Murder suspect seeks new judge
Murder suspect seeks new judge

Murder suspect seeks new judge

Marcus Thomas wants his murder trial to restart before a new judge, claiming that Judge Christie Liebenberg has already prejudged him.
Fred Goeieman
One of the two Americans accused of killing André Heckmair in Windhoek in early 2011 now wants the presiding judge in the case to recuse himself.

Marcus Thomas's lawyer, Kadhila Amoomo, yesterday informed the court of his intention to submit a recusal application.

He argued that Judge Christie Liebenberg had already concluded that Thomas had committed the murder.

Judge Liebenberg postponed the matter to 15 May for the filing of the application, and to 5 June for the hearing thereof.

Thomas, together with Kevin Townsend, allegedly plotted and committed the murder of André Heckmair in early 2011.

They face one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, three counts of contravening the Ammunitions Act and one count of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

They were arrested shortly after Heckmair's body had been found in a parked car in Klein Windhoek on 7 January 2011.

The recusal application is based on rulings Liebenberg had made on 3 August 2015 and 19 October 2016.

He ruled in October last year that Thomas was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his acts and was fit to stand trial.

Amoomo argued that this was proof that the judge had already made up his mind about the guilt of his client.

“Will the accused have a fair trial in view of the predetermination and conclusion that he has committed an act which constitutes an offence without an evidential enquiry?” Amoomo asked.

He argued that this was possible grounds for recusal and starting the trial afresh before another judge.

A third psychiatric report on a second assessment of Thomas's mental state found him fit to stand trial.

The report, compiled by Willem J. Annandale, provisionally submitted as evidence against Thomas, stated that he had tried to distort his evaluation test results.

“From a neuropsychological perspective Thomas is most certainly fit to stand trial,” Annandale

wrote.

After a failed jailbreak attempt, Thomas allegedly suffered concussion when he fell from the security fence around the Windhoek Central Prison.

Since then the trial has been stalled by arguments and submissions concerning his mental state.

Evidence has already been led that Thomas was guilty of malingering, or faking a mental disability, in order to escape the consequences of his actions.

Dr Reinhardt Sieberhagen, a Windhoek psychiatrist, and Professor Tuviah Zabow of the University of Cape Town both came to the conclusion that Thomas was mentally fit to stand trial.

They stated in their psychiatric reports that Thomas was not suffering from any mental defect and was able to understand court proceedings.

The experts were instructed to re-examine Thomas after a state psychiatrist in 2015 reported that he had a neurocognitive disorder and was unfit to stand trial.

Advocate Antonia Verhoef is prosecuting while Siyomuinji Mbanga is defending Townsend.





FRED GOEIEMAN

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