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Durban - It is rare for someone to be completely deprived of the capacity to control their behaviour.
Clinical psychologist Clive Willows said this in testifying on Tuesday before the Durban High Court, where Nick Longano is on trial for the August 2010 murder of his girlfriend, Vinoba Naidoo. He is alleged to have stood on her neck.
Durban accountant Longano has put up a rare defence of sane automatism, in which a person involuntarily commits acts while in an altered state of mind.
The court had heard that on the day of the murder, he and Naidoo were dividing their possessions, in the Glenwood flat they had shared, when an argument over curtains became heated and Naidoo attacked him with a candlestick.
A month before, Naidoo had ended the relationship and moved out.
Willows was initially briefed by the prosecution, which decided at the trial stage to abandon his evidence.
Gideon Scheltema, SC, for the defence, filed an application asking that Judge Kate Pillay recuse herself.
He said the judge could be “subliminally biased” by the contents of the report, which she had sight of.
Judge Pillay, refusing to recuse herself on the grounds that the application was without merit, called Willows as a court witness.
Having studied reports by two other psychologists, Dr Lynette Roux and Professor Lourens Schlebusch, Willows noted in his report that tests performed on Longano had revealed symptoms of depression and anxiety, which could be associated with the reality of his circumstances.
Commenting on the reports, Willows said it was unusual that a relationship of such duration would be terminated by Naidoo, who had wanted a life-long commitment, purely on the basis of a single, heated argument.
It was therefore difficult to understand what had provoked Naidoo to attack Longano, according to his evidence, with a metal object, Willows said.
He said reference had been made to Longano’s inability to withstand emotional pressure and “deal with” stressful situations.
“Perhaps in response to these inadequacies he has a need to maintain order and control. He will have episodes of overwhelming, uncontrolled feelings,” he said.
Willows said the reports did not describe the relationship between Longano and Naidoo in much detail and seemed to rely on Longano’s perceptions.
Willows said courts had accepted that emotional stress and provocation might lead to a state of non-pathological incapacity, but it was rare that a person might be completely deprived of such capacity.
He said some people who had some form of “intermittent explosive behaviour” might have some weakness in personality or character impairment.
However, it was possible, during an intensely emotional event, that the emotional state interfered with consciousness and the “coding” process, with the result that the event was not encoded into memory and so could not be retrieved, Willows said.
After his cross-examination yesterday, Scheltema said if the State were to cross-examine Willows, this would introduce “gross irregularities” into the proceedings.
He likened the situation to an attorney-client scenario where the attorney was not allowed to act against the interests of his client.
Nadira Moosa, for the State, argued there was no authority that said that where a consultation had take place between parties, the party could not be cross-examined.
The matter continues.
* In a previous court report on this case, headlined “Judge lashes neglectful witness”, presiding Judge Kate Pillay did not, in fact, do so. She merely directed Dr John Dunn, a senior psychiatrist at Fort Napier Mental Hospital, to acquaint himself fully with all the information and, if need be, to revise his report.