Judge Theron rejects call to recuse herself

2009-10-16 00:00

JUDGE Leona Theron yesterday refused to recuse herself as presiding officer in the trial of former Okhahlamba (Bergville) municipal employee Elphas Dladla, who is charged with the murder of his wife’s alleged lover, Denis Mandla Khanyile, who was shot several times in Duzimed Pharmacy in Pietermaritzburg on March 23, 2007.

The judge rejected any suggestion that the court showed bias towards the accused, and said the court’s only intention is to elicit the truth.

Dladla has testified that he feared that Khanyile, a local traffic officer, was about to draw a gun and shoot him when he fired in self-defence. He emptied his magazine, firing nine shots in quick succession in Khanyile’s direction, he said.

Defence advocate Fanie Slabbert applied for the judge to recuse herself on Wednesday on the grounds that her suggestion in chambers to state advocate Denardo MacDonald that certain issues needed to be explored further in cross-examination, showed bias on her part towards the accused.

Judge Theron, sitting with two assessors, said in a detailed judgment yesterday she regarded the application as “opportunistic and without foundation”.

MacDonald then resumed cross-examining Dladla.

Dladla testified yesterday that he had been a police reservist from 1998 until the incident happened and agreed that he had received training in the use of firearms.

He said he received training when applying for a licence for his own 9 mm Norinco firearm, which was the alleged murder weapon, as well as training from the SA Police Service in the use of a state firearm. These were also 9 mm weapons.

He was taxed about how many times he pulled the trigger of his firearm and said he had simply pulled it and then “squeezed” it and held on until he “suddenly realised that the magazine was empty”.

Dladla said he could not recall how Khanyile reacted or if he “twisted” during the shooting.

He maintains that Khanyile fell only after the last shot was fired.

At one point yesterday afternoon, Judge Theron asked Dladla if his wife was attending the court case.

He responded that he would prefer not to answer “for reasons concerning safety”.

The judge cleared the court to enable him to answer.

Legal arguments are expected to be heard today.

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