Durban - The state of mind of murder accused Nick Longano at the time of his girlfriend’s death will be the key factor a Durban High Court judge will assess to decide whether he is guilty of her murder.
Longano is on trial before Judge Kate Pillay for the murder of his girlfriend, Vinoba Naidoo, at their Glenwood, Durban, flat in 2010.
The State alleges that Naidoo suffocated after Longano stepped on her neck.
The impact of the injury was so severe that the imprint of his shoe was left on her neck.
Longano has put up a rare defence of sane automatism, meaning a person involuntarily commits an act in an altered state of mind.
It was successfully used in the 1995 case of Xerxes Nursingh, who was acquitted of killing his mother and his grandparents.
Longano alleged that Naidoo had broken off their eight-year relationship a month before her death.
They met at their flat to divide up their possessions and when they got into an argument, she allegedly attacked him with a candlestick.
The defence claimed the alleged attack was the trigger that caused Longano to enter a state of sane automatism.
Two expert witnesses, Professor Lourens Schlebusch and Lynette Roux – called by the defence – have both testified that Longano’s state of mind at the time of the incident appeared to be consistent with sane automatism.
On Thursday, during closing arguments, State advocate Nadira Moosa said Longano’s defence had been “fabricated”.
She said depression and medication, which the defence says are two of several factors that brought on sane automatism, could not have led to an altered state of mind.
She said Longano had no history of depression before the break-up of the relationship, and the cocktail of drugs he was taking ought to have made him calmer and not put him in an agitated state.
She added that Longano testified he could not remember placing his foot on Naidoo’s neck, but two police officers testified that he told them he stood on her.
Referring to other cases where this defence was raised, including the Nursingh case, Moosa said there were stark differences between those cases and the circumstances in Longano’s case.
“In some of those cases there was a history of psychological and physical abuse which had been suffered by the accused at the hands of the deceased. In this case there is a person who broke up with his girlfriend, got depressed, took medication and then this happened.”
Longano’s advocate, Gideon Scheltema SC, said that the State wanted to simplify a “complex” case.
He added the defence had shown there was a reasonable possibility Longano was in an altered state of mind at the time of the incident and he could not be guilty of murder.
There was unchallenged evidence that Longano had not eaten or slept at all the day before the murder and was by all accounts in a “pretty bad way”. This was confirmed by the experts’ testimony.
He added that placing a foot on a neck could have been an “automatic reaction” caused by the altered state.
“This is a case where you have to look at the person’s state of mind before, during and after the incident. It’s not a case of two healthy, rational people who have an argument and now one is dead.”
The case was adjourned to Monday.