Henri van Breda's testimony would carry more weight if he testified first - attorney

2017-10-30 16:32
Henri van Breda is charged with multiple counts of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Henri van Breda is charged with multiple counts of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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LIVE STREAM: Van Breda trial, day 53

2017-10-30 10:16

The Van Breda family murder trial continues in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Watch the live stream. WATCH

Cape Town - The State will probably argue that adverse inference be drawn from the credibility of Henri van Breda’s testimony when he takes the stand in the Western Cape High Court, a top Cape Town criminal attorney said.

The triple murder accused is expected to testify on Tuesday after it was confirmed that he would be the defence’s last witness.

READ: Henri van Breda to testify in triple murder trial

While there was a “very good argument to be made” about Van Breda’s version of what happened that night, his credibility is likely to be questioned because he has heard all the evidence from the State and the defence, William Booth, of William Booth Inc, said.

In criminal proceedings, Booth explained, an accused person usually testifies first.

Van Breda applied at the end of the State’s case to testify last, but Judge Siraj Desai dismissed it as he had not shown good cause why the court should deviate from standard procedure.

Desai, in his judgment, said nothing prohibited Van Breda from modifying or amplifying his testimony or tailoring his evidence.

While Van Breda was within his right to testify at the end of his trial, Desai warned that the court might draw inferences should this happen.

Booth said the inferences relate to Van Breda having heard all the evidence against him and the possibility that he could give testimony to fit the testimony of his expert witnesses.

“He sat in court every day and listened to them being cross examined. The State will definitely argue that adverse inference to his credibility should be drawn,” Booth said.

“His testimony would have carried more weight if he had gone first.”

'Questions need to be answered'

Every accused has the right to remain silent and is not obliged to give any statement to the police or the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

“No accused is legally obliged to testify but, depending on the facts of the case, inferences could be drawn. But if you don’t testify, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty.”

In this case, Van Breda is the only direct-evidence witness, Booth said.

“The facts indicate there are questions that need to be answered. Not testifying could be very risky.

“In this instance, he was found in a house where [almost] everyone had been killed. If someone doesn’t testify and says an intruder broke in, the court could draw inferences,” he explained.

Van Breda’s plea explanation, in which he gave his version of events, is not considered evidence before court and has not been tested.

“Should he not testify and tell his version, it could be inferred that it wasn’t told in court because it’s not the story,” he said.

Van Breda is expected to take to the witness stand on Tuesday.

Desai adjourned proceedings on Monday morning after the defence requested that Van Breda’s testimony not be livestreamed as he suffers from a speech impediment.

The 22-year-old stutters when nervous and stressed, defence advocate Pieter Botha said. He was concerned his client’s demeanour could prejudice him.

Desai will decide on Tuesday morning whether Van Breda will be recorded.

Read more on:    henri van breda  |  cape town  |  crime  |  van breda trial  |  van breda murders

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