During normal sessions in the Makindu Law Courts in Makueni County, senior resident magistrate Gerald Mutiso and senior prosecutor Tito Wanga interact with each other and with litigants calmly.
But on Thursday, this tradition was broken when the two shouted across the courtroom as they picked a quarrel with Makindu District Criminal Investigations Officer Jimmy Kimaro over a case before the court.
The court had summoned Mr Kimaro to explain why he had not bonded witnesses in a 2012 case involving a tanker driver accused of stealing fuel from a Kenya Pipeline Company pumping station in Mtito Andei.
The magistrate had decided to proceed with the case (number CR/437/84/2012) in the absence of the accused, something that Mr Kimaro had vehemently opposed, citing the need for a fair hearing.
And on Thursday afternoon, the detective sought for more time to produce the witnesses, explaining that he had just come from his leave, and that his juniors had attempted in vain to call witnesses.
WAR OF WORDS
However, the court ignored the plea, saying that the police had been uncooperative in the case.
This sparked a war of words between the magistrate and the DCIO, and later the State counsel.
At one point, Mr Wanga charged at Mr Kimaro who was in the witness stand, but Mr Mutiso intervened.
For fear of being caught in the cross-hairs, some of the litigants fled from the courtroom, and those who remained turned on their phone recorders.
There was more trouble when Mr Kimaro claimed that both Mr Mutiso and Mr Wanga were interested in the case.
"Severally, you have invited me to share the bribe in vain," said the Mr Kimaro while addressing the two.
At that point, the prosecutor ordered the detective to be locked up, accusing him of disobeying the court.
He was put in a temporary holding cell where suspects awaiting trial are locked.
He remained there for six hours as another magistrate took over the court session.
POLICE BOSSES INTERVENE
It took the intervention of County Criminal Investigation Officer Isack Onyango and top police bosses for Mr Kimaro to be freed.
On Friday, both Mr Kimaro and Mr Wanga revealed that the Thursday incident was the culmination of a bad relationship between the magistrate’s court and the police and hinted at worse things to come.
While Mr Wanga accused Mr Kimaro of engaging in a witch-hunt, the DCIO claimed that the court led by Mr Mutiso was a den of incompetence.
Said Mr Wanga, "In case he was dissatisfied with the way the court had been handling the case, he should have complained officially."
He said that Mr Kimaro was determined to interfere with the dispensation of justice in that case "as he is clearly interested in the case."
"On the issue of tarnishing my name, I will know how I'll deal with it. I'll sue him," Mr Wanga told reporters in his office.
For his part, a bitter Mr Kimaro told the Nation that he was deeply embarrassed by the grilling in the open court and the subsequent six-hour imprisonment.
"Something has to be done. Either I move or the prosecutor and magistrate relocate," he said.
"We cannot work that way."