Migori Governor Obado bid to defer murder trial flops
Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
The High Court yesterday declined to postpone the murder trial against Migori Governor Okoth Obado.
Justice Cecilia Githua declined the application from Obado and his co-accused, seeking to postpone the case due Covid-19 spike in Migori County.
Obado alongside his Personal Assistant Michael Oyamo and a clerk in Migori County Casper Obiero, have denied murdering Sharon Otieno and her unborn child.
Sharon disappeared on September 3, 2018 and was found brutally murdered two days later, her body dumped near Kodera forest in Homa Bay County.
The case had been scheduled for hearing from yesterday to July 15. But the judge directed that the matter be heard from July 12.
“It would be in the interest of all persons to have the trial begin in the quickest time possible, because none of us knows how long the pandemic will remain in our midst, we can only take mitigation measures,” ruled Githua.
Obado’s lawyer Kioko Kilukumi had sought to have the matter deferred arguing that the entire western zone of the country; comprising 13 counties is now a Covid-19 hotspot.
“For the good of the country, the public health authority isolated this area and strongly discouraged movement into and out of that zone to prevent transmission of Delta variant into the rest of the country,” he told the court.
Kilukumi argued that the request to have the case deferred was not intended to delay the case, but they were simply drawing the court’s attention to the guidelines.
“We are seeking to have the trial conducted at a time when there will be minimal risk to the lives of all parties. It is not intention of the first accused to derail the prosecution of this matter.
Murder allegations have been hanging around my client’s neck for long and he intends to clear his name,” Kilukumi told the court.
Oyamo’s lawyer Tom Ojienda, echoed the same sentiments arguing that a murder trial require physical presence, which was not possible with the current Covid-19 situation.
“We need witnesses to come to speak to us physically, if this hearing proceeds among the restrictions, it would compromise our physical engagement,” he argued.
“We pray that this matter be mentioned after 30 days to give the court a brief on the state of Covid-19 in Migori,” he said.
State Prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki however opposed the application noting the case has been pending since 2018.
“We take note of the Covid-19 containment measures. The measures issued by the Health Cabinet Secretary and affirmed by the President during the 16th Presidential address on June 29, which declared the 13 counties as hotspot zone did not include a lockdown,” she argued.
Mwaniki argued that it was the interest of the public and the family of the deceased that the matter proceeds.
Mwaniki also noted that there are witnesses who are still under the protection program for more than two years, having been removed from their ordinary cause of life.
The response was echoed by the lawyers representing the victims who argued that if indeed they wanted their names cleared, seeking further adjournment does not support that contention.
“Nothing prevents them from being tested before coming to court, further delays to this matter will be very prejudicial to the family of the victims, three years since the crime took place,” stated Njoroge, representing the family of the victim. Justice Githua directed the matter be heard from next Monday.