Sick American delays trial

Windhoek-The illness of American national Kevan Townsend caused another setback to the scheduled start of their on/off murder trial in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Townsend was not at court on Monday when the trial was supposed to start before Judge Christi Liebenberg, causing the judge to postpone the matter to yesterday for Townsend's lawyer to find out what is going on.

Yesterday Mbanga Siyomunji, who is the latest in a long string of lawyers to represent Townsend and his fellow American co-accused Marcus Thomas, informed the judge that Townsend was sick and not able to attend court.

According to Siyomunji, Townsend was booked off by a doctor at Katutura hospital where he was attended to for severe nausea, vomiting and a running stomach. He was apparently also severely dehydrated. The doctor said that

Townsend was not fit to attend court until Friday.

Since the trial was set down to run until Friday, Judge Liebenberg, who will go on long leave until April next year, remanded the matter to March 18 next year for the mentions roll before Judge Nate Ndauendapo.

The issue of Judge Liebenberg presiding over the matter still hangs in the balance as Townsend's co-accused, Thomas, is accusing Judge Liebenberg of bias.

The judge already refused to recuse himself from the trial and Thomas' state-funded lawyer, Khadila Amoomo, petitioned the Supreme Court for Judge Liebenberg's removal from the trial.

Thomas claims the judge showed bias when he used the words 'acted' or 'acts' on July 3 when he admitted the reports of two psychiatrists, Dr Reinhardt Sieberhagen and Professor Tuviah Zabow, that declared Thomas fit to stand trial.

According to Thomas, the use of the words 'acted' or 'acts' indicate that the judge has already made up his mind that he committed an offence.

In the judgement refusing his recusal, Judge Liebenberg stated that his use of the words acted or acts was in line with the findings of the two psychiatrists and in no way indicates that he already found the accused acted in respect of the offences charged.

He called the reasons insignificant, unmeritorious and falling short of meeting established requirements. Thomas, who claimed he suffered a brain injury when he fell from a two-metre prison fence during a botched escape attempt, was declared fit to stand trial in the Windhoek High Court by two psychiatrists after he was sent for successive psychiatric evaluations by the court.

He was first declared unfit by state psychiatrist, Dr Frieda Mthoko, because of a neuro-cognitive disorder, but was later found to be malingering by Sieberhagen and South African Professor Zabow.

Thomas and Townsend, represented by Siyomunji, are accused of killing Namibian national, Andre Heckmair, with a single gunshot in the back of his head on January 7, 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek, and robbing him of his cellphone and wallet containing 100 Swiss france.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia