Governor Okoth Obado will spend more days in remand after the court denied him bail.
Mr Obado, who has been in police custody for seven days, has been charged with the murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno.
Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and maroon tie, the Migori County chief arrived in court shortly after 2pm, an hour before Lady Justice Jessie Lesiit delivered her ruling.
After the ruling, Mr Obado smiled briefly in an apparent effort to re-assure his family and supporters, who appeared to have been caught by surprise by the verdict. There was a moment of silence and disbelief in the packed courtroom.
Obado was sent back to Industrial Area Remand Prison, where he has to don a prison uniform and sharing a cell with some of the country’s most dangerous criminals.
Justice Lesiit said she could not release the governor on bail when investigations were still going on, adding that his influence could lead to interference with witnesses.
“I am disallowing his application for bail at this stage. His application cannot be fully determined even before the prosecution supplies the witness statements and all documentary evidence relating to the case to court,” ruled Lesiit.
She, however, noted that the decision was not final, adding that the governor would be at liberty to apply afresh to be granted bail once the prosecution provided all the witness statements.
The decision seemed to have surprised even Obado’s lawyers, who retreated to a corner to brainstorm on the next course of action. One of the lawyers intimated that they had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision or wait until October 8 to make a fresh bail application.
Justice Lesiit said the case of the murder of Sharon and her unborn baby was complex with many suspects still to be arrested, and that releasing Obado could compromise the integrity of investigations.
“The prosecution has stated that investigation is still ongoing and their failure to provide evidence at this time does not mean that they have a weak case to warrant releasing the accused person,” she ruled.
She added that the fact that Obado was facing a capital offence with the possibility of being sentenced to death if found guilty justified the reason to deny him bail as well as the nature of the case which had led to charges being preferred against his personal assistant, Michael Oyamo.
At the same time, Obado’s bodyguard, Caspal Obiero, became the third person to be charged with Sharon's murder. He denied the charge.
Lesiit directing that his case be mentioned together with that of Obado and Oyamo on October 8, when the Director of Public Prosecutions is expected to make an application that they be consolidated.
The judge also ruled that the presumption of innocence could not be enough reason to release Obado on bail, adding that the prosecution’s decision to oppose the bail application did not mean they had already passed a verdict of the governor being guilty of the murder.
She also dismissed claims that keeping Obado in custody was a violation of his dignity, ruling that all persons were equal before the law irrespective of their status.
“Dignity has nothing to do with persons charged before court. There cannot be special treatment based on status as all people are equal before the law,” ruled the judge.
She added that fair trial and treatment of the governor could not be only realised if he was out on bail, given that even those in custody were subjected to the same court process.