The evidence against Kyle Shepard, 25, Andries van der Merwe, 23, and Dustin van Wyk, 23, did not meet the required standards for a trial to proceed, ruled Magistrate Trevor Levitt.
“I am uneasy about this decision. I come to the conclusion I have not heard the full story. I believe accused number two [Kyle Shepard] to have been more involved than what meets the eye,” he said.
He ruled that only Shepard’s brother Blayne, 23, would be tried for murder, but discharged him on all other counts.
The four were accused of beating Brett Williams to death on the night of March 23, 2013, after the Sharks beat the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby match.
They had each faced a charge of murder, three of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, one of crimen injuria, and one of public violence.
Their counsel had applied for the discharge under section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
Christo van Schalkwyk, for the Shepard brothers; Raneshan Naidoo, for Van Wyk; and Malcolm Lutge, for Van der Merwe had argued there was insufficient evidence against their clients and that the State had failed to prove who delivered the fatal blow.
Referring to video footage showing the men leaving the stadium with two of them imitating a stomping motion, Van Schalkwyk said it could not be assumed this had anything to do with the fight.
Levitt disagreed, saying: “Two of the accused were clearly enacting what they had seen.”
He said that contrary to suggestions by the defence, he had not seen any evidence that suggested a conspiracy on the part of the security guards or stadium officials to implicate them.
“We have all been hamstrung by the evidence given by the witnesses,” he said, finding that this might have been caused by poor lighting and intoxication.
He did not accept assertions by the defence that Williams fell and hit his head on a trailer.
“The deceased could not just have fallen to cause his own death. I’m also in agreement [with the prosecution] that all the witnesses who saw stomping could not have all been dreaming. I am satisfied the deceased’s death was caused unlawfully.”
Levitt ruled that Williams’ first fight with Grant Cramer, a friend of the Shepard brothers, had not caused his death.
He agreed with the defence that no evidence of intent had been presented in relation to the assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm charges, arising from assaults on security guards and paramedics that night.
The prosecution might have been more successful with plain assault charges, he said.
He ruled against a crimen injuria charge which arose from a security guard being called a “k****r” because the guard, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had not understood its meaning at the time and could therefore not have had his dignity impaired.
The State’s charge of public violence was according to him “not appropriate”.
After the ruling Van Schalkwyk said he was happy, but did not want to comment further as the case against Blayne Shepard was ongoing.
Andries van der Merwe said he was relieved that the charges against his son, also named Andries, had been discharged.
“He’s a good lad. He’s like me. He stands by his friends, but youngsters need to learn not to talk with their fists.”
Van Wyk smiled and refused to comment as he walked out of the court building.
Both Shepard brothers declined to talk, but Kyle Shepard smiled as he walked out of the building with his lawyers.
The case against Blayne Shepard resumes on Wednesday.