Suicide attempt counts in favour of Killer’s sentence reduced
A CONVICTED murderer, who tried to commit suicide after killing his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, has had his life imprisonment commuted to 18 years after appealing his sentence in the Northern Cape High Court.
Emmanuel Smous appealed his sentence of life imprisonment, handed down on June 15 last year, after he was found guilty of murdering his 20-year-old girlfriend.
The incident happened on New Year’s Day in 2014 when Smous met his former girlfriend and a friend at a tavern in Boichoko in Postmasburg. Smous’ ex-girlfriend, who was also the mother of one of his three children, left the tavern with the accused and ended up in his shack. A neighbour overheard the deceased screaming for help from Smous’ shack.
Later that morning Smous’ parents were called to the shack where they found the deceased lying on the floor in a pool of blood. They reported it to the police, who arrived on the scene.
A blood-stained knife was found on the kitchen unit as well as a shoelace and a red electric cord hanging from the rafters and it later emerged that Smous had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide by hanging himself. He also drank a concoction of liquid soap and Ratax (rat poison).
According to the post-mortem report, injuries on the deceased showed a history of assault, while the cause of death was multiple injuries, some caused by severe blunt force trauma and others by a sharp object. The injuries were, according to the forensic pathologist, consistent with those inflicted by a person with a high level of anger.
Smous’ defence attorney argued that a sentence of life imprisonment in the circumstances was inappropriate and induced a sense of shock. He submitted that a sentence of 15 years imprisonment would have been an appropriate sentence, especially as the trial court did not find that the murder was premeditated.
Handing down his judgment on the appeal, Judge Pule Tlaletsi, (at the time Acting Judge President), heading a full bench of appeal, pointed out that the deceased was a defenceless woman who posed no danger to Smous.
“He took her to his shack where she met her untimely death. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that she was not willing or was forced by Smous to accompany him. The attack with a knife was vicious. Her loud screams did not deter Smous from further attacking her.
“It would not be unreasonable to infer from the facts that Smous may have out of jealousy decided that if he could not have her as his girlfriend no one should.
“This inference is bolstered by the fact that he made a serious attempt to take his own life as well and escape accounting for his deeds. The suicide attempt could only have taken place after the deceased was dead already.”
Judge Tlaletsi pointed out that violence in our society, particularly by men against women, was prevalent.
“The interests of society dictate that a strong message to the public, that violence will not be tolerated, should be sent. Failure to do so would feed into the unjustifiable trend of the society taking the law into their own hands by punishing, without due process, alleged suspects of crime. Respect for the law must be guaranteed. A sentence should be fair to the society, the offence, the offender and be blended with a measure of mercy.
“I am satisfied that the aggravating features of this case outweigh the mitigating circumstances. There are no substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a lesser sentence than the prescribed sentence. However, the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment would, in my view, not adequately cater for the gravity of the offence and its prevalence, the interests of society and shall not be fair to the appellant for what he has done. That is a judicial balance that a sentencing court should strive to achieve. A sentence in excess of the prescribed minimum of 15 years in the circumstances of this case is justified.”
Tlaletsi ruled that the life term of imprisonment be set aside, and that Smous be sentenced to 18 years. The sentence was antedated to July 6, 2016.