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Suspect in Ivy Wangeci’s murder wants judge to recuse self from case

RIFT VALLEY
By Lynn Kolongei | September 28th 2021

Murder suspect of student Ivy Wangeci, Naftali Kinuthia before Eldoret High court. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

A suspect in the  2019 killing of a Moi Moi University student has asked a judge to recuse himself from the case.

Today, Naftali Kinuthia, who is facing murder charges before the High Court in Eldoret, filed a new application seeking to have presiding Judge Stephen Githinji recuse himself from handling the case over alleged bias.

Kinuthia is accused of murdering Ivy Wangeci on April 9, 2019, outside Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

When the matter came up for hearing, Kinuthia through his lawyer, presented an application to have the judge recuse himself.

“The judge gave consideration to extraneous reasons while delivering the bail ruling delivered on September 23, 2021. Some reasons (for denial of bail) were not based on law or facts. The court should be a neutral arbiter and while handling cases which attract public attention, it is not supposed to be influenced by media and public reporting,” read Kinuthia’s application.

In his supporting affidavit, Kinuthia argued that some reasons and considerations that led to his denial of bail were irrelevant, including reasons that the court had attracted wide media coverage and the public would be concerned if he was released on bond or bail.

“The offence I am facing is serious and any acts depicting bias are prejudicial to me. More so, being young and youthful, I may be condemned to life not based on evidence but by the court’s views which were demonstrated when delivering the bond application ruling,” claimed Kinuthia.

However, the court had ruled that the denial of bail was because the circumstances which had earlier led to his denial of bail had not changed.

Kinuthia’s claims come barely a month after Chief Justice Martha Koome directed Justice Githinji to give a priority hearing to the murder case, which had failed to kick off since 2019.

Koome in her letter addressed to Justice Githinji directed that the hearing of the case be completed before October 1, when the judge is expected to officially report at his new work station in Malindi following transfer.

The Chief Justice also noted that in case the hearing will not be complete within the prescribed period, Justice Githinji will be allowed to travel to handle the case in Eldoret to avoid further delay of the case that kicked off a month ago.

The CJ’s directive came following a letter written to her by Kiroko Ndegwa, the advocate representing late Wangeci’s family, complaining of the delay of the case since 2019.

Ndegwa in his letter noted that there had been delay in getting to the hearing of the murder case against the accused Kinuthia.

The murder trial had failed to kick off five times in a row at the High Court in Eldoret before finally starting in July.

“The hearing of the matter had been delayed for two years at the instance of the defense side. The hearing finally commenced on July 8, 202. A further hearing was conducted on July 22, 2021 with eight key witnesses testifying. The case is slated for further hearing on December 15,” noted Ndegwa.

He also requested the CJ to allow Justice Githinji who has been in conduct of the matter since inception to continue handling the matter to conclusion to avoid further delays on the matter or possibilities of having a fresh trial.

“The new judge will not have had the opportunity of interacting with the eight witnesses who have so far testified, thus the possibility of requesting for commencement of a fresh trial leading to further delay of the matter,” read Ndegwa’s letter.

He further stated that “On the other hand, proceeding with the trial in reliance on the evidence on record by another judge without recalling the eight witnesses may occasion an injustice particularly because the said judge will not have the opportunity to interact with the witnesses and a misapprehension of facts may emanate hence necessitating an appeal from either side.”

Justice Githinji after receiving Kinuthia’s application directed that the application would be handled at a later date, maintaining that the hearing of the case had been scheduled, and the case would therefore not be adjourned.

Githinji noted that witnesses had already been availed in court and had travelled from various places including Nairobi and the late filing of the application was made in no good faith by the defense but with the intention to delay the matter.

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