Courtroom humour at its best: How witty lawyers eased tension at Supreme Court
The hearing of petitions challenging the results of the presidential election this week at the Supreme Court was an event of its own kind, characterized by funny stories, puzzling evidence and analogies that all lightened the mood in what would have otherwise been a tense courtroom battle.
From a pre-school rhythm to Bible verses to rib-tickling analogies, the legal teams of the main petitioner Mr Raila Odinga and his opponent Dr William Ruto spared no effort to drive the points home before a seven-judge bench led by Chief Justice Martha Koome.
Here are selected incidents that cheered up those in attendances at the apex court and the millions of Kenyans who followed the live broadcast of the event.
1. Pinky Pinky Ponky – Lawyer Willis Otieno used a pre-school rhythm to demonstrate how the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati turned the commission’s mandate into a child’s play.
“What Chebukati did is what my niece, Mimi, calls ‘Pinky pinky ponky, Paka mielo disko! (the cat is dancing at a disco),” he said to the amusement of the court. However, Justice Smokin Wanjala interjected and requested the lawyer to use language that the court could understand.
The rhythm whose video was remixed by producer Motif the Don, was a trending meme on social media for the better part of the week.
2. Solomonic wisdom – Senior Counsel Kioko Kilukumi, while delivering his petition, applied a Biblical analogy of King Solomon’s wisdom in determining a case. Kilukumi narrated the narrative of two mothers who gave birth at the same time with one mother sleeping on her child and killing it, then exchanging the dead baby with the alive one and claiming ownership.
The two mothers sought counsel from King Solomon who suggested splitting the baby into two equal parts so that each could have a piece. While the false mother approved, the real mother pleaded with the king, saying the child should just be given to the other woman instead.
“Today, you don’t have mothers competing for this baby, you have two gentlemen… each one of them is claiming the baby. What does the petitioner ask you to do? Just like the days of Solomon, he is telling you, give me the baby, the baby is mine,” Kilukumi explained.
3. Plumber in the bathroom – Lawyer Willis Otieno was at it again. While responding to questions from the judges regarding the possibility of presidential election results being accessed by one Venezuelan national, the lawyer compared the said Venezuelan to a plumber, who after fixing a broken tap, appears in the bathroom when the owner is taking a shower.
“Once a plumber has fixed your bathroom, that plumber has no business being in your bathroom when you’re showering. If you find him at that time, tell him, get behind me you satan! A plumber who is in your bathroom when you’re showering after fixing your shower is no longer a plumber, he is a sexual offender and should be reported,” he said.
4. Alligator and sick crocodile – Yes, Willis Otieno in his element yet again. While giving his final remarks, the lawyer asked the court not to doubt the four dissenting IEBC commissioners.
“When an alligator comes out of the water and tells you that the crocodile is sick; do you doubt him? When the commissioners come out and tell you that our processes are opaque, they are not as per our constitution; do you doubt them? I urge you not to doubt them. Do not shy away if you find it necessary to indict Mr Wafula Chebukati for the transgressions and the singular manner in which he has run the IEBC to the detriment of Kenyans,” he said.
5. Kusadikika analogy – Lawyer Muthomi Thiankolu, quoted Shaaban Roberts classic book Kusadikika whose characters were invited to believe every allegation however unauthentic and absurd.
“Maybe the petitioner is taking you to that country called Kusadikika in which when you are told the sun rises in the North, you do not apply your mind. Who do you believe in the realm of tragedy and comedy,” he said.
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He went on to submit that the works of fiction should be be left to John Grisham, James Hadley Chase and James Bond.
“Even if you were to look at this case with the most magnanimous set of eyes or be as benign as Father Christmas, the verdict you would deliver is that this case before you is a story full of sound and fury, but which signifies nothing. This is a solemn platform, I regret and I pity all of us that we came to deal with such a spurious matter,” he said.