The ongoing trial of Migori Governor Okoth Obado over the murder of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno will give Kenyans a chance to see Kioko Kilukumi, one of Kenya’s top criminal lawyers, in action.
Senior Counsel Kilukumi is not just your ordinary criminal lawyer. He is a tough, meticulous craftsman who has represented both the mighty and the downtrodden, sometime pro bono (without being paid).
“My role is always to ensure that the client get the best. Our job is to ensure that all evidence presented to court satisfy the threshold and in this era where we have very professional prosecutors, we must also be well prepared as defence lawyers to give our clients the best,” said Kilukumi.
Kilukumi has represented Deputy President William Ruto, the late former Finance Minister David Mwiraria and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu.
He has also represented senior government officials in various criminal cases in notable big scandals like the Anglo-Leasing scandal and the Tokyo Embassy Scandal.
When Ruto was charged with selling Ngong forest land when he was the Minister for Agriculture, Kikukumi came to his rescue and successfully defended him leading to his acquittal after almost two years of trial.
Former ambassador to Libya Anthony Muchiri also faced a daunting task when he was charged alongside former foreign affairs PS Thuita Mwangi and Charge d’Affairs in Tokyo Allan Mburu with abuse of office in procuring the embassy and ambassador’s residence in Tokyo at an inflated cost.
He turned to Kilukumi and the end result was an acquittal after the magistrate ruled that there was no corruption involved since the government got value for money.
Ngilu on the other hand was bundled out as Lands CS and charged in court for obstructing justice but in Kilukumi, she found a lawyer who stood by her and defended her gallantly before the DPP withdrew the charges.
But his passion for criminal justice is not only for the rich who can afford to pay his legal fees. Kilukumi has helped many hapless suspects who were left at the mercy of the prosecution and the courts since they could not afford the money for legal representation.
His latest celebrated pro bono services is when he teamed up with Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia at the Supreme Court to help thousands of death row inmates when their arguments led to the abolition of the mandatory death sentence.
But that is not the only case that makes the Senior Counsel happy for the free work he has done to help the marginalised and poor people facing prosecution.
“I used to go to the cells and look for suspects and accused persons who could not afford legal services and I represented them for free. What drives me is when I see our criminal justice system functioning,” said Kilukumi.
At the Obado murder case, Kilukumi’s role is well cut out as he prepares the governor’s defence against the 35 witnesses lined up by the prosecution.
Although he is known to represent high profile individuals in criminal cases, Kilukumi says he has no power to determine who seeks his services but that his calling is to offer legal representation to any person in need as the law entitles them.
“Some people may think I am only a lawyer for high profile individuals who appear in big cases but the truth is that you can’t decline to represent a client unless there is a professional reason to refuse the job,” he said.
Although he has a bias for criminal law which he enjoys doing, Kilukumi is an all round lawyer who also represents clients in commercial disputes, constitutional matters also practices other bits of the legal profession.
He does not know the most striking thing about him but would rather allow his colleagues and friends describe his character.
“Some of us like to brag about themselves but it very difficult for me to talk about myself. I only know I am not gifted with smiles but I really don’t know much about me since I only do the best I can. Other people can talk more about the striking things about me,” he said.
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