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Cape Town - Plea-bargain proceedings were abandoned in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday for a teenager accused of shooting dead Cape Town school pupil Glenrico Martin.
Jevon Snyman, 19, appeared at a pre-trial conference before Judge President John Hlophe.
Snyman's defence lawyer, William da Grass, who was to have presented the court with a plea-bargain agreement, asked the court for permission to withdraw.
He told the court that he had advised Snyman to plead guilty to the murder charge, in plea-bargain proceedings, but that Snyman had declined to do so.
Da Grass said this compelled him to withdraw as Snyman's legal representative, on ethical grounds.
Hlope granted Da Grass permission to withdraw.
He explained to Snyman that he had the right to appoint another privately funded lawyer, or to request free legal representation through the legal aid authorities.
Snyman mumbled his reply, and twice the judge asked him: “Speak louder, please.”
Snyman said he was not sure what to do, and wanted to discuss it with his family.
At a hearing last month, Da Grass had also mentioned that he needed to discuss the intended plea negotiations with Snyman's family.
At Thursday's proceedings, Hlophe said Snyman had a constitutional right to discuss the issue with his family before reaching a decision.
However, the judge added: “We'll keep him in prison. He has the right to discuss the issue with his family, but we will keep him in prison until he decides.”
The judge president directed prosecutor Mziwanele Jaxa to explain the gravity of the situation to Snyman in the holding cells.
In plea-bargain proceedings last month, Snyman's co-accused, Wilston Stoffels was jailed for 24 years for the murder, seven years for gang offences, three years for the illegal possession of a firearm and one year for the unlawful possession of ammunition.
The court ordered that the sentences run concurrently.
In the proceedings, Stoffels said he and Snyman had belonged to a criminal gang, the Young Americans.
Stoffels said they were ordered by senior gang members to kill Martin because he was a member of a rival gang.
Stoffels said they went to the Spes Bona Secondary School in Athlone, which Martin attended, on May 15 last year, with a loaded firearm.
They were at the school when they saw Martin get out of a taxi, and Stoffels fired a single shot that hit Martin in the head, Stoffels said.
Stoffels was 18 at the time, and Snyman 19.