Namibia: Americans’ Murder Trial On Hold

The trial-within-a-trial of the two American nationals accused of the assassin-like murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in January 2011, was put on hold last week as the State’s last witness was unable to testify.

State advocate Antonia Verhoef made the application for a postponement while informing the court that her last witness, sergeant Christopher Namboga, underwent surgery and is currently on the mend.

She asked the judge to remand the trial to 22 March when Namboga would be well enough to testify.

Both Laura Pack and Mbanga Siyomunji, on behalf of Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend, objected to the postponement, saying the State already had a postponement for Namboga to receive medical treatment.

Siyomunji strongly argued that the evidence of Namboga is not so important that it warrants another postponement.

In fact, he said, what Namboga will testify about was already canvassed through the evidence of previous State witnesses.

Verhoef told the court that the evidence of Namboga is essential to dispel allegations made during the testimonies of previous State witnesses regarding the search conducted at the room where the accused were staying.

She further argued that when the defence, especially Thomas, needed postponements for various reasons – including when Pack needed time to prepare – Siyomunji was very accommodating.

He refuted this, and said every accused person needs his legal representative to defend him or her to the best of his/her knowledge as such legal representative must be up to speed with the merits of the matter.

As a matter of fact, he told the judge, it is not correct that they were always accommodating when Thomas needed a remand as they applied for a separation of trials to speed up the process.

Judge Christie Liebenberg, who is adjudicating the matter, said the prosecution must be given the opportunity to present their case in the best possible way, and if they feel that Namboga’s evidence is critical, then it would be in the interest of justice to grant them the opportunity.

The mini-trial is on the legality of the search at the guesthouse where the accused were staying when they were arrested, particularly on the items that were seized.

The accused objected to the admissibility of the exhibits because, according to them, the search was done unlawfully without a search warrant.

The State contends that the search was done lawfully because there was no time to wait for a search warrant as the accused could have destroyed the evidence during the time they would have been looking for a magistrate to sign the warrant.

Thomas and Townsend are facing one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, three counts of contravening the Ammunitions Act and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

The State alleges that they killed Heckmair by shooting him execution-style in his head on 7 January 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek.

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