Boswell John Mhlongo, Alfred Disco Nkosi, and six others were accused of shooting and killing a police officer in his house in Mothutlung, North West, on August 3, 2002.
Some of the accused made out-of-court statements implicating Mhlongo and Nkosi.
In the North West High Court the eight all pleaded not guilty. The high court found the statements were admissions, rather than confessions, and that they were, therefore, admissible against the accused.
Under the Law of Evidence Amendment Act, such hearsay evidence is admissible, the court found.
The court considered the evidence credible and, on this basis, found all eight guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
All but one appealed. The high court found the evidence was corroborated, and that crucial parts of the statements were confirmed in court proceedings.
The convictions were upheld and subsequent applications for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal were dismissed.
Of the eight original accused only Mhlongo and Nkosi appealed their convictions to the Constitutional Court.
They argue that allowing out-of-court admissions, but not confessions, by one accused against a co-accused violates their right to equality before the law. Such evidence, they argue, is unreliable and should not be admitted because it compromises their right to a fair trial.
The State agrees that the distinction between confessions and admissions is problematic, but maintains there is an exception where statements are made in furtherance of a conspiracy or common purpose.
As such common purpose had been established, the State submits that the statements are admissible.