CAPTION: Nyeri Senior Principal Magistrate Pauline Omung’ala in Machakos High Court today.
An application by Principal Magistrate Pauline Omung’ala seeking her release on bail suffered a setback on Thursday after it was moved to another court.
The Presiding Judge, David Kemei, ordered the matter to be moved to another court after Omung’ala earlier raised a doubt of unfairness if her case is heard by him because of his alleged tribal lineage.
Omung’ala, who is a lead suspect in her husband’s murder, had argued that the judge’s continued hearing of the matter will compromise the outcome of the case.
She is believed to be the mastermind in the killing of her husband and city-based lawyer, Robert Chesang, at their Moke Estate apartment in Lukenya, Machakos County on February 17, 2019.
The Magistrate, who once served in Kajiado law courts, is accused alongside Richard Lorunyei Moru, Laurence Lempesi, and Peter Muendo Mbithi of shooting Chesang in cold blood at the couple’s matrimonial home.
Moru is a retired intelligence officer, who left the service last year at the rank of a commissioner of police.
He was arrested in Samburu days after the killing of lawyer Chesang before being brought to Nairobi.
The other two suspects are police officers attached to Mutuini Police Station in Dagoretti Corner, Nairobi.
Detectives believe the vehicle which was used in ferrying the killers to the scene of the crime belongs to Mbithi.
When the charges were read to her on April 9, the judicial officer had refused to take a plea, and immediately requested Kemei to recuse himself from hearing the case saying he would be biased as he hails from her late husband’s rural home.
Through her lawyer, Osemo Odero, Omung’ala claimed she had even received text messages on her mobile phone warning her she was a sure candidate to the gallows.
When the matter came up today on Thursday, State Counsel Cliff Machogu objected the hearing of the bail application request claiming the parties were yet to resolve pending issues including reservations by the prime suspect in regard to the impartiality of the judge.
He said it would be prejudicial for the parties involved to move on with hearing of the bail application for the accused persons when the court had not addressed substantive matters.
But in a quick response, Omung’ala’s lawyer Osemo Odero distanced himself from the claims saying the issues had been dispensed with when the matter first came up for hearing early last month.
He said his client had no problem with the court handling the bail application request before the case is officially handed over to Justice George Odunga.
Odunga is currently on leave and is expected to resume duty on May 29.
“My Lord, the issues being raised by my learned counsel were, to my understanding, fully dispensed with. This court was sitting as a duty court and as such the matter hadn’t been allocated to any court,” he said.
He said the issues raised by his client had clearly been articulated before, and stemmed from among other things threats alleging she would eventually be hanged.
Odero said what was before the court was a mere interlocutory application for bail terms and as such the matter should be heard and determined.
“What is before you today is an interlocutory application for bail. We can move forward to set the bail terms. Against this background, we appear ready to present our application. Because we have submitted ourselves to the authority of this court we should be allowed to proceed,” he pleaded.
But after hearing the prayers from both sides, Kemei ordered the cases for the four suspects be consolidated and heard before Justice Odunga on May 29 as had earlier been requested by Ms Omung’ala.
He has also ordered the prosecution side to serve the suspects with all witness statements and their medical assessment reports to enable them to file their submissions and affidavits within seven days before the next hearing.
In the meantime, the four who have already denied murdering Chesang’ will remain in custody.