Windhoek — The trial of the two American citizens accused of the assassin-like-murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in 2011 is set to continue as one trial after Windhoek High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg dismissed an application by one of them for a trial separation.
Kevin Townsend applied for the separation after his co-accused Marcus Thomas, aged 34, lodged another application for leave to appeal Judge Liebenberg's refusal to recuse himself from the trial for alleged bias.
The judge has in the meantime also refused that application for leave to appeal.
The trial has been dragging on since 2014, mostly due to various applications the Americans brought before court and the firing and withdrawing of lawyers.
Thomas and Townsend are facing one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, three counts of contravening the Ammunitions Act and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice. The State alleges that they killed Heckmair, who is the son of the owners of the Cattle Baron Steak Ranch, by shooting him assassin style in the back of his head on January 7, 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek.
In his application for separation, Townsend said that he brought the application because he will suffer a financial prejudice as he has a privately funded lawyer as well as that it would infringe his right to a speedy trial.
According to him, he has been ready to continue with the trial since April 15, but that his co-accused is stalling the trial by bringing application upon application which compromises his trial.
However, Judge Liebenberg said, Townsend is not so innocent as he would like the court to believe as he sat by idle while Thomas brought application upon application and even went to the extent of supporting some of the applications.
According to the judge, it seems inescapable to reach the conclusion that ever since this matter proceeded to trial, there has been a concerted effort between the accused to delay the trial. Judge Liebenberg further said that in the majority of instances the delays can be attributed to Thomas, however at previous stages Townsend never opposed any of the applications nor did he deem it necessary to apply for his trial to separate from that of Thomas and as such cannot cry foul that his rights to a fair trial was infringed as he all along was idle.
He further said that in respect of the charges preferred against the accused persons, they are indicted on all charges for having acted with common purpose and continued: "It is not in the interest of justice that persons charged together with the same counts, moreover, when alleged to have acted with common purpose are tried separately."
Furthermore, Judge Liebenberg stated, it would be in the interest of the administration of justice to deal with the continued applications brought by accused expeditiously when they arise in order to avoid any further unnecessary delays and to finalise the trial within the periods set down.
"Additionally, there is a real possibility that there exists a conflict between the accused persons (having had separate legal representatives from the outset) in which instance it is even more compelling to try them together as the court would have all the facts before it when finally called upon to decide their guilt or otherwise," Judge Liebenberg concluded.