Judge rules psychiatrist's testimony is not relevant to sentencing proceedings.
Cape Town – The defence advocate for convicted murderer Jason Rohde on Thursday clashed with the judge after she ruled that the testimony of a psychiatrist who had been seeing Rohde was not relevant to sentencing proceedings.
Rohde was convicted by Western Cape High Court Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe on November 8 of the 2016 murder of his wife Susan Rohde and defeating the ends of justice by staging her suicide.
On Thursday, psychiatrist Dr Kevin Stoloff, who has been seeing Rohde during the trial, took the witness stand to give testimony in mitigation of sentence.
Dr Stoloff gave detailed evidence on the report he compiled on Rohde’s medical state and his failure to appear in court in February.
Judge Salie-Hlophe, however, interrupted his testimony and pointed out that the purpose of his testimony was for sentence mitigation and not a bail application as the court has already found Rohde guilty.
Judge Salie-Hlophe added that the testimony being presented by Dr Stoloff was already part of the court record.
“A lot of what you testifying to now, I think we dealt with that during the previous testimony. The purpose of these proceedings is to hear mitigation and aggravation of sentence. I have convicted Mr Rohde, these proceedings are for that I can receive information which I will take into account in handing out an appropriate sentence to him,” said Judge Salie-Hlophe.
“So I would like, Mr Van der Spuy, that this witness provides me with information regarding going forward so that I could be informed as to mitigation factors in handing out an appropriate punishment to Mr Rohde.”
The rejection of Dr Stoloff’s testimony led to a clash between Judge Salie-Hlophe and defence advocate Graham van der Spuy, who raised his voice to argue that his witness had been disrupted by the court.
“One of the important factors to be taken into account by the court in imposing the sentence, is the conduct of the accused, after being accused and his degree of cooperation and compliance during the post-alleged crime period and during the trial,” Van der Spuy responded. “I am dealing now, with his level of compliance and his level of cooperation and how he has tried to assist the court.”
Judge Salie-Hlophe said: “Again, a lot of this information is already before me, I’ve got that. This is not a bail application.”
“My Lady, my examination of this witness has been interrupted, the full picture and the flow have been disturbed by the court,” said Van der Spuy with his voice raised.
“Don’t speak to me like that, you’re taking your finger and you’re throwing it in the air. I’m gonna adjourn this court now and you will think about how you wish to conduct yourself.”
The judge adjourned the matter until after lunch.
Rohde has been in Pollsmoor prison since his conviction. Dr Stoloff started seeing Rohde in September 2016, shortly after he was arrested for his wife’s murder. Susan Rohde’s body was found on July 24, 2016, with an electronic cord wrapped around her neck and hanging from a hook behind the bathroom door of the room they shared at the Stellenbosch Spier Wine Estate Hotel.
African News Agency (ANA)