The family of murdered Rongo University student Sharon Otieno has expressed misgivings about the decision by the Office of Director of Public Prosecution’s (ODPP) decision to drop a conspiracy to murder charge against Migori Governor Okoth Obado.
Their concern came on the eve of the resumption of the case today at the High Court. The family says the decision to drop the charge last October was suspect.
Obado, his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and County Clerk Caspal Obiero are expected in court today for double homicide.
The prosecution has lined up over 30 witnesses.
But yesterday, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jacob Ondari, who confirmed to have received a letter on the family’s concern from lawyer George Wajackoya, dispelled the fears saying the offence (of murder) was complete and it did not matter whether the suspects actually killed or someone else did it on their behalf.
“The offence of murder is complete and that is what we are trying at the High Court. The High Court cannot try both charges,” he said, adding that the conspiracy charge could only be tried in a lower court.
“The charge was dropped since it could be tried in a lower court, later,” he added but did not rule out the possibility of charging the three with additional charges, adding that the conspiracy charge had been held in abeyance.
The family, through Wajackoya, in a letter dated April 29, 2019, raised the red flag over the failure by the DPP to include the charge on conspiracy to commit murder, saying it might be “a deliberate move to weaken the case by creating a loophole for the suspects to navigate their way around.”
Wajackoya claims that already, the second and third accused, Oyamo and Obiero, have taken advantage of what he termed the loophole to petition the court to discharge them of the murder charges.
The letter follows a similar one written to the DPP by Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) on October 3, 2018.
Fida executive director Teresa Omondi had also questioned the DPP’s failure to include the charges of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to commit a felony and accessory after the act of murder.
The DPP has not responded to the two letters, but yesterday Ondari said they are looking into the concerns of both Sharon’s family and Fida.
However Sharon’s family insists the charge — conspiracy to commit a felony (murder) be included, arguing that some of the accused persons might have not been involved personally or directly, but conspired or planned her murder.
The three were charged with killing Sharon and her unborn baby. The deceased was found dead near Kodera Forest in Homa Bay county, two days after she went missing on September 3, 2018.
A source at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said they were also pushing for the additional charge to be included instead of preferring the charge later in a lower court, should the accused persons be acquitted.
“There is no limitation period and the suspects can still face the conspiracy charge later,” said a senior detective.
On March 29, Oyamo and Obiero accused the presiding judge Jessie Lessit of making prejudicial remarks while declining to release them on bail and demanded she recuses herself, saying the remarks negated the presumption of innocence.
In their application, they also said the trial court acted in a discriminatory manner and in violation of the principle of equality of treatment in applying different standards on different suspects. The application was certified as urgent and will be allocated a new judge to hear it today.
On March 29, Oyamo and Obiero accused the presiding judge Jessie Lessit of making prejudicial remarks while declining to release them on bail and demanded that she recuses herself, saying the remarks negated the presumption of innocence accorded to them in the Constitution.
“I do apprehend, and reasonably so, that I shall not be accorded a fair and impartial trial and I request that the case against me be presided over by any judge other than Justice Lessit,” Oyamo said.
In their application, they also said the trial court acted in a discriminatory manner and in violation of the principle of equality of treatment in applying different standards on different suspects.
“All accused applied to be admitted to bail and bond and a decision was made which allowed (Governor) Obado to be released on bail while Caspar Ojwang’ and myself were denied bail,” Oyamo added.
The application was certified as urgent and will be allocated a new judge to hear it today.