Port Elizabeth – The issue of whether a bouncer accused of involvement in Jayde Panayiotou’s murder was beaten into confessing and turning State witness would be heard as part of her alleged killers’ main trial, and not a trial-within-a-trial.
Prosecutor Marius Stander argued in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Thursday that there was no case law to show that the admissibility of a State witness should be heard in a trial-within-a-trial.
Jayde’s husband Christopher, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko are on trial on charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing, and killing Jayde on April 21 last year. They have pleaded not guilty.
Luthando Siyoni worked as a bouncer at Panayiotou’s Infinity Cocktail Bar in Algoa Park. He allegedly hired the hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, who died in a Port Elizabeth hospital in September.
In his plea explanation, Panayiotou asked the court to order a trial-within-a-trial relating to Siyoni’s evidence.
Panayiotou said the evidence obtained following Siyoni’s removal from his Infinity club was tainted. He said police had assaulted and intimidated Siyoni into implicating him.
“Therefore, the evidence obtained against me was unlawfully and unconstitutionally obtained by the State, with the result that my right to a fair trial has been violated.”
State throws a curve ball
As court got underway shortly after 09:30 on Thursday, Stander told Judge Dayalin Chetty that, after studying case law, he found there was nothing to justify holding a trial-within-a-trial.
His initial intention had been to call Siyoni as his first witness and to enter into the trial-within-a-trial.
Stander said case law also cautioned against hastening to a trial-within-a-trial, as it often led to a piecemeal trial.
Chetty asked Terry Price, for Panayiotou, if he had any case law that backed holding a trial-within-a-trial.
Price said he did not, but argued that it was the defence’s stance that at the time Siyoni made his confession, he was still an accused, and not a State witness.
Price said Siyoni had been listed as accused number one until August last year, when the charges were withdrawn and his status as State witness was confirmed. Siyoni’s statements were taken in April and May last year.
Price argued that he had been caught on the back foot and again accused the State of a trial by ambush.
“It was my understanding that we were going to go into a trial-within-a-trial today and my preparations have been to that effect,” he said.
Chetty asked him why the evidence could not be led as part of the main trial and its admissibility decided at the end.
“You are going to be subjected to poisonous evidence. I am not saying you don’t have the ability to see through that,” Price said.
Price raised concerns about the evidence of a conversation between Panayiotou and Siyoni. The State recorded it and led it as evidence in a bail application hearing last year.
Chetty said Price could apply for a separate trial-within-a-trial on the admissibility of the conversation when the evidence was led.
Chetty ruled there would not be a trial-within-a-trial relating to Siyoni’s evidence.