5 questions you might have about the Rohde case, answered

By Almari Wessels
30 August 2016

Who will be called to testify when the case goes to trial?

It's a case that's gripped the country since the tragic news broke: a late night gala at a lavish hotel in the Stellenbosch winelands, a beautiful mother's apparent suicide, a property mogul and his rumoured mistress and finally -- an alleged murder in the early hours.

In the dock at the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court is Jason Rohde, the boss of Lew Geffen Realty Franchise, charged with the murder of his wife, Susan.

What appeared to be a tragic suicide on the morning of July 24 was commuted to a murder investigation after pathologists found signs of "manual strangulation" around Susan's neck.

Rohde was arrested last Tuesday for the murder of his wife and the mother of their three teenage daughters.

The now suspended CEO has been in police custody since then, after the State was granted an extension to further examine certain aspects of the murder until Tuesday 30 August.

The bail hearing will resume this morning.

YOU spoke to a legal expert to see how things could unfold.

What's going on with the bail application?

"At this stage, the application for bail will determine whether he will be released or detained pending the outcome of the trial," says Neil Smith, a director of the Cape law firm Enderstein van der Merwe.

The State are looking into the wealthy businessman's travel documents and overseas investments to determine whether he is a flight risk. They are also waiting on the results of several forensic tests.

How will the State build their case?

In the case of Susan's alleged murder, there may not be sufficient or little direct evidence; This means that there will not necessarily be witnesses who saw the events or any fingerprints on a possible murder weapon, explains Neil.

The State argues Susan was killed and that she did not take her own life, so they will have to have strong medical evidence to support their case.

Circumstantial evidence is also likely to play a major role in the State's case -- evidence which might potentially place Rohde at the alleged murder scene, evidence of an alleged fight between the couple and e-mails, text messages and other documents that could possibly reveal a motive.

What role will forensic evidence play?

Pete Mihalik, the seasoned Cape advocate leading Rohde's five-man defense team has indicated that an independent pathologist who carried out an autopsy on Susan concluded the mother of three took her own life.

"Forensic evidence is part of circumstantial evidence, and although it is very important, other evidence and factors also play a role," says Neil, adding that the defense in this particular case will use their pathologist (or other medical experts' testimony) to disprove the State's version of events.

"If the State cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt it was not suicide or that there couldn't not have been any other cause for her death, they will not get a conviction."

What kind of witnesses will be called by the prosecution?

The court can expect to see a pathologist testify about their autopsy findings, a DNA specialist, a fingerprint expert, an IT expert to testify about cellphone and laptop data, a forensic scientist to testify about blood spatter.

A forensic accountant may also be called upon to analyse the husband and wife's finances to see if there may have been a financial motive for the murder.

Witnesses will likely also include other hotel guests and hotel staff, a psychologist to discuss Susan's state of mind and friends and family to testify about Susan's character.

How will Rohde's legal team prepare for the trial?

"They will probably spend as much time with him as possible to prepare him" says Neil. "They will, on the one hand, focus on the examination of witnesses, but also on the relevant legal principles that they must prove themselves."

In addition, they must set aside time for adequate consultations with expert witnesses.

Rohde's legal team will prepare him for the questions he can expect and what his answers to those might be, but they cannot tell him what to say. Still, says Neil, every legal team has its own way of doing things -- it will depend on his team.

More on this story

What’s going to happen to Jason Rohde?

‘It appears she was strangled, smothered’: read the Stellenbosch detective’s statement on Spier murder

Jason Rohde to spend 3 more nights behind bars

‘My wife was a suicide risk,’ Jason Rohde reveals in affidavit

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