Man acquitted of murder after 16 years in jail

2016-11-30 12:42


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Bloemfontein – The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein has acquitted a man who was sentenced to life in prison for murder and robbery.

Daniel Mahlalela's murder and robbery conviction was set aside this week. This, after he had already spent 16 years in prison.

Mahlalela, along with two other people, who were not part of his appeal, were charged with murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and possession of a firearm. He was the third accused in the matter.

Mahlalela was convicted by the High Court in Pretoria sitting in Secunda on November 1, 2000, and sentenced to life in prison and 25 years for robbery.

Mahlalela unsuccessfully applied for leave to appeal for both his conviction and sentence. He had pleaded not guilty during his trial. He also chose not to testify in the case.

His defence had argued that the State failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mahlalela had robbed and killed the deceased or that he acted in common purpose with the others to commit these offences.

The SCA found that the only direct evidence relied on by the State, concerning the involvement of Mahlalela in the offences charged, was through one witness, Mandla Boy Charlie Mabena.

Mabena testified that while at a shebeen with his girlfriend and Mahlalela, accused one and two had arrived there.

He said the first accused had told him that a butchery would be robbed and that if anyone resisted, Mahlalela would produce a firearm and shoot them.

'Suspicion remains a suspicion'

However, Mabena said when the story was told he was not certain if Mahlalela and accused two were present. He said he thought they were outside.

When the incident happened, the deceased was robbed of around R8 000.

The State argued that Mahlalela and accused two had made deposits of R2 000 each into their respective bank accounts on the same day and with the same teller.

The State also said Mahlalela's failure to testify became proof, "beyond reasonable doubt", that he was complicit in the offences committed.

However the SCA said: "Silence cannot and must not be used to supplement the State's case where there is no evidence upon which a reasonable person would convict."

The SCA added that it accepted that a strong suspicion was created against Mahlalela by the discovery of two bank slips.

"Suspicion remains a suspicion in our law. No person may be convicted on the basis of a suspicion, no matter how strong," the SCA said.

It was also submitted that Mahlalela was neither pointed out, nor identified, by the witnesses during the identification parade, it said.

The SCA found that the State presented no eyewitness or forensic evidence that linked Mahlalela to the incident.

It said Stefaans Sifiso Mahlangu had witnessed the shooting of the deceased and saw two people running away from the scene.

'Discharged on all counts'

One of these two persons carried a firearm. Mahlangu, in an identification parade, identified the two people he had seen committing the crime as accused one and two respectively.

Two witnesses, Perley Sheila Klopper and Essak Natalwalla, also testified that there were in fact three persons involved in this matter.

After shooting the deceased, one of the attackers snatched the money bag.

The money bag contained R8 000 in cash and R10 000 in cheques.

"The fact that two deposit slips evidencing the deposit of R2 000 each into the bank accounts of [Mahlalela] and accused two does not go far enough to assist the State," the SCA said.

It said there was no mystery that the deposits were done on the same day with the same teller.

"Of course, this raises a suspicion. It does not follow, however, that the deposited money on that day into the accounts of the appellant and accused two belonged to the deceased, who was robbed of R8 000 in cash.

"Accused three [Mahlalela] is found not guilty and discharged on all counts."

Read more on:    sca  |  bloemfontein  |  crime

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