Blow for Obado in Sharon Otieno murder case

Migori Governor Okoth Obado sharon otieno wife hellen

Migori Governor Okoth Obado addresses the press at Serena Hotel in Nairobi County, flanked by his wife Hellen, on the murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, on September 12, 2018.

Photo credit: File | Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

The High Court has declined a request by Migori Governor Okoth Obado to adjourn the hearing of a criminal case in which he is accused of aiding and abetting the murder of a pregnant university student, Ms Sharon Otieno. 

Mr Obado had said he cannot travel to Nairobi for the trial because of Covid-19 restrictions in Nyanza region. 

However, Justice Cecilia Githua has directed that the matter proceeds from Monday July 12th to 15th at a tent outside the Milimani Law Courts, Nairobi. The hearing of the case that was opened in September 2018 was set to be held for ten days consecutively from July 5 to 15. She also directed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to present the witnesses.

The number of attendees will be restricted to the accused persons, their lawyers, prosecutors, lawyers for the victim's family and Ms Otieno's immediate relatives.

The three accused are Mr Obado abd his aides Michael Oyamo (his personal assistant) and Caspal Obiero (a clerk in the county government).

The trio are out on bond terms: Sh5 million for the governor and his co-accused on Sh1 million each.

Not locked down

While rejecting the argument that the accused cannot travel outside Migori, the court noted that by the time of fixing the hearing dates, neither the court nor the prosecution and defence had contemplated the partial lockdown imposed by government in the Lake basin region to control spread of Covid-19.

However, she noted the key word in the containment measure was that the region is not locked down and that movement of people to and from the region is not restricted, but rather, is discouraged. 

"I am also mindful of reasons by the defence on concern of the safety of all in the trial and that there is a real danger of infections being spread during the court sessions," said Justice Githua, noting that it is possible to conduct the trial in a tent outdoors with parties and attendants observing Ministry of Health protocols such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. 

In opposing the adjournment, prosecutors led by senior assistant DPP Catherine Mwaniki told the court that the case is of public interest as it involved murder of a woman and her unborn child. 

"Public confidence must be demonstrated by the court by declining the adjournment. We have witnesses under witness protection for more than two years now, it is causing fatigue as they were removed from their ordinary lives for protection," said Ms Mwaniki. 

Radio interviews

Through lawyers Prof Tom Ojienda, Kioko Kilukumi, Elisha Ongoya and Rodgers Sagana, the accused persons had argued that the adjournment was necessary so that they do not aid the spread of the corornavirus Delta variant to other parts of the country. 

Prof Ojienda told the court that the accused and prosecution witnesses will have difficulties travelling from Migori to Nairobi because of distance and the night curfew (7pm-4am). 

However, State Counsel informed the court that the governor had travelled from Migori to Nairobi last week for two radio interviews

"He who seeks equity must come with clean hands.  We have noted that the first accused (Obado) took cognizance of the words 'lockdown and strongly discouraged' in the government notices when he appeared at radio station studios in Nairobi," said Ms Mwaniki.

She said the State has 35 witnesses in the case.

Brutally murdered

Sharon Otieno Obado

Ms Sharon Otieno, a Rongo University student who was brutally murdered and her body dumped in a thicket in Oyugis, Homa Bay County on September 4, 2018. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

The Rongo University student was brutally murdered and her body dumped in a thicket in Oyugis, Homa Bay County.

She had been missing for a while when her body was found on September 4, 2018.