SA man's murder trial in US postponed

Durban - An appeal over whether a South African man's apparent confession to four murders in the United States can be heard by a jury seems to have resulted in his trial being postponed yet again.

Muziwokuthula "Muzi" Madondo's jury trial in the Quay County District Court in the US state of New Mexico for two of the four murders - those of father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37 - was set to start next Friday.

However, court records for the state of New Mexico show that last week the trial dates were vacated. No reason is shown on the records.

Earlier this year, Judge Albert Mitchell found Madondo's state and federal rights had been violated after his requests for an attorney as well as his request not to speak to the police had been ignored.

Mitchell, who will preside over that trial, ruled on Monday that "the oral and video statements of the defendant are suppressed".

While neither Madondo's lawyer Roger Bargas nor district attorney Tim Rose could be reached for comment, an official for the New Mexico Supreme Court, who declined to be named, said on Wednesday that not all the written arguments for an appeal had been lodged.

She said no date for oral argument had been set, although the five judges could simply hand down a ruling based on the written arguments submitted by both legal teams.

Madondo has pleaded not guilty to the first degree murders of Gonzales and Baca. He allegedly shot them in a motel in Tucumcari before fleeing to Texas, where he was arrested in March 2011 and made the alleged confessions. He also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.

Asked for an attorney twice

According to the ruling, Mitchell found Madondo had twice asked for an attorney.

Mitchell ruled that the subsequent interview with Madondo was a violation of both his state and federal rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Bargas is representing Madondo only in connection with the Gonzales and Baca murders, and not in connection with murders he allegedly committed in Ohio.

It is in the video and oral statements suppressed by Mitchell, that Madondo allegedly confessed to the murder of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder, 60. She was shot dead in her home in Akron, Ohio, on 17 February 2011.

Two days later, about 300km away, the bullet-riddled body of Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane, 25, was found in the woods in Butler Township, Ohio. Madondo, 34, also allegedly confessed to this killing.

Madondo has yet to appear in court in Ohio for the murders of Hilder and Mdadane, or to plead to them.

Originally from Richmond, near Pietermaritzburg, Madondo emigrated to the US in 2008 to study theology.

New Mexico does not have the death penalty, but if Madondo is convicted of the two murders in Ohio, he could face the death penalty.

At the time of his arrest it was reported that Madondo had claimed that he wanted the death penalty.