Like any other day the trial date also dawned and everyone was on time and fully prepared.
Max Chandler was waiting impatiently for the arrival of the psychologist and the ballistic expert. The prosecutor handed some papers over to the judge who perused them for about one minute and then signalled the prosecutor towards him. They shared a word in low tones after which she went back to her place.
“Silence.” Hollered the magistrates. “This court is now in session. The defence shall be given the opportunity to present its defence. The defendant, Mr. Major Dladla, can you please take the stand.”
Major stood up in the dock. His attorney Max Chandler prepared some papers and came around the stand a little closer to him.
“Thank you your honour, I am Max Chandler, the legal representative of the accused, hereby known as Major Dladla. And I’m acting on his instructions to plead not guilty on charges of murder against my client.”
“Does your client have any objection in taking an oath in front of the court, Mr Chandler,” asked the judge. “If not, can he please put his right hand up and say, ‘so help me God’?”
“So help me God.” said Major with his right hand up in the air.
“You can proceed leading your client advocate.”
“Mr Dladla, can you please explain in detail, to this court where you were on the night of the 18th February 2007.” Max Chandler started his questioning.
“I started my shift at six o’clock in the evening, and was to knock off at six the following morning.
“Were you alone in your post?”
“That is correct sir, I was left alone after my supervisor had come and removed another guard which was initially posted with me. One guard did not show up for his shift at another post.”
“Please tell this court what transpired at round about one o’clock in the morning of the nineteenth.”
“I started my hourly patrol. When I looked at the trucks which were parked in four parallel rows, I noticed that one truck’s aerial was moving a little vigorously than the rest. I pulled my weapon from the holster, cocked it and had it ready in the palm of my hand. I thought there might be people in it. But I quickly remembered that the alarm system would have detected them and gone off. So then I proceeded with my patrol.”
“Where was your firearm then?”
“It was in the palm of my right hand, I did not take it back to the holster.”
“You can proceed Mr Dladla.”
“As I went around the other side I noticed a hose hanging from the spare tank of the truck into a twenty litre plastic drum alongside the truck. That immediately justified my suspicion of possibility the presence of intruders in the yard. I went straight to the truck, and as I was heading towards the hose, two men suddenly popped up and hollered: “Lift up your hands or else we shoot.” They said while charging upon me. Since my firearm was handy, I immediately discharged fire to their direction. The man stopped, and through all that confused state of mind, I kept firing as I could not make up whether they were also shooting at me or was it just my firearm which was discharging fire. There was a rattling of fire and I was of the opinion that I was also being shot at. Eventually, the man before me fell towards me on his face. I realised that I had ran out of ammunition and ran for my dear life.”
“Where did you run to, Mr Dladla?”
“I ran to the street sir. Only after the guard on the opposite premises called me did I go to for refuge at his premises. He then gave me the phone to use to call my office to request for backup.”
“So, who did you call exactly, and what kind of help did you ask for?”
“I asked my controller to dispatch backup for me and to let my manager know about the situation I was in.”
“You can proceed Mr Major.”
“I then proceeded back to my post, on arrival of the response team. There was a huge sound of alarm, and I went with the response team guys to the point of the scene.”
“Mr Dladla, can you please tell this court your exact feeling just before you released your first shot.”
“I felt cornered. I felt that I was dead should those manage to lay their hands on me. My mouth went dry with dread. My mind went blank and my hope was pinned on my finger. I felt as though I was being shot at.”
“No further questions your honour.” Max rested.
The prosecutor started with her cross examination.
“Mr Dladla, how long have you been working with a firearm?”
“Six years, my lady.”
“Have you ever been under fire before?”
“That is correct, my lady.”
“Were you shot at in that incident?”
“Positive, my lady. One bullet grazed my lower mandible, and the other pierced through my calf on my right leg.”
“What happened, first thing to the people who were injured on the scene, both the security guards and the suspects?”
“We were all taken to the hospital.”
“Yes, and you know why? Because, whoever was in charge there had no intention to see any loss of life. So can you explain to this court your reason for calling your control room instead of the paramedics to save the poor man you so viciously shot?”
“I was frightened, my lady, and I thought the man was dead already, following the way he fell on his face and motionless.”
“So you thought, mission accomplished, and decided to sit back and enjoy the sight of your work?”
“No! That’s not the truth. I only assumed that he might have died when he was laying on the ground, motionless and not even breathing. In fact, I did mention even from my statement that I requested my controller to call the cops and the paramedics.
“No Mr Dladla, you know that you are lying to this court. You are only ashamed to tell this court that you were excited that you had your mission accomplished. You wished to kill that poor man.”
“I do not agree with you on that, my lady. I had no reason to wish that poor man dead.”
“So, prove to this court that you did try to save him from dying, if he was not already dead.”
“No my lady, I already told you that I was overcome with fear and all that was like a dream…”
“Yes, finally you confessed Mr Dladla. It was your dream come true, to one day terminate a man’s life.”
“I did not mean that my lady, I mean I was…”
“You discharged your firearm empty on an unarmed poor fellow. You did not call the paramedics nor the police as that would have saved his life. Now you think you easily fooled this court by saying you were acting on self-defence?”
“My manager called the cops and the paramedics, my lady.”
“Mr Dladla, without wasting the court’s precious time, let us filter what you and me agree upon and what we don’t. Number one: you used excessive power during your so called self-defence, am I wrong?”
“You are right my lady, but…”
“No buts, Mr Dladla, just yes or no, okay? Number two: you personally would not make any means to keep the man alive, is that so?”
“Yes it is, my lady, but as I said…”
“Can I rephrase what I said: no buts, Mr Dladla, just yes or no! Number three: you would have never reported the matter to the police. If not, explain you reason for not taking initiatives to do so until your boss did it out of his own freewill.”’
“I would have done it my lady, it’s just that I was under a lot of stress and everything happened very fast. But I told my office to do it instead.”
“Do not lie to this court, Mr Dladla. From your statement you said that the guard on the opposite premises from where you requested help, suggested that you call the cops, but you opted to call your control room, and never called the cops. What is it that should make this court trust your submission on that, because up until this day you have never voluntarily opted to go to the cops?”
“Objection your honor,” Max Chandler rose up. “My learned friend’s line of questioning is improper my lord. My client had no reason to report the mater that was already reported by his office as per his request.”
“Objection sustained, Mr Chandler. Miss Mdlalose could you please refrain from repetitive form of questioning, if you don’t mind. Do you still have any further questions?”
“No further questions your honour.”
“Thank you councillor. Would you like to call another witness to the stand, Mr Chandler?”
“That is correct your honour. We have requested the services of a well-known and long serving psychologist, Mrs Yvonne Motloung, whom we thought could highlight to this house some factors that might be difficult to construe to a layman regarding the effects of somebody in my client’s situation.”
“Thank you, Mr Chandler. Before we continue, this court shall go into recess, and shall continue after thirty minutes of lunch.”
“All rise in court.”
People rose to give honour to the judge who was leaving the court room, but also left the house for lunch.
Tell us what you think: How do you think the court is going so far?