High Court Judge, Mercy Garekwe, sentenced a jealous lover, 30-year-old Joseph Ditlhakeng of Ramotswa, to seventeen years imprisonment after finding him guilty of the murder of his girlfriend, Mmabatho Segopolo, in Madis.
Garekwe noted when passing sentence that provocation and premeditation could have played a role Ditlhakeng’s actions.
The judge noted that despite the defence’s submissions, Prosecutor Mpho Mmolainyana of the Directorate of Public Prosecution, had left the matter in the hands of court to impose an appropriate sentence.
She informed the court that Ditlhakeng was found guilty because he had knowledge that his act of stabbing or cutting the deceased with a new tile cutter blade could result in grievous bodily harm.
Garekwe, however, reversed her earlier decision when she dismissed his defense on provocation as false when passing judgment last month.
She maintained that the Ditlhakeng’s decision to stab the accused after talking on the phone could have made him to act the way he did.
The judge noted that provocation could have resulted in his action though the court was never informed about the conversation that Ditlhakeng had on his phone.
“What was said could well be the thing that provoked him to attack the deceased in the manner in which he did and because of his immediate actions following the call, this can well prompt the court to find that extenuating circumstances did exist. The likely provocation resulting from what was said to him by the caller in my view amounts to extenuating circumstances,” added Garekwe.
She dismissed the defense’s submissions regarding factors of alcohol consumption, saying that although the courts in the country considered intoxication as a factor that is capable of reducing an accused’s moral blameworthiness, there was no evidence placed before the court to show that he was intoxicated.
Garekwe noted that Ditlhakeng’s evidence before the court was a story that was falsified in an attempt to escape the charge that he was facing.
She said that the court as well as the family of the deceased had been made to go through a full blown trial.
Garekwe said that the family of the deceased has had to re-live their daughter’s death at the hands of the accused.
“The running away and the trial itself cannot, therefore, serve as mitigating factors. I observed the accused during the course of the trial, especially when he led his evidence. His demeanor, though not arrogant, did not display the demeanour of someone who is ashamed and remorseful of his actions,” he said.
She further explained that what is important though is not the number of blows or stabs.
The judge said that it takes one fatal stab to cause a person’s death and this is what happened in the case.
The judge also noted that though passion crimes have commonly afforded murder convicts to receive lenient sentences, the Court of Appeal was not suggesting that stiffer sentences can never be handed in appropriate cases.
The judge sentenced Ditlhakeng to seventeen years imprisonment and advised him that he had the right to appeal.