Day one of murder trial and Judge Jessie Lessit denies Governor Okoth Obado bail
By Wambua Sammy
| September 25th 2018
Migori Governor Okoth Obado will spend two more nights at the Industrial Area GK Prison.
This is after Lady Jessie Lessit denied him bail on Tuesday pending her ruling on the matter on Thursday September 27.
Defence lawyers led by Cliff Ombeta asked the court to grant their client bail on grounds that he would abide by its decisions. The prosecution, however, mounted fierce opposition to the argument.
It was a day of drama and turns of phrase as lawyers argued for the release of Migori Governor Okoth Obado on bail or his continued detention.
Lawyer Ombeta for the governor, who is charged with the murder of his lover, medical statistics diploma student Sharon Otieno, tore into the prosecutor’s argument against bail on grounds that the case was a complicated one.
“If the police are having a problem with the case that is not the accused’s problem,” it was argued before Lady Justice Jessie Lessit.
Ombeta sought to paint the prosecution’s grounds as self-contradictory reasoning that they could not argue they had water-tight evidence and at the same push for the detention of the governor, arguing that Article 49 of the Constitution guaranteed bail to the accused.
“If investigations are incomplete, what are we doing here? Why did they bring the accused to court today if they have not completed their investigations?” he wondered.
Against the prosecution’s argument that Sharon’s abductors before she was murdered and some hitmen were still at large, Ombeta said: “They (prosecution) have not argued how the hitmen are related to the accused.”
He argued that the governor’s influence could not sway the case. “The accused is influential, yes but it is of political nature and cannot influence witnesses. Being a person of influence is not a problem.”
Ombeta quoted Robert Nziokas v/s The Republic and Richard Harden v/s The Republic to buttress his argument for bail.
As for the prosecution’s argument that the governor shouldn’t be granted bail because Sharon’s family had been threatened, Ombeta called that an allegation.
“No OB number has been produced. Who is family? Somebody specific must have been threatened,” he argued.
"Why are those threatened not put under witness protection?"
He also dimissed a confession made by a suspect by the name Jackson Otieno.
"We shall argue this confession is not a genuine one. It was doctored," he told the judge.
As for the argument that the governor could be freed because his life was in danger, Ombeta invoked the legal argument that it cannot be heard from the mouth of the State that a person is only safe at the hands of the self, same state.
When it came to his turn, Prosecutor Tom Imbali pulled no punches. He argued that he was live to the constitutional provision that all citizens were entitled to free and fair trial as enshrined in Article 50; that the prosecution was not violating the presumption of innocence on the part of the governor.
He argued that presumption of innocence “does not mean that one commits an offence, and a grave one, and brags that he is innocent until proven guilty.”
Mr Imbali argued that the right to bail was not inalienable as the rights to freedom from torture and slavery and freedom to fair trial and habeas corpus were.
As for Lawyer Ombeta’s argument that Governor Obado’s dignity had suffered, Mr Imbali countered that if the argument were to be upheld, it would mean that the poor people in custody did not deserve dignified treatment.
Mr Imbali further reasoned that the right to bail was not cast on granite and could be denied considering: the nature of evidence, gravity of the offense and likelihood of interfering with witnesses and the possibility of other charges being preferred against the accused.
He hoped lawyer Ombeta hadn't been serious in the argument that the governor was not a person of influence.
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