Kenya: Judge Jessie Lesiit Declines to Quit Sharon Otieno Murder Case

Migori Governor Okoth Obado (R), his personal assistant Michael Oyamo (C) and County Clerk Casper Obiero in a Nairobi Court on May 29, 2019, during the hearing of an application for judge Jessie Lessit to recuse herself from the case.

A High Court judge hearing the murder case of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno has declined to quit saying there was no evidence given to show conflict of interest.

Ms Otieno, the girlfriend of Migori Governor Okoth Obado, was brutally murdered on the night of September 3, 2018 while seven months pregnant.

Judge Jessie Lesiit had been accused of bias by Governor Obado's personal assistant Michael Oyamo and county clerk Casper Obiero after she denied them bond.

In her ruling on Friday, Justice Lesiit said there are no sufficient grounds to claim that she would unfairly handle the trial if she proceeds with it.

"No reasons of conflict interest were advanced to warrant the court to recuse itself," Justice Lesiit said.

In their application, the two said the judge had applied different standards in releasing Mr Obado on bail and denying them their freedom over security concerns.

But on Friday, the judge said her decision to decline their release did not indicate in any way that she would deny them a fair trial.

Justice Lesiit said that her ruling at the time was based on evidence presented before her.

"The accused persons just relied on my ruling on bail which is not a conclusion of the case to justify the claims for bias," the judge said.

Mr Oyamo and Mr Obiero were granted freedom in December 2018 after the Court of Appeal reversed the decision denying them bond, but it was not until April 2 that Mr Obiero was let out.

Mr Obado, who is also charged with the murder, said he had no problem with Justice Lesiit handling the case.

The three have denied murdering 26-year-old Ms Otieno and her unborn baby at Owade in Rachuonyo, Homa Bay County.

The trial is scheduled to begin on October 9.

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