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Defence lawyer in tricky spot



MASERU – Advocate Lepeli Molapo, a lawyer representing murder suspect Qamo Matela, is in a tricky position.

Justice Tšeliso Mokoko has given him two hard options: he can either remain the defence lawyer or become a witness in the case.

But he cannot be both.

His predicament came after Police Inspector Moeketsi, a state witness, told Justice Mokoko that Advocate Molapo was present when Matela confessed that he murdered his wife, ’Mahlompho.

It was after Advocate Molapo vehemently denied that he was present when his client made the alleged confession to the murder.

After Inspector Moeketsi’s testimony, it was decided that there should be a trial within a trial to determine whether Advocate Molapo should be allowed to enter the witness box to testify.

Advocate Molapo had expressed a desire to testify under oath in the trial within the trial to show that he was not present when Matela allegedly confessed as Inspector Moeketsi said.

Crown counsel Advocate Joala had argued that it would be legally improper for Advocate Molapo to continue representing Matela after testifying in the case.

Advocate Joala argued that the Court of Appeal has since ruled in another case that the right of suspects to choose their own lawyers is not without limits.

Yesterday, Justice Mokoko ruled that Advocate Molapo could testify in the case but would not continue to represent Matela.

What puts Advocate Molapo in a tricky situation is that if he goes into the witness box he would not only cease representing Matela but he might find himself compromising the lawyer-client confidentiality when cross-examined.

Advocate Molapo is yet to make a decision.

Matela pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Matela is accused of strangling and hitting his wife to death last year. She sustained fatal injuries on the neck and other parts of the body.

In September, Lekhooa Mona, the crown’s first witness, testified that ’Mahlompho told her that Matela had strangled her.

Monaleli, Qamo Matela’s childhood friend, said he went to the couple’s home after his friend told him that his wife was not feeling well and he needed help to take her to hospital.

Monaleli said he found both ’Mahlompho and her husband sitting in the bathroom on the floor.

’Mahlompho was sitting between the thighs of her husband while their children were in the sitting room.

He said ’Mahlompho looked weak and tired.

“I helped the accused to lift her and carried her to the car,” Monaleli said.

He said Matela had a spoon with him that he used to put in the wife’s mouth to stop her from biting her tongue.

“I noticed that something had happened to the deceased apart from her being ill,” he said.

“What I picked from the deceased was that her eyes showed that she had been assaulted.”

“I kept quiet because this hit me hard,” Monaleli said.

Then they drove off to Willies Hospital in Khubetsoana.

At the hospital Matela left them in the car as he went to take a wheelchair for the wife, and this gave Monaleli a chance to ask ’Mahlompho what happened.

He said her husband assaulted and strangled her.

“I asked the deceased why she did not call for help when what happened,” he said.

“The response was that the accused was strangling her.”

Staff Reporter

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