Appeal court overturns farmer's wife killer conviction
08 May 2020 | Crime
The Supreme Court has found that an appeal by farmer Willem Visagie Barnard, who was found guilty of killing his wife in 2018, should succeed.
His conviction and sentence have thus been set aside.
This is according to a judgement by Judge Dave Smuts, in agreement with Judge Elton Hoff, who said Barnard was entitled to an acquittal.
Barnard was found guilty by Windhoek High Court judge Naomi Shivute of killing his 55-year-old wife, Anette Barnard, with a single gunshot to the head at the couple's farm, Choris, in the Aranos area in April 2010.
Barnard claimed he had blacked out after a heavy drinking session combined with prescription drugs.
He said when he “woke up”, he found the deceased with her head on a coffee table with a bullet wound through her skull.
However, Judge Shivute was not inclined to believe his version of events.
The High Court found Barnard guilty of murder with direct intent on 23 January 2018.
He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with 10 years suspended on certain conditions.
Refused leave to appeal
“The High Court refused leave to appeal and leave was subsequently granted by this court on 23 October 2018 in respect of one aspect, namely on the question as to whether there was a reasonable possibility that the deceased committed suicide,” yesterday's Supreme Court judgement said.
The judgement pointed out that despite the overwhelming and unanimous evidence of those who attended the crime scene, that the appellant was very drunk, and which was also the express finding of the High Court, the main judgment comes to a contrary conclusion merely because a bottle of brandy encountered at the scene was half or quarter full.
Beyond reasonable doubt
According to the Supreme Court, the question that must be answered is whether the State's case had been proved beyond reasonable doubt when measured against the accused's conflicting version, or whether Barnard's version is reasonably possibly true, even if the court does not believe him.
“Whilst guarding against 'compartmentalisation' of evidentiary considerations, the court must measure the totality of the evidence, not in isolation, but by assessing properly whether in the light of the inherent strengths, weaknesses, probabilities and improbabilities on both sides, the balance weighs so heavily in favour of the State, that it excludes any reasonable doubt about the accused's guilt in one's mind.”
The Supreme Court ruling said that by applying this test to the facts of the matter, the State has not proven Barnard's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.