Playing the race card in court

IT is understandable that suspects in criminal cases will grasp for any defence, even the most spurious, to help their case and perhaps even get off.

But it was dismaying and inflammatory of murder suspect Tonny Donile to state in court during his bail application yesterday that if he was denied bail it would be due to racism.

The outcome of the bail application was still to be decided at the time of going to press.

Donile, as most of Port Alfred knows by now, is accused of stabbing to death local businessman and surfer Noel Maddocks, during an alleged confrontation at Donile’s ex-girlfriend’s house.

If the state opposes bail being granted, some evidence is always led during a bail application, which becomes a foretaste of the trial itself. And so it was in Donile’s case.

In bail applications generally, the defence presents its case on why bail should be granted, and the prosecutor in turn says why it should not, which might range from being a flight risk to interfering with witnesses.

In some cases the defence might be: it wasn’t me, I wasn’t there. This does not appear to be an option in this case.

Donile gave an indication in his testimony in court of what his defence will be in trial: self-defence. Prosecutor Johan Carstens asked in cross-examination that if it was self-defence, why Maddocks had 30 stab wounds. The question went unanswered, which is a suspect’s right, but it points to a line of questioning that will be pursed in trial.

Then, still under cross-examination, Donile played the race card, expressing his fear of all the white people who showed up at his first court appearance, and that they had showed up again yesterday to see that he didn’t get bail.

He further suggested if he had been killed and his accused murderer was white, people would not be asking for bail to be denied.

It was well said by Magistrate Xolile Dlulisa, when he looked out at the gallery and asked Donile if he was suggesting there was only one race group in court, because as far as he could see, there was not.

For Donile, guilt or innocence aside, race trumps relationship – the reason most of those people were in court. They loved and respected Noel Maddocks.

As stated in last week’s opinion, there has been an attempt to colour this case and another, involving white rape suspects in Kenton-on-Sea, on racial grounds, which is despicable, as it further divides our community. We hope the court sees past that and justice is done.

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