Selebi trial judge refuses recusal

2009-10-31 14:46

THE corruption trial of former top cop Jackie Selebi resumes tomorrow in the South Gauteng High Court following his failed bid to remove the judge hearing the case.

Judge Meyer Joffe on Friday dismissed Selebi’s application for the judge to recuse himself from the trial because of alleged bias.

The allegation of bias is mostly due to the intense exchanges between the judge and Selebi’s legal counsel, Jaap Cilliers, in the last few weeks.

Joffe described Selebi’s application as difficult because “it goes to my very essence’’.

Reading the judgment Joffe repeatedly emphasised that he had not been influenced by media reports or anyone else before taking on the trial.

Below are some of his responses to Selebi’s reasons to have him recused:


Selebi argued that Joffe might have been “subconsciously” influenced by a smear campaign in the media that started in 2006 and that he doubted he’d get a fair trial.

JUDGMENT: “I can say categorically that I have not had regard to the media in connection with the accused. I have not seen any press statements regarding the accused nor have they been brought to my attention.”


Selebi said Joffe believed that he and not the prosecution was responsible for the delay in the start of the trial in April, when a postponement was granted because the state was not ready. At the time Selebi was seeking several documents from the state to assist him to prepare his case.

JUDGMENT: Joffe dismissed the claims as factually incorrect. “They are without merit and substance, it is most unfortunate.”


Selebi said Joffe dealt with his defence team in a hostile and rude manner compared to the state. He said he didn’t like the way Joffe responded to his lawyer, Jaap Cilliers, when he tried to assist him with a page number of an affidavit.

JUDGMENT: Joffe said Selebi had failed to place the remarks in context. “I was entitled to rebuke counsel. The comments are understood and dealt with by a judge and counsel and counsel takes them in that light.’’ He said the remarks he made would have to show a pattern of conduct to hold merit in a recusal application.

“I was fully aware I didn’t require assistance. I was content to run the trial without a record because I have full trust in my notes.”


Selebi said Joffe’s hostile approach was clear for everyone to see. He said Cilliers did not act in any disrespectful manner when arguing that the article – about the existence of a third video contradicting state witness Glenn Agliotti’s testimony – should be allowed as evidence but that Joffe’s comments were “indeed rude’’.

JUDGMENT: “I did not take lightlyto Mr Cilliers asking me to read to him what the witness had said nor did I take lightly to being interrupted. I couldn’t allow the article as evidence before proving it (the video) exists. It would be incorrect for me to do so. But I allowed cross-examinations on the article up to a certain point.’’


Selebi said Joffe should have questioned Nel’s motives for prosecuting him. He said the prosecutor has waged a media campaign against him and the charges were brought because he wanted the now defunct Scorpions closed. Joffe should have objected to Nel being the prosecutor in the case.

JUDGMENT: “If the accused had observations about Mr Nel it was open to him to raise those issues. But this was simply not done. Now, why should my failure to do so be cause for an application for recusal? This argument should form part of his defence and will be determined at the end of the trial.”

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