Scott trial hits another snag
Lekhetho Ntsukunyane and Keiso Mohloboli
The trial of double ritual murder suspects, Lehlohonolo Scott and his mother ’Malehlohonolo, has hit another snag after High Court Registrar, Lesitsi Mokeke, said he did not know how Advocate Thulo Hoeane became their lawyer.
Advocate Hoeane, who maintains he was appointed by the government to represent the Scotts on a pro deo basis through Mr Mokeke’s office in 2012, withdrew from the case on 13 April 2016 saying he was not happy with the way presiding judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa, was conducting the case.
But Advocate Hoeane later had a change of heart after the Scotts indicated they did not want any other lawyer apart from him.
He had, however, indicated he would be applying for Justice Moiloa to recuse himself because of his alleged bias against the Scotts.
But Mr Mokeke refused to re-engage Advocate Hoeane citing, among others, that he did not know who appointed the lawyer to be the Scotts’ lawyer in the first place.
This resulted in Advocate Hoeane failing to show up for trial last Wednesday.
Justice Moiloa then advised the Scotts to look for another lawyer paid by either the government or themselves, while the matter was postponed to Tuesday this week.
But when trial was supposed to resume on Tuesday morning, Advocate Hoeane rose to “clear my name.”
Speaking to the Lesotho Times later on the same day, Advocate Hoeane said: “I went to the court to clear my name after I heard that the judge thought I was contemptuous by failing to show up before the court last week. I told the court today that the reason why I could not show up last week was because Mr Mokeke was refusing to reengage me on pro deo basis to represent the Scotts. In other words, the Registrar is refusing to pay for my services to represent them.
“When I didn’t show up before the court last week, my understanding was that Mr Mokeke would have communicated with the judge to explain to him that he had refused reappoint me, therefore the court should not expect me to be there.”
Advocate Hoeane said he was ordered by Justice Moloa to “step-aside” after he told the court he could no longer proceed with the case “because there were no such instructions from the office of the Registrar.”
Meanwhile, the Scotts insisted before Justice Moloa after Advocate Hoeane had stepped aside on Tuesday that they would still want to be represented by him after they failed to secure a new lawyer.
Advocate Hoeane said a subsequent decision was reached between him and the Scotts to pay him themselves.
But Advocate Hoeane was quick to indicate he feared they did not have the money to pay and had since written to Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara asking for her intervention to convince Mr Mokeke to reengage him so that the government would pay him.
“My fear is that the Scotts will eventually run out of funds and not pay me. By that time, it will be too late for the government to engage a new lawyer. The only right thing Mr Mokeke should do now is to reengage me. After all, we are talking about taxpayer’s money here, not his own,” Advocate Hoeane said.
For his part, Mr Mokeke on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times: “Advocate Hoeane announced himself that he was withdrawing his legal services to the Scotts in April. My office didn’t have any query because I understood that he was the Scotts’ privately hired lawyer.
“It came as a surprise to me when Advocate Hoeane claimed he wanted to be re-appointed to the Scotts’ case because he was appointed by government to represent them. I was obliged to make findings on who appointed him because I did not appoint him myself.
“On the other hand, if such appointment was made, there are certain procedures like the signing of appointment form by the appointee and the letter of appointment from my office which in this case did not happen.”
Mr Mokeke added he was told by ‘Malehlohonolo that despite her son’s claims that he wants no other lawyer other than Adv Hoeane, no one from the government had asked if they could not afford their own legal representation.
“It was another blow that ‘Malehlohonolo claimed that they could afford to pay for a lawyer of their choice but were never given a chance to that effect. According to ‘Malehlohonolo, initially, they paid Advocate Salemane Phafane (King’s Counsel) to represent them but later Ntate Phafane withdrew because of personal reasons,” Mr Mokeke said.
The Registrar, however, said he doesn’t have a problem with the Scotts choosing Advocate Hoeane, “only if they are going to pay for his legal fees themselves.”
He argued in principle if suspects cannot afford a lawyer and have to be provided for that service by the government through his office, they cannot dictate which lawyer should represent them.
“If my office is appointing a lawyer for the Scotts, then, Lehlohonolo doesn’t have a choice but to accept the lawyer,” he said.
The Scotts were arrested on 12 July 2012 for allegedly killing and mutilating their Koalabata neighbours, Moholobela Seetsa (13) and Kamohelo Mohata (22) in January and June 2012, respectively.
Lehlohonolo escaped from Maseru Central Prison on 14 October 2012 while awaiting trial but was arrested in Durban, South Africa, on 6 April 2014.
He was extradited to Lesotho on 21 October 2015.