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26 to testify in LGBTQ activist Chiloba murder trial

Rift Valley
 Police officers escorted murder suspect Jacktone Odhiambo alias Lizer to the Eldoret High Court where he was arraigned to answer murder charges. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The prosecution has lined up 26 witnesses to testify in the murder case of LGBTQ activist Edwin Kiptoo alias Chiloba.

The prosecution told Justice Reuben Nyakundi at the end of a pre-trial conference on Thursday, that it has compelling evidence against Jackton Odhiambo, the main suspect in the murder.

The body of the 26-year-old university student was found stashed in a metallic box.

Mugun said the investigative authorities, who have been piecing together its evidence, sensed foul play before preferring murder charges against Odhiambo, Chiloba's friend and roommate.

He said the prosecution would require two days to close its case and pave way for the defense.

"This is a case of circumstantial evidence. We will present 26 witnesses who will piece together a chain of events that will point unerringly to the accused person as the one behind the unlawful death of Mr Chiloba. You will hear testimonies of betrayal. The deceased was murdered in his own house, betrayed by someone he trusted the most," the prosecution stated.

The prosecution stated that some witnesses expected to give their testimonies before the court are Odhiambo's relatives, who allegedly helped the accused cover up the gruesome murder of the University of Eldoret student.

Other witnesses are experts expected to explain to the court the movements and the occurrences that led to the death and disposal of Chiloba's body.

The court was told that some of the witnesses would reveal how Odhiambo went on a spending spree immediately after Chiloba's death.

"Evidence will reveal how the accused began planning the murder by moving belongings of the deceased person out of the house without his knowledge and after his death, began spending his victim's money in the most frivolous ways while he left the body decomposing in his house. In fact, ten minutes before his arrest, the accused was still spending money belonging to the deceased," the court heard.

The prosecution further explained to the court that it would not try to prove the motive of the accused's acts but focus on the criminal intention or guilty mind.

"I must confess that it is difficult to prove motive. But it is not significant. We intend to prove Mens Rea based on the injuries the deceased suffered," Mugun said.

The prosecution and the advocate representing the victim's family told the court that evidence shows there was no basis for the accused to claim later, during the trial, that he acted in self-defence.

"You might be told that the accused acted in self-defence. Evidence will show that there was no basis at all for self-defence. The deceased, on the night of his murder, was very drunk and the accused person cannot, therefore, be said to have acted in self-defence," said Gilbert Mitullah, the lawyer representing Chiloba's family.

The prosecution said they would ask the court to sentence the accused to death if found guilty.

"The republic will need ten days to present all the witnesses, after which we will require this court to return a verdict of guilty and based on the evidence we will present, we will want a sentence of death. That is the most befitting sentence," the prosecution stated.

However, Odhiambo's lawyer Maathai Maina told the court that his client is innocent of all charges.

He said that Odhiambo was a loyal friend to Chiloba and had nothing to do with his death. He said the defence will prove that and ask that his client be acquitted of the murder charges.

"We will demonstrate that the accused is a victim of the wrong identity. My client was not within the vicinity of the locus during the death of the deceased. He is a loyal friend, implicated just for deciding to move out of the house they were sharing. In the end, we will prove my client's innocence and request that he be set free," Maina said.

The advocate further claimed that the sexual identification of the deceased exposed him to the dangers.

He argued that Chiloba was short-tempered and that he was a man who did not live in accordance with his words and therefore had enemies.

With the pre-trial conference coming to an end, Justice Nyakundi directed that the case come up for a three-day hearing between June 19-21.

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