Criminal: Law student’s conviction, life sentence overturned

A law student who stabbed two Pretoria police officers, claiming he thought they were criminals out to rob him, has succeeded in having his murder conviction and life sentence overturned by the Constitutional Court. TimesLIVE reports that Liqhayiya Tuta was initially found guilty of stabbing the officers, who were in civilian clothes, when they tried to subdue him after a chase in Sunnyside in 2018. Tuta appealed the life sentence he was given by the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) the following year, arguing he acted in self-defense and was not aware at the time that constables Kenneth Sithole and Lawrence Magalefa were policemen. Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued in the Constitutional Court in February that an intervention by the trial judge which prevented Tuta’s cross-examination had resulted in a trial irregularity that led to ‘an unsafe conviction’. The Constitutional Court ordered the prison facility he is in to release him with immediate effect. ‘The appeal is upheld, and the conviction and sentence are set aside,’ the two-page order stated.

The court did not immediately furnish reasons for the decision but said they would be furnished later. Tuta’s lawyer Mabu Marweshe said they noted the order and were waiting for reasons, according to TimesLIVE. 'As we have persisted in the SCA that the trial judge erred in applying the principle of private putative defence and our client’s rights to a fair trial were violated, including that the state failed to prove he was guilty of murder and attempted murder beyond reasonable doubt, we feel that our client’s rights have been vindicated by the apex court.' Marweshe said the full judgment 'will definitely create a precedent on these issues and contribute immensely to our legal jurisprudence'.

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