Fraught driver in court

2013-09-10 00:00

FOR the court to try the Field’s Hill truck driver for murder, the magistrate will have to consider how many hours he had been driving, had he had enough sleep, where he was driving from and whether there was anything he could have done to prevent the accident.

University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of Constitutional Law Karthy Govender yesterday cautioned people not to prejudge the truck driver, Sanele Goodness May (23), until judgment was delivered in the case.

May appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday to face murder charges after 22 people died in Thursday night’s horror crash at the intersection of Field’s Hill and Richmond Road.

May, visibly overcome with grief, was held by a policeman as he made his way into the dock of a packed court F yesterday.

Scores of people who had made their way to the court to watch May enter the courtroom were taken aback when they realised just how young he is.

Initially, May was to be charged with culpable homicide, but according to KZN National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson, the charge was later changed to murder after investigators had gone through the docket and evaluated the outcome of the initial investigation.

Govender said the charges of murder for a motor vehicle accident are not at all unprecedented.

However, it would be more difficult to prove a charge of murder as compared to one of culpable homicide.

Govender said the case of Jacob Humphries, the Western Cape taxi driver who crashed his taxi into a passing train at a level crossing at Blackheath near Cape Town, killing 10 school children in 2010, was an example of how difficult it was to follow through on a murder charge in an accident scenario.

Humphries was initially found guilty of murder, but the Supreme Court of Appeal converted the 10 murder charges against him to 10 charges of culpable homicide early this year and replaced Humphries’ 20-year prison sentence with eight years in jail.

“We can’t prejudge,” Govender urged.

In court yesterday, the state said it would be opposing bail.

Many of those in the gallery expressed surprise at how young May looked. “Hawu. He is a young boy. Shame,” one woman was heard saying.

Once seated in the dock a visibly distressed May sobbed and buried his face between his knees.

Theasen Pillay, May’s attorney, spoke in hushed tones before he handed his client tissues to wipe away his tears. But May continued weeping, constantly wiping his face with his sleeve.

Clad in a blue sweater, black tracksuit pants and takkies, May had to be called on to stand up when magistrate Wendolynn Robinson entered the courtroom.

He told Robinson that he understands Zulu and Swati when she asked him if he required a translator.

May, originally from Swaziland, now lives in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban.

Ramkisson told The Witness she would not go into the details of the state’s decision to charge May, saying the matter was sub judice.

“Going through the details would be like going through the merits of the case,” she said.

Ramkisson said reckless and negligent driving were expected to be added to the murder charges. May remains in custody until his bail application on September 18.

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