THE 48-year prison term to which Windhoek resident Romeo Schiefer was sentenced after he was convicted of the murder of his parents is excessive, Schiefer's lawyer has argued in the Supreme Court.
Defence lawyer Winnie Christians emphasised Schiefer's youthfulness at the time his parents were murdered when he presented his arguments in support of an appeal by Schiefer against his sentences to deputy chief justice Petrus Damaseb and Judges of Appeal Dave Smuts and Elton Hoff on Monday.
"I would blame his actions on youthfulness. [... ] The lack of judgement of a person of that age," Christians remarked during his address to the court.
Deputy prosecutor Antonia Verhoef, repeatedly saying that Schiefer displayed "remarkable presence of mind" when the crimes of which he was found guilty were committed, argued that this was not an indication of youthfulness, but rather of calculated, determined conduct. Instead of focusing on his age at the time his parents were murdered, the appeal court should look at him like an ordinary criminal, Verhoef said.
The three judges reserved their judgement after hearing the two lawyers' arguments.
After finding Schiefer guilty on two counts of murder and a charge of theft, Judge Naomi Shivute sentenced him to an effective 48 years' imprisonment in October 2013. Schiefer was 24 years old at that stage.
He was 18 years old when he was arrested in connection with the murder of his parents in January 2008 - two months before he would reach the age of 19.
Schiefer was accused of having murdered his father, Frans Schiefer (50), and his mother, Francina Schiefer (50), in their home in Khomasdal in Windhoek during the evening of 18 January 2008. Frans Schiefer was killed when he was shot in the head where he lay in bed. Francina Schiefer died after she had been stabbed repeatedly with a knife and shot some nine times with a pistol that belonged to her husband.
Schiefer, who is the youngest of their three sons, denied guilt on all charges during his trial in the Windhoek High Court. However, Judge Shivute convicted him on the basis of evidence that included a confession that Schiefer made on the day after the killing of his parents, circumstantial evidence, and forensic or DNA evidence.
In the confession, which Schiefer made to a senior police officer, he claimed he was "triggered" and "decided that this is enough" when his mother swore at him and accused him of not wanting to learn, wasting her money and walking around doing nothing.
He related that he fetched a knife from a drawer and attacked his mother with it, went to his father's bedroom and shot him in the head where he lay on his bed, and afterwards also shot his mother and again stabbed her. After that, he put on different clothes and then went out with a friend, Schiefer said.
Judge Shivute sentenced Schiefer to 28-year prison terms on each of the murder charges, and ordered that eight years of the sentence on the one charge would run concurrently with the sentence on the other count.
Christians also argued on Monday that, when taking into account that Schiefer spent almost six years in custody before he was sentenced, his effective prison term of 48 years was not appropriate. He conceded that Schiefer had to be sentenced to "a reasonably lengthy period of imprisonment", and suggested a 20-year jail term would be fitting.
Verhoef argued that although there was no evidence the murders were pre-planned, the crimes were committed in a calculated and determined manner. Schiefer's father was murdered in a callous way while sleeping, and his mother was killed in a vicious attack, Verhoef said. The sentences on both murder charges, and also the cumulative effect of it, were appropriate, she argued.
Schiefer petitioned the Supreme Court for leave to appeal after Judge Shivute turned down his request to be allowed to appeal against both his conviction and sentences. Judges Damaseb, Smuts and Hoff granted him leave to appeal against only the sentences in June last year.