SA man's US trial on hold - again

2013-10-19 08:26

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Durban - A South African man's trial on two of four murders, to which he reportedly confessed, has been postponed yet again and he will now stand trial in the US only next year.

Muziwokuthula "Muzi" Madondo was to have been tried before a jury for seven days from Monday, but the case was postponed to May 12, 2014, according to the State of New Mexico case log.

According to the log, the decision to postpone the trial, in the Tucumcari District Court for Quay County, was made on August 27.

On that day it was also ruled that Madondo was fit to stand trial following a psychiatric evaluation ordered at the end of May.

Madondo has pleaded not guilty to the first degree murders of father and son Bobby Gonzales and Gabriel Baca. He allegedly shot them in a motel in Tucumcari before fleeing to Texas, where he was arrested.

He also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.

The trial could still be affected by a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence brought last year by Madondo's lawyer Roger Bargas.

On September 17, Judge Albert J Mitchell heard argument about why a jury should not hear the statements Madondo made to the police immediately after his arrest.

The case log does not indicate whether Mitchell has ruled on Bargas's application.

Bargas could not be reached for comment.

A court official at the Quay County courthouse, who declined to be named, told Sapa Mitchell had yet to hand down his ruling.

The official was also unable to say what the reasons were for the postponement.

District Attorney Tim Rose could not be reached for comment.

Last year, Bargas said the police illegally took statements from Madondo, despite his request for a lawyer.

He said the police failed to immediately contact South African consular officials, who would have advised Madondo about his rights.

He further alleged that the police's search of Madondo's vehicle was illegal.

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

Madondo allegedly confessed to the murder of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder, 60. She was shot dead in her home in Akron, Ohio, on February 17, 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. He was arrested on March 28, 2011, in Houston, Texas.

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.

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