 AM on August 10, 2007

It's unclear, but my money is on "no". The murder case touches on all of the classic race/power/corruption issues that plague much of Africa. The government has a far greater interest in acquitting these men than in exposing the dirty deeds of the corporations who enrich it.
posted by mkultra at 10:34 AM on August 10, 2007

She was a relatively rich white woman in a poor black country who kept a private security force that worked like this:
"Each man was paid 4,500 shillings [$62] a month, all by Joan," says Barry Gaymer, who occasionally accompanied the Task Force on its raids. Hiding in the papyrus, the Task Force would bolt out into the waist-deep water and pounce on poachers who, "drunk on kumi-kumi [home brew] or high on bangi [pot]," according to Gaymer, wouldn't even have time to raise their machetes in defense. "We'd whip them, beat them, yelling abuse," says Gaymer, showing me a photograph of the Task Force victoriously huddling around a tarp filled with fat fish, tangles of illegal nets, a confiscated boat, and trapping implements. "The Task Force carried stays—like pickax handles—that you clobber people with, which, in this case, was quite necessary, because the fish poachers weren't averse to pulling knives," says Cholmondeley. "They're real desperadoes."
And then she shut down the security force, making them also her enemies.
After Joan cut off her support, Chege was reduced to driving a motor-scooter taxi through the dirt streets of the Karagita slum. "He had been walking around like a tin god, and then he was nothing," says Gaymer. "Chege was a madaraka ndogo, a little man with a little power, but he thinks he's a king," adds Parselelo Kantai. "It's not a lot of money you're giving someone like Chege, but it's a lot of power. And when you yank them out of the gravy train, boom!"
It cannot be surprising that someone killed her or that reliable witnesses were hard to find among the people who had to go on living around there after the trial. She was doing something the government should have been doing, but the government preferred to let her take on the cost and the trouble.
posted by pracowity at 10:42 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Julia Roberts is has signed on to play her in an upcoming movie.

It sounds a little close to The Constant Gardener.
posted by smackfu at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2007

We'll just have to wait for the movie to find out what really happened.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:54 PM on August 10, 2007

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