Rohde case abruptly adjourned after judge, lawyer spar over wagging finger

Jason Rohde's pre-sentencing proceedings were abruptly adjourned on Thursday after a heated argument between his lawyer and the judge, who took exception to a finger being waved at her.

Rohde's lawyer Graham van der Spuy had been leading evidence with psychiatrist Kevin Stoloff, who has been treating Rohde since September 8, 2016.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe took issue with Van der Spuy leading evidence that had already been heard by the court.

"This is not a bail hearing," said Salie-Hlophe. She wanted to know what the evidence had to do with mitigation of sentence.

Van der Spuy pressed on and then complained that it was his right, and also that his flow of questioning had been disrupted.

Salie-Hlophe responded by saying that Van der Spuy was waving a finger at her.

She abruptly adjourned and left the court. The adjournment coincided with the judges' tea break, so it was not immediately clear when she would return.

An assistant later said it would resume at 14:15.

'Deep depression'

On November 8, Rohde was found guilty of murdering his wife Susan by the Western Cape High Court. He was also found guilty of obstructing the ends of justice.

Before the adjournment, Stoloff testified that he had last seen Rohde on November 13 in the hospital wing of Pollsmoor.

Stoloff compiled a report that siad Rohde had not showed signs of being a man who would kill his spouse.

"In my opinion, therefore, he fits none of the psychiatric, psychological or personality criteria of men who kill their spouses," he testified.

"It would have been totally out of character for Mr Rohde to have committed the acts for which he is found guilty in this court," said Stoloff.

He said Rohde had struck him as an ambitious and successful man, who received validation and affirmation for his achievements, but was also the type of person who would rather back down and walk away from an argument. He was also a private man.

However, when he consulted with Rohde on January 31 this year, Stoloff found him to be a very different man, who was dishevelled and severely depressed.

'Talking about suicide'

He had also talked about suicide.

Stoloff recommended immediate medication and a clinic stay. Although Rohde was indecisive, Stoloff regarded this as a symptom of the deep depression.

He also felt that Rohde was not able to make sharp decisions to brief his lawyers.

Rohde eventually agreed to treatment and was admitted to Crescent Clinic to be treated for depression.

However, on February 5, two police officers - Sergeant Steven Adams and Sergeant Marlon Appollis -wanted to see him.

The police officers told Stoloff that they needed to fetch Rohde.

Stoloff said he did not know what to do, so he had called Rohde's attorney's and they had established that the officers did not have a warrant on them. 

News24 reported at the time that Rohde's previous lawyer, the late Pete Mihalik, had applied for a postponement, saying his client had been hospitalised. He also presented the court with three confidential medical reports excusing Rohde from attending the trial for six weeks.

Salie-Hlophe rejected the application, arguing that the reasons for Rohde's absence were insufficient.

At this point in the testimony, Salie-Hlophe interrupted and wanted to know what this had to do with evdence in mitigation of sentencing.

Van der Spuy said it tied in with Rohde's willingness to co-operate, and wanted it cleared up that Rohde had not simply skipped court at the beginning of the year, but was receiving medical treatment.

The proceedings will continue at 14:15.