Cape Town – Convicted murderer and former property mogul Jason Rohde’s daughter made an about-turn at the 11th hour yesterday, refusing to testify in the Western Cape High Court because she was fearful.
This was after a failed attempt by the defence to have Kathryn Rohde, 20, testify in camera in mitigation of her father’s impending sentence.
Defence counsel Graham van der Spuy had requested the court to hear Kathryn’s testimony in camera as she was “incredibly vulnerable, very reluctant and fearful”.
If it were to be done in an open court she would be doing it with “considerable fear and reluctance”, they charged. State prosecutor Louis van Niekerk opposed the application, saying they did not want to set a precedent for other witnesses.
Van Niekerk said they were not aware of any harm posed to Kathryn if her testimony was heard in an open court. “Justice must be done and must be seen to be done,” said Western Cape High Court Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe moments before ruling that the media would have access to the courtroom while Kathryn testified, but barred any visuals to be focussed on her.
Jason, convicted of murdering his wife Susan, became visibly emotional when his daughter approached the witness bench and tried in vain to hold back tears.
The two exchanged smiles while a short break was requested. Thereafter, Kathryn, who was not willing to give her testimony, was excused. Jason will spend Christmas behind bars after he was again denied bail.
The case was postponed to February 18, when sentencing proceedings will continue.
Earlier drama unfolded in the courtroom when Van der Spuy was reprimanded for “throwing his finger in the air”, which Judge Salie-Hlophe took exception to and abruptly adjourned proceedings.
Judge Salie-Hlophe said Van der Spuy was leading evidence that had already been heard by the court and pointed out that the purpose of sentencing proceedings was not to “rehash the trial”.
Van der Spuy responded, saying the judge had “interrupted his flow of questioning”.