Lawyers squabble in murder for hire trial

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-The trial of six people – including the wife of the deceased – has been marred by squabbles among the lawyers representing the accused and the lawyer representing the prosecutor-general since its start last week.
The defence lawyers have accused State Advocate Marthino Olivier of deliberately withholding crucial evidence from them and of not having made full discovery of the documents to them.

Vehemently denying that he was malicious in withholding evidence from the defense, Olivier informed Acting Judge Johanna Salionga that the dossier he worked with was voluminous and if he failed to discover some of the documents, it was not out of malice on his part, but accidentally.

The issue arose on Friday when Olivier wanted to call the arresting officer to the stand, but the defense counsels objected, as they did not receive disclosure on the testimony the officer would give.

After to and fro arguments, with Judge Salionga playing referee, it was decided to postpone the matter to yesterday to give Olivier a chance to hand over the documents to the defense counsels.

Yesterday morning followed almost the same pattern as the defense counsels complained they only received the documents then and complained they did not have sufficient time to scrutinise the documents.

Milton Engelbrecht, who appears on behalf of the main accused, 33-year-old Annasticia Lubinda, , argued he needed more time to peruse the documents to adequately prepare his line of defence.

The same arguments were submitted by the rest of the defence counsels with Trevor Brockerhoff for accused 2 David Matali, 45, saying it was “tantamount to a travesty of justice” for the State to only avail evidence as and when it pleases.

Legal aid lawyer Tuna Nhinda on behalf of accused 3 David Kondjara, 32, agreed with Brockerhoff’s sentiments and said their clients face serious charges, for which they need to prepare thoroughly. He asked the court to direct the State to desist from such “unbecoming behaviour”.

Mbanga Siyomunji, who acted on behalf of accused 4 Abiud Uazeua, 35, said they were obtaining disclosure in a piecemeal fashion, which could jeopardise his client’s chances of a fair trial. He too asked the court to direct the State to refrain from unbecoming conduct.

Meriam Kenaruzo, another legal aid lawyer who appears for accused 5 Donald Hindjou, 26, said they need the court’s direction as the practice of “piecemeal disclosure is highly prejudicial to the defence”. She also asked for additional disclosure in the form of the original incident book of the police, from which only certain pages were copied.

Bronell Uirab, who appeared on behalf of Dollam Dollam Tjitjahuma, 27, agreed with the arguments of his co-counsel and said he needed a remand to peruse the content in the late disclosure and to consult his client and get instructions.

Olivier told the court that to the best of his belief everything was disclosed, but reminded the judge of a quote by former High Court Judge Brian O’Linn that a trial is like riding a dark horse, it can go anyway.

With regard to Kenaruzu’s application for the police incident book to be disclosed, he said the book was the property of the police and in their possession and if the defense wantws more they were most welcome to go to the police and peruse it and if needed make additional copies.

Judge Salionga granted the defence a remand, but to yesterday afternoon only and said she could not order the State not to make further disclosures, as it is the main litigant in the matter. The accused are arraigned on charges of murder, robbery, possession of drugs and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

Lubinda is alleged to have hired her co-accused to kill her husband, Peter Riscoh Muleke, 36. All pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial last week.

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