Rohde trial: Judge orders defence psychiatrist off the stand

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Jason Rohde (Gallo)
Jason Rohde (Gallo)

The trial of murder-accused Jason Rohde took a shocking turn on Tuesday morning when the Western Cape High Court refused to allow the defence's psychiatrist, Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter, to finish her testimony, saying she had overstepped her role and repeated the testimonies of other witnesses.

Panieri-Peter was immediately excused from the stand and seen rolling her portable luggage out the courtroom.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe had on Monday repeatedly raised several concerns and reservations about her report quoting different people and not sticking to her professional opinion.

Panieri-Peter had testified that after doing a "psychological autopsy", she believed Susan Rohde was a suicide risk, which went against the testimony of Susan's psychologist who said she was not.

On Tuesday, Salie-Hlophe said her report was objectionable in many respects.

"Her report repeats evidence already placed before court and goes far beyond the scope, expertise and role of the witness."

She said that Panieri-Peter had taken on the role of the court, which had to determine whether Susan's death was a suicide or homicide.

"No court acting reasonably would abdicate this responsibility."

Salie-Hlophe said the report made mention of anonymous people and of evidence already tested through cross-examination and questions by the court.

"... This report and expert testimony is no more than regurgitating testimonies already placed before this court... Simply put, I perceive that this evidence and report by this witness is nothing more than an attempt by the defence to get a second bite at the cherry."

Defence lawyer Advocate Graham van der Spuy immediately jumped up to object and said he wanted to bring a formal application for a special entry, to note his objections.

"The court has acted grossly irregularly with this ruling," he said, adding it was prejudicial to his client.

"There is not a lot of justification for the court's ruling and the trial has been contaminated as a result."

Salie-Hlophe said his request for a special entry was noted and postponed the trial for the next witness.

Prosecutor Louis van Niekerk could not wipe the smile off his face with the ruling.

He said the court's order was in terms of the law and he did not think the special application was necessary.

He would cross-examine the defence's forensic pathologist, Dr Reggie Perumal, next Tuesday.

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