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Horror and drama as Obado’s murder trial gets underway

NATIONAL
By Paul Ogemba | July 18th 2021
Migori Governor Okoth Obado (right) his co-accused Casper Obiero (left) and Michael Oyamo at a Milimani court on July 14, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

If you have never witnessed the mix of drama and horror of a murder trial, then the case of Migori Governor Okoth Obado will serve you right.

The first week of his trial over the murder of university student Sharon Otieno was only a preamble of what lies ahead as both the prosecution and the defence marshalled their best talent to attack and defend.

While it was horrific to hear the testimonies of the six witnesses regarding Sharon’s last moments, there was also the wit of the defence lawyers who did their best to poke holes in to statements and pieces of evidence submitted by the witnesses.

In between, Obado and his co-accused, Michael Oyamo and Caspal Obiero, sat attentively, in the knowledge that the maximum sentence they face if found guilty will be death.

At some point, the toll of listening through the horrifying testimonies and watching gory pictures of Sharon on the projector screen became too much for Obado, who turned to his phone for consolation while his co-accused asked to be excused to visit the gents.

The presence of three senior counsels and a senior State prosecutor leading the charge was enough evidence that Obado’s case was not an ordinary murder trial.

Whereas the prosecution had a game plan to prove Obado and his co-accused’s involvement in Sharon’s murder, the defence lawyers also had their work cut out with a clear line of cross-examining the witnesses.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Leading the prosecution’s charge was senior assistant Director of Public Prosecution Catherine Mwaniki, a seasoned prosecutor who has handled some of the biggest murder cases in Kenya.

In her own words, they have enough evidence to unravel the mystery behind the deaths of Sharon and her unborn baby, and prove that Obado, Oyamo and Obiero were the masterminds of the heinous crime.

“At the end, we will be asking the court to listen to the voice of two beautiful souls who were violently extinguished from our midst and crying from their grave for justice.

“Our role is to give them the justice they deserve as we ask the question of why it had to end in their deaths,” said Mwaniki.

She met her match in the defence lawyers who appeared unfazed with her opening statement as they stayed calm and waited for the opportune moment to respond.

Obado’s defence is led by Senior Counsel Kioko Kilukumi, a criminal lawyer who has handled and won some high-profile cases.

Kilukumi, a former nominee for the DPP’s position, is no pushover when it comes to criminal litigation. He knows where to hit the prosecution best.

Expose gaps

Senior Counsel Tom Ojienda took charge of Oyamo’s defence and showed his expertise in criminal trials by taking the witnesses to task by asking probing questions to expose gaps in their statements.

Prof Elisha Ongoya, another lawyer with decades of experience in practice and academia, was in charge of Obiero’s defence. His grasp of the finer details of any witness testimony stole the show.

Senior state prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki (standing) making her submissions at Milimani, July 13, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The prosecution started their case by bringing witnesses who recreated Sharon’s last moments, and presented photographic evidence to show how she was killed.

First on the dock was chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor who presented an autopsy report showing that Sharon was stabbed seven times and slashed twice before she died “as a result of severe haemorrhage due to penetrating force.”

Biological father

Dr Oduor also testified that the unborn baby died as a result of a deep stab wound that pierced through his stomach.

He painted a gory picture of the body, backed up by images that depicted the deep wounds, bruises and pain the mother and her unborn child went through at Kodera forest where their lifeless bodies were discovered on September 4, 2018.

Chief Inspector Lillian Saka, a scene of crime specialist, walked the court through the evidence she collected as they tried to unravel Sharon’s death.

Saka discovered a torn condom wrapper, two used condoms, a sticker from an alcohol bottle and a bottle top from the point Sharon’s body was discovered.

The vegetation was disturbed which meant some activity took place there before her death. It also at the same spot where she took photos showing someone had stepped on the scene and left footprints.

From Kodera forest, Saka reconstructed Sharon’s last movements from Graca Hotel in Rongo town where she was allegedly lured to and handed over to the killers, the journey to Homabay where a witness jumped off a vehicle and to the hospital where her body was taken.

Governor Okoth Obado's lawyer Kioko Kilukumi is shown some pictures by prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki (right) at Milimani, July 13, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

On the third day of the trial, forensic analyst John Mungai confirmed to the court that Obado was the biological father of Sharon’s unborn baby.

“We analysed DNA profiles generated from buccal swabs from Sharon Otieno, Okoth Obado, Michael Oyamo and the foetus.

“Our findings were that there were 99.99 per cent more chances that Obado was the biological father to the foetus that was Sharon’s child,” said Mungai.

It also emerged through the testimonies of Veronica Wangechi and Alex Omamo that Sharon was flown to Nairobi less than 10 days before she was killed after an unknown person sent money to one of the witnesses who accompanied her on the flight.

Closing the prosecution’s case on week one of the hearing was Constable Willy Okoti who narrated how the protected witness escaped death narrowly after being handed over to the alleged killers.

The hearings will resume on October 4.

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