US murder trial of SA man starts 4 years later

2014-10-03 07:20
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Durban - A South African man charged with the murder of four people in the United States will stand trial for two of those murders four years after his arrest.

According to Quay County District Court records in the US state of New Mexico, Muziwokuthula "Muzi" Madondo will stand trial before a jury on 2 March 2015 - almost four years after his arrest in Texas.

However, these dates are not cast in stone as an appeal over whether an apparent confession Madondo made to police officers at the time of his arrest on 28 March 2011 in the town of Conroe, near Houston, Texas, can be heard by a jury.

He is accused of shooting dead father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37, in hotel in Tucumcari, before fleeing to Texas.

New Mexico's attorney general has to lodge what is called the "brief-in-chief" with the New Mexico Supreme Court by 16 October.

As of Thursday, this had not been done, but Quay County District Court attorney Tim Rose told Sapa his office had in April sent all the necessary papers for the brief-in-chief to the attorney general's office.

"We are hoping that there will be a ruling by then," said Rose.

After the brief-in-chief has been lodged, Madondo's lawyer Roger Bargas has a further 120 days to submit an answering brief. Then the attorney general has a further 20 days to submit a responding brief.

The five judges of the New Mexico supreme court could rule on the basis of the documents submitted, but they may also ask for the parties to argue their case orally before a ruling is made.

Earlier this year, Judge Albert Mitchell found Madondo's state and federal rights had been violated after his requests for an attorney, as well as his request not to speak to the police, were ignored at the time of his arrest. Mitchell found Madondo twice asked for an attorney.

Mitchell, who will preside over Madondo's trial for the murders of Baca and Gonzales, ruled that "the oral and video statements of the defendant are suppressed".

Rose told Sapa on Thursday that: "There was no basis for the judge's ruling. As a matter of fact they [the arresting officers] did respect his rights, but it was Madondo who kept on talking."

Rose said Madondo had received seven warnings from the officers about his rights to remain silent and obtain legal representation.

Madondo became a person of interest to the police because his motel room was next to the one in which the bodies of Baca and Gonzales were found.

Bargas is representing Madondo only in connection with the Gonzales and Baca murders, and not in connection with murders he allegedly committed in Ohio.

In the video and oral statements suppressed by Mitchell, Madondo allegedly confesses to the murder of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder, 60. She was shot dead in her home in Akron, Ohio, on 17 February 2011.

Two days later, about 300km away, the bullet-riddled body of Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane, 25, was found in the woods in Butler Township, Ohio.

Madondo, 34, also allegedly confessed to this killing.

Madondo has yet to appear in court in Ohio for the murders of Hilder and Mdadane, or to plead to them.

Originally from Richmond, near Pietermaritzburg, Madondo emigrated to the US in 2008 to study theology.

New Mexico does not have the death penalty, but if Madondo is convicted of the two murders in Ohio, he could face the death penalty in that state.

At the time of his arrest it was reported that Madondo had claimed he wanted the death penalty.

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