The Western Cape High Court adjourned court proceedings in the trial of triple murder accused Henri van Breda until Tuesday to give the judge time to consider a request from the defence that the accused’s testimony not be streamed live.
Twenty-two-year-old Henri van Breda appeared nervous, drumming his fingers continuously, as court proceedings began in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Defence lawyer Piet Botha told the court that he would be calling no further witnesses, but that his client “wished to testify”.
“My client suffers from a speech impediment, his stutter gets worse under pressure. He also has a tendency to mutter at times which is part of the speech impediment. We are concerned about the live broadcast as it will be a stressful period for him in the witness box.”
Botha said he had it “fairly under control”, but asked the court to take this into account when assessing his demeanour.
Judge Desai adjourned proceedings for half an hour, saying it was an “unusual request” and he needed time to consider it before making a decision.
After the short break, the judge said he needed more time to “apply” his mind as it was a unique situation with no existing case law.
Botha said he was concerned about Van Breda’s demeanour in the witness box and the potentially negative impact this could have on the court’s assessment of his credibility, saying: “He is being viewed by the public at large, and may start to stutter or mumble”.
Judge Desai said this would be taken into account and the court would not hold his stutter against him. He added most of the trial had been streamed live and had not impacted on proceedings.
Botha argued that his client was very aware of the media coverage of the case and that “thousands of photos had been taken of him”.
Judge Desai responded with a smile: “That is the price of democracy”.
Van Breda faces three counts of murder for the axe attacks on his parents and brother at their family home in the luxury security estate, de Zalze, in Stellenbosch in January 2015.
He also faces a charge of attempted murder after his sister Marli, who was 16-years-old at the time, survived the attack. He further faces a charge of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly tampering with the crime scene.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and claims a laughing, axe-wielding intruder wearing a balaclava, gloves and dark clothing was behind the attacks.
In his plea explanation, he also claimed there may have been more than one intruder and that he heard Afrikaans being spoken during the attacks.
– African News Agency (ANA)