'MY MIND IS CLEAR'

Magistrate Ogoti recuses himself from Lenolkulal graft case

Defence lawyers question his fairness following an interview with the Star

In Summary

• Ogoti said the lawyers had failed to demonstrate his interest in the matter or if he was related to any of the accused persons. He said he would rather hand the case over to another judicial officer.

• He  said even though his conscious is clear and his only interest in the matter was to dispense justice, he will not cling to it.

Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
Image: COLLINS KWEYU

A magistrate handling the graft case against Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal has recused himself after defence lawyers questioned his fairness.

Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti said even though his conscious is clear and his only interest in the matter was to dispense justice, he will not cling to it.

“My independence of the mind is very clear. However, I will never cling to a matter whose parties doubt my impartiality,” the magistrate said.

Ogoti said the lawyers had failed to demonstrate his interest in the matter or if he was related to any of the accused persons. He said he would rather hand the case over to another judicial officer.

“The threshold for recusal is if the magistrate has interest in the matter which he fails to disclose or is related to the accused. I am not related to any of them and my only interest is to dispense justice,” he said.

The lawyers of the 14 accused Samburu county workers accused him of bias based on an article that appeared in the Star newspaper yesterday. He expressed strong sentiment against corruption, equating it to murder.

Through his lawyer Paul Nyamodi, the governor made an application asking Ogoti to step aside as the interview showed that he had pre-determined the case.

In his application, Nyamodi submitted that Ogoti is unfit to dispense justice as his opinions in the article have already convicted the accused.

“The interview was a pre-judgment of the case and showed bias. In law, the symbol of justice of lady holding a balance on both hands with a blindfold has a meaning," he said.

Nyamodi said the article titled "Corruption is as bad as murder", directly points an accusing finger at his client.

“It makes it untenable for the magistrate to preside over any part of this trial,” he said. “With personal views of this nature, the accused feel it holds you unfit to give justice”.

Nyamodi said the magistrate’s sentiments carry more weight even as an individual. 

“Justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done and the courts presume on the belief that the accused is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. 

The public prosecution opposed the application, saying it is aimed at getting back at the magistrate to express displeasure in his bail ruling

“Corruption fights back. It spares no one in the justice chain against accusations. The court should not succumb to such mechanisations,” ODPP lawyer Alexander Muteti.