The murder case of Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby in which Migori Governor Okoth Obado is a key suspect will be heard from next week, a Nairobi court has ruled.
Trial judge Cecilia Githua directed the prosecution to avail two witnesses a day.
“The number of participants will be restricted to the accused person, their lawyers, DPP team, and the victim’s family,” Justice Githua directed.
The matter had initially been set for hearing on Monday but the court listed it for mention instead.
Justice Jessy Lessit was handling the matter but after her promotion to the Court of Appeal, the case will now be heard by Justice Githua.
Through their lawyers, Governor Obado and his two co-accused persons asked the court to postpone the matter citing COVID-19 issues.
They asked the court to have the matter heard at a time when the risk will be minimal to the lives of all parties involved in the case.
“It’s not the intention of the accused persons to delay the matter and have no reason to delay the disposal of this matter,” the court heard.
Governor Obada, through lawyer Kioko Kilukumi, told the court that it would be risky to have the trial continue at a time when there is a risk of the COVID-19 Delta variant which has reportedly been detected in his county.
“The request is not a move to delay the case, we were simply drawing the attention of the court to a public risk if we were to violate the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health,” Kilukumi submitted.
Obado further cited a gazette notice and the presidential address on the state of the pandemic saying Migori County was listed as one of the hotspots in the Western region.
Lawyer Tom Ojienda submitted that a murder trial requires a physical hearing and for instructions to be taken physically, hence requested to have the matter mentioned after 30 days and be heard after the August vacation of containment measures.
“For this hearing to proceed amidst a restriction that will compromise our physical engagement with our clients, we pray that you set aside slated for today,” Ojienda submitted.
The prosecution on its part, through lawyer Catherine Mwaniki, strongly opposed the application for adjournment arguing that the matter has been in court for too long.
“This is a 2018 matter which has never started, we take cognizant of the COVID-19 issue,” stated Mwaniki.
She submitted that the matter is of public interest adding that there’s no evidence to show that there’s a Delta variant.
She told the court that the three accused persons are facing two murder charges, adding it is possible for the court to provide a tent to proceed with the matter and have all the protocols observed.
The case was scheduled for hearing for 10 days.
Obado was charged alongside Juma Oyamo and Casper Obiero; the three are out on bond after pleading not guilty to the murder charges of Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby.
The trial was supposed to begin in March last year but was adjourned due to the scaling down of court operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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