Lawyer aban­dons abando Scott

Ad­vo­cate Hoeane ac­cuses judge of bias as he an­nounces he will no longer rep­re­sent Scott and his mother ’Malehlo­honolo

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

JUS­TICE Te­boho Moiloa was yes­ter­day forced to post­pone the dou­ble-mur­der trial of Lehlo­honolo and ’ Malehlo­honolo Scott to 16 May 2016 af­ter their lawyer, Ad­vo­cate Thulo Hoeane, de­cided to pull out of the case cit­ing “pro­fes­sional rea­sons”.

The case re­sumed in the High Court this week af­ter Jus­tice Moiloa ad­journed it on 23 Novem­ber 2015. The Scotts, who lived not very far away from the fam­i­lies whose two chil­dren they al­legedly butchered four years ago, pleaded not guilty when trial re­sumed on Mon­day.

How­ever, Ad­vo­cate Hoeane, who was ap­pointed by govern­ment to rep­re­sent the Scotts on a pro-duo ba­sis, shocked the fully packed court when he an­nounced his with­drawal as the trial was about to be­gin yes­ter­day morn­ing.

The lawyer told the court he could not con­tinue for pro­fes­sional rea­sons, but later told the Le­sotho Times in an exclusive in­ter­view that he de­cided to quit the case be­cause he be­lieved the judge was bi­ased against him.

“I fully con­sulted with my clients yes­ter­day. I sat down with the first ac­cused (Lehlo­honolo) in the pres­ence of the sec­ond ac­cused (’Malehlo­honolo). We reached a de­ci­sion, bas­ing our­selves on pro­fes­sional rea­sons and noth­ing else, that I should with­draw from this mat­ter,” Ad­vo­cate Hoeane told the court.

“I was fully pre­pared to con­duct this trial in de­fence of the ac­cused, which is why I have been here since this mat­ter re­sumed on Mon­day. But I have reached a con­clu­sion that it looks like I am not fully rep­re­sent­ing my clients un­der the pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances. This purely has to do with my pro­fes­sion. I feel, un­der the cir­cum­stances, that I will not achieve the in­ter­ests of my clients and the only op­tion I have is to with­draw from this mat­ter be­fore it is too late.”

Af­ter ver­i­fy­ing that Ad­vo­cate Hoeane had in­deed con­sulted with his clients over the pull­out, Jus­tice Moiloa said the court had no choice but to ac­cept the de­ci­sion.

“un­der or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, the court would not al­low your with­drawal be­cause this is go­ing to de­lay the trial. But it seems we have no al­ter­na­tive but al­low you to with­draw,” Jus­tice Moiloa said, adding the High Court reg­is­trar would ap­point an­other lawyer to rep­re­sent the Scotts.

The judge then post­poned the mat­ter to next month.

How­ever, while Ad­vo­cate Hoeane was not clear be­fore the court what he meant by “pro­fes­sional rea­sons”, he later told the Le­sotho Times he was not happy with the way Jus­tice Moiloa had con­ducted the trial since it started on Mon­day hence his de­ci­sion to with­draw. He was par­tic­u­larly un­happy when the judge ruled out his ar­gu­ment that ev­i­dence pre­sented by the po­lice on Tues­day, was not ad­mis­si­ble, Ad­vo­cate Hoeane added. Asked why he did not ap­ply for the judge’s re­cusal if he sus­pected he was bi­ased, Ad­vo­cate Hoeane said he did not be­lieve his ap­pli­ca­tion would be suc­cess­ful hence his de­ci­sion to quit.

“I have got reser­va­tions about the judge and the way this trial has been con­ducted. On a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, I have seen him come to the as­sis­tance of the pros­e­cu­tion — some­thing I have not seen in my 28 years of le­gal prac­tice.

“For in­stance, yes­ter­day, the pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented (photo)) al­bums be­fore the court. And the pros­e­cu­tion ution ad­duced ev­i­dence re­lat­ing to those al­bums,lbums, about how the body parts of the de­ceased eased were re­trieved from var­i­ous places in Koal­a­bata.

“What the pros­e­cu­tion se­cu­tion should have done was when they close­dosed their case, they should have handed in those hose al­bums as ex­hibits — some­thing which they failed to do. When my turn came in the af­ter­noon, I rose to con­front the po­lice wit­ness s to in­di­cate to him that all the ev­i­dence that was led in the morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to ac­tual terms or le­gal terms, it was not ev­i­dence be­forere this court be­cause it was not ex­hib­ited d be­fore the court.

“The prose­cu­tor, or, Ad­vo­cate Gareth Leppan, then hen rose to ob­ject to what I was say­ing, and the court just over­ruled me. And in my opin­ion that was un-pro­ce­dural be­cause iff they fail to come e up with the ex­hib­bits at the prop­erer time, and that iss in ex­am­i­na­tion-in-chief, hief, that is a fa­tal mis­take which can­not be rec­ti­fied. To rec­tify it would be prej­u­di­cial to the de­fence’s case. That is ba­si­cally my stand­point.

“If a trial is con­ducted along lines which I per­ceive to be un­fair, then I have no busi­ness be­ing the le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of th­ese ac­cused per­sons. I will only be here if I feel the at­mos­phere is con­ducive such that I am al­lowed to con­duct this trial in a man­ner the ac­cused will feel they are be­ing legally rep­re­sented. un­der the cir­cum­stances I don’t have that feel­ing.

“My only op­tion is to opt out of this case. I was en­gaged by the govern­ment. I was iden­ti­fied through the reg­is­trar of the High Court as one of the com­pe­tent and ca­pa­ble peo­ple who could han­dle this mat­ter, but un­der the cir­cum­stances, I don’t think I can con­tinue.”

Mean­while, a mem­ber of the ac­cused fam­ily, Retha­bile Scott, said it was dis­ap­point­ing that Ad­vo­cate Hoeane had with­drawn from the case.

“It’s sad that Ad­vo­cate Hoeane has to with­draw from the case be­cause he knows it bet­ter. He had de­vel­oped good rap­port with the ac­cused such that there was trust. Now we don’t know when the new lawyer will be avail­able to take over, and what his or her at­ti­tude would be,” said Retha­bile.

How­ever, the chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor in the case, Se­nior In­spec­tor Mphe­heletse Khatleli, told the Le­sotho Times that Ad­vo­cate Hoeane’s with­drawal was al­legedly part of Scott’s strat­egy to de­lay the case.

“He played the same game in Dur­ban, where he con­tin­u­ally changed lawyers to drag the trial. It seems he is ap­ply­ing the same tac­tic now. As in­ves­ti­ga­tors, we just want this mat­ter to come to an end be­cause we worked so hard to put to­gether the ev­i­dence in­volved. It was not easy ex­tra­dit­ing this man from South Africa where he was now liv­ing af­ter es­cap­ing from prison here in 2012,” Se­nior In­spec­tor Khatleli said.

ef­forts to se­cure com­ments from Jus­tice Moiloa through his of­fice and the pros­e­cu­tion, were un­suc­cess­ful.

Charges The Scotts were ar­rested on 12 July 2012 for al­legedly killing Mo­holo­bela Seetsa (13) and Kamo­h­elo Mo­hata (22) in Jan­uary and July 2012, re­spec­tively.

The vic­tims’ body parts were found in three lo­ca­tions in Koal­a­bata, prompt­ing spec­u­la­tion they had been killed for rit­ual pur­poses.

Scott es­caped from Maseru Cen­tral Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tute on 14 Oc­to­ber 2012 as he awaited trial and fled to South Africa where he was ar­rested in Dur­ban as he emerged from a church ser­vice on 6 April 2014.

Af­ter un­suc­cess­ful­lyun­suc­cess­ful fight­ing ex­tra­di­tion in the Dur­ban and Veru Veru­lam Mag­is­trate’s Court, Scott was fi­nally d de­ported on 21 Oc­to­ber 2015. His mother had been re­leased on M500 bail in Au­gust 2013.

Scott ap­peared be be­fore the High Court the same day he was e ex­tra­dited, with Jus­tice Moiloa re­mand­ing h him in cus­tody un­til 23 Novem­ber 2015. The judge on 23 Novem­ber 2015 an­nounced the case would pro­ceed from 11 to 15 April and 18 to 27 April 2016. When the case go got un­der­way in the High Court on Mon­dayMon this week, mother and son b both pleaded not guilty. On T Tues­day, De­tec­tive Lance Serg Sergeant Liau Seeko subm mit­ted two al­bums con­tain­ing pic­tures he took at the crime scene as ev­i­dence, and gave graphic de­tails of each pic­ture he said were the de­ceased’s body parts.

Lance-sgt Seeko told the court that Mo­hata’s torso was re­cov­ered from a donga ap­prox­i­mately 3-5 kilo­me­ters from the Scotts res­i­dence. The of­fi­cer fur­ther told the court the fol­low­ing day, the po­lice re­trieved some of Mo­hata’s body parts from a toi­let pit at Koal­a­bata Pri­mary School.

Th­ese parts in­cluded legs, lungs and in­testines wrapped in yel­low and black plas­tic bags, Lance Sergeant Seeko added. The of­fi­cer fur­ther said part of Mo­hata’s liver had been cut and was miss­ing. Lance-sgt Seeko was led by prose­cu­tor Ad­vo­cate Gareth Leppan, who was be­ing as­sisted by Ad­vo­cate Thapelo Mokuku.

When it was Ad­vo­cate Hoeane’s time to cross-ex­am­ine the of­fi­cer af­ter lunch, the lawyer told the court that the pros­e­cu­tion had not fol­lowed the right pro­ce­dure by sub­mit­ting the al­bums to the court as ev­i­dence.

Ad­vo­cate Hoeane ar­gued the pros­e­cu­tion should have “for­merly” sub­mit­ted the al­bums as ex­hibits at or dur­ing the time they were lead­ing Lance-sgt Seeko in his ev­i­dence.

He ar­gued it would be “prej­u­di­cial to the de­fence” if the court al­lowed the al­bums as ev­i­dence un­der those cir­cum­stances. But Ad­vo­cate Leppan rose to ob­ject to this sub­mis­sion, ar­gu­ing the omis­sion was not prej­u­di­cial to the ac­cused.

Ad­vo­cate Hoeane’s ar­gu­ment was then im­me­di­ately dis­missed by Jus­tice Moiloa, who had re­peat­edly asked the lawyer whether he was fin­ished as he ad­dressed the court.

Ad­vo­cate thulo Hoeane

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