Migori Governor Okoth Obado, through his lawyer Kioko Kilukumi, wants the case in which he is accused of killing former Rongo University student Sharon Otieno postponed.
Kilukumi has written to the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji informing him that his client would not be able to travel to Nairobi for the hearing of his murder case as the county is among those that have been identified as Covid-19 hotspots.
The request came on the day the family of slain Rongo University student Sharon Otieno asked the Judiciary to fast-track the hearing and determination of the murder case against the governor.
“In light of the directions issued by the Ministry of Health on June 17 for the greater public good and to avoid the quick spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 to the rest of the country, my client is unable to travel outside the Covid-19 hotspot zone (Migori county),” reads the letter by lawyer Kioko Kilukumi.
Case is set to kick off on July 5 but the governor wants the hearing postponed.
Sharon’s family is pleading with the courts to expeditiously deal with the murder case the same way they have handled political petitions that began at the same time with Obado’s matter.
“We pray for quick justice because that is the only thing that will relieve the pain and anguish of losing our firstborn child,” Douglas Otieno, Sharon’s father, said yesterday.
Obado, alongside his personal assistant Juma Oyamo and Clerk Casper Obiero, is accused of killing the former university student.
The trial against the trio is expected to be held for 10 days consecutively from July 5 to July 15, more than two years since the accused persons were charged in September 2018.
In Kilukumi’s letter seen by the People Daily, the lawyer further wants the case to be mentioned on Monday next week virtually before the trial judge so as to fix the new hearing dates.
“Accordingly, we request the case be mentioned virtually on Monday, July 5, 2021, for the purpose of fixing fresh hearing dates, hopefully at a time when the threat of Covid-19 has substantially subsided,” says Kilukumi.
The fresh request by Obado has thrown other parties into a spin with some wondering whether the application was a deliberate scheme to delay the case.
Yesterday, the DPP said his office was ready to proceed with the hearing as scheduled and will vehemently oppose Obado’s application to have the case postponed.
“We shall be ready to proceed with the trial and will prepare adequately to oppose if they make the application in an open court,” Haji said.
He, however, hastened to add that it is the discretion of the courts to “decide if what they are requesting is plausible”.
In the case, the prosecution has lined up 37 witnesses to testify against the governor and his co-accused.
The trial was set to begin on March 16, 2020, but was adjourned due to the scaling down of court operations because of the pandemic.
The High Court Criminal Division later set fresh hearing dates in April to enable the matter to be heard and determined.
The murder of the expectant 26-year-old Rongo University student on September 3, 2018, gripped the nation after her body was found in a forest in Homa Bay county on September 4.
She had been raped and stabbed to death. Sharon lost her unborn baby in the gruesome murder.
A charge sheet read to the Migori county boss by the then High Court judge Jesse Lessit on September 24, 2018, says Obado is accused of murdering the student contrary to Sections 203 and 2014 of the Penal Code, a crime that attracts a death sentence upon conviction.
Nation Media Group journalist Barrack Oduor, who escaped a murder attempt, told police that he was abducted alongside Sharon but managed to jump out of a speeding car to save his life.
Oduor claimed he left Sharon in the car with the abductors who later allegedly murdered her.
Sharon had reportedly contacted Oduor over an intimate relationship she allegedly had with the governor and which led to the pregnancy that the governor was unhappy about.
Sharon, who was seven months pregnant, was raped, stabbed eight times and strangled before her body was dumped in Kodera forest.
The hearing of the case has been delayed by several adjournments. The first was sought by the defence that wanted to have Justice Lessit recuse herself from hearing it due to alleged bias.
In May 2019, when the case was scheduled to kick off, defence lawyers sought time to reply to an application by the State.
The case had then been slated to run for eight days from May 7, 2019.