Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Convicted wife killer Jason Rohde’s eldest daughter was too frightened to testify for her dad during his sentencing after Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe ordered that the media be allowed to live stream her evidence.

This is one of more than 40 instances where Salie-Hlophe “erred and misdirected” herself during her November sentencing of Rohde to an effective 20 years imprisonment, according to his leave to appeal filed this week.

At the October 2017 start of Rohde’s murder trial, Salie-Hlophe ordered that media coverage of his three daughters was not allowed. Then shortly before Kathryn Rohde was to step into the witness box to give mitigation evidence for her dad, Salie-Hlophe “expressly, unilaterally and deliberately” amended her original court order, allowing the media to broadcast (live) the audio testimony of the accused’s daughter (something previously not permissible under the terms of the original court order),” argues the appeal.

Salie-Hlophe’s “unwarranted and unnecessary amendment literally, a few seconds before the accused’s daughter was due to testify” intimidated her.

She “immediately expressed a reluctance to testify and later, upon due consideration, declined entirely to testify or to take any part in the court proceedings as she was too frightened and felt too intimidated by the prospect, implications and possible consequences of the negative publicity and exposure that she would suffer by virtue of the amendment to the court order that had been in place throughout the trial”.

This denied Rohde “the benefit of his daughter’s testimony in mitigation and served to frustrate him yet further in the conduct of his case”.

Rohde this week applied to Salie-Hlophe for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against his murder and defeating the ends of justice convictions and his sentencing which the appeal argues was “out of all proportion to the totality of facts and evidence presented in mitigation” and so “harsh and unjustifiably severe” that its effect “would inevitably be to ‘break’ the accused”.

Challenging Rohde’s convictions, his lawyers argue Salie-Hlophe “should have found that the State had failed to discharge the onus of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt”.

“The court erred and misdirected itself in failing to make a finding that the accused’s evidence was probably true, alternatively, at the least, that his version of events was reasonably possibly true” that Susan hung herself.

Salie-Hlophe was also “selective” and “subjective” and did “not properly, acceptably and judicially apply recognised and established legal principles” in her evaluation of evidence.

She also made factual findings and drew inferences “that were not legally justifiable or permissible and/or were underpinned by the incorrect application of time-honoured and recognised legal and judicial principles”.

In addition to a bias towards State witnesses and “a consistent pattern of unjustifiable criticisms and unmerited attacks against every one of the expert witnesses called by the defence”, the appeal argues Salie-Hlophe’s Achilles heel was not having the assistance of an “expert assessor in medical matters” on the bench.

Weekend Argus