Durban - A South African arrested in connection with four murders in the United States will only stand trial in March next year for two of those murders.
Muziwokuthula “Muzi” Madondo had been due to stand trial in December for two of those murders, but Madondo’s lawyer Roger Bargas applied for a postponement on the grounds that the prosecution had not disclosed all the evidence.
Speaking from Tucumcari in the US state of New Mexico early on Thursday morning, Bargas said he had applied in the Quay County District Court in October for the trial in December to be cancelled.
He said: “The judge heard that (application) and agreed to cancel the trial in December. Currently we are scheduled for a two week trial staring February 29th.”
Madondo, a theology student from Richmond in KwaZulu-Natal was arrested in March 2011 in Texas for the double murder of father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37, in a Tucumcari motel.
During his arrest and initial detention by Texas Rangers, Madondo is alleged, not only to have confessed to the Tucumcari murders, but also to the murders of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder and Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane in Ohio.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that Madondo’s rights were violated when he made the confession and therefore the jury that hears the case when he does ultimately stand trial will not hear the alleged confession in connection with the Tucumcari murders.
Bargas said that his request for a postponement of the trial had been due to the fact that the defence was still receiving evidence. The new date was, he said, also not a certainty.
Bargas said: “With any criminal case there are always negotiations. It could be resolved before then. We are still getting evidence. The State provided me with new evidence last week and I am hoping we are to the point that all the evidence has been disclosed, but if new additional evidence were to show up at the last minute, even the February 29 date could change.”
He said his client, Madondo was still maintaining his not guilty plea.
Another reason that the trial may not proceed would be due to the difficulty of obtaining a 12-man jury. Bargas pointed to the fact that the population in Quay County is very small.
“In this county there are only about 6 000 residents. The jury pool is very small. And in a small town like this everybody knows everybody and everybody has an opinion and has talked about the case. So it may be difficult to get a fair and impartial jury. But we are going to give it our best shot.”
Bargas said that jury selection would take up two or three days of the trial.
If the court deadlocks and an impartial jury cannot be found, the judge could order a mistrial and move the trial to a bigger city.
According to the New Mexico court records, 24 people have been subpoenaed as witnesses for the State
Legal proceedings in relation to the Ohio murders have yet to begin and are only likely to start after the completion of proceedings in New Mexico. If convicted of murder in Ohio, Madondo could face the death penalty.
New Mexico does not have the death penalty.African News Agency