US court throws out SA man’s confessionComment on this story
Durban - A South African man's apparent confession to four murders which was videotaped by Texas Rangers after his arrest has been thrown out by a US court.
In his ruling, Judge Albert Mitchell found that Muziwokuthula “Muzi” Madondo's state and federal rights had been violated after his requests for an attorney as well as his request not speak to the police had been ignored.
Madondo is to be tried before a jury in the Quay County District Court in the US state of New Mexico for two of the four murders - those of father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37.
Mitchell, who will preside over that trial, ruled on Monday that “the oral and video statements of the defendant are suppressed.”
Madondo has pleaded not guilty to the first degree murders of Gonzales and Baca. He allegedly shot them in a motel in Tucumcari before fleeing to Texas, where he was arrested in March 2011.
He also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
According to the ruling, Mitchell found that Madondo had twice asked for an attorney.
“At no time did the defendant waive his right to counsel or his right to remain silent. The defendant clearly articulated on two occasions to law enforcement officials who were holding him in custody, both Texas and New Mexico officials, that he wanted a lawyer and did not want to speak.”
Mitchell ruled that the subsequent interview with Madondo was a violation of both his State and Federal rights to an attorney and to remain silent.
Mitchell rejected an application by Madondo's lawyer Roger Bargas to have the search warrant used to search Madondo and his van at the time of his arrest declared invalid.
He also ruled that the seizure of Madondo's bible was legal and could be used as evidence in the case as it was evidence gained as a result of the search warrant.
Mitchell said Bargas had argued that the statements obtained from Madondo “were based upon the utilisation of the Bible, and therefore should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Mitchell said that argument was not relevant since he was suppressing the video and oral evidence as Madondo's rights to an attorney and to remain silent had been ignored.
The jury at Madondo's trial may yet get to hear what he said to officers as Mitchell in a separate order allowed both the District Attorney and Bargas to lodge an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court before he stands trial should they wish to do so.
Bargas is representing Madondo only in connection with the Gonzales and Baca murders, and not in connection with murders he allegedly committed in Ohio.
It is in the video and oral statements suppressed by Mitchell, that Madondo allegedly confessed to the murder of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder, 60. She was shot dead in her home in Akron, Ohio, on February 17, 2011.
Two days later, about 300km away, the bullet-riddled body of Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane, 25, was found in the woods in Butler Township, Ohio. Madondo, 34, also allegedly confessed to this killing.
Madondo has yet to appear in court in Ohio for the murders of Hilder and Mdadane or plead to them.
Originally from Richmond, near Pietermaritzburg, Madondo emigrated to the US in 2008 to study theology.
New Mexico does not have the death penalty, but if Madondo is convicted of the two murders in Ohio, he could face the death penalty.
At the time of his arrest it was reported that Madondo had claimed that he wanted the death penalty.