MASERU — A Maseru man who fatally shot a senior police officer in an act of road rage in 2006 will on October 22 address the High Court to explain why he should not be sentenced to death.
Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi reserved sentence to late this month to allow Rantlali Nkeane’s lawyer time to prepare submissions over extenuating circumstances.
Nkeane was facing five counts of murder, two of attempted murder and another two of unlawful possession of firearms.
Justice Monaphathi, sitting with an assessor, ruled that Nkeane intentionally shot the police officer, Mpatluoa Letuka, on March 12, 2006.
The shooting took place at Village Gate in Ha-Tšosane after Nkeane hit the side mirror of a vehicle driven by Mpatluoa.
According to evidence presented in court, Mpatluoa was driving a government Toyota Corolla vehicle when he passed a Golf that was being driven by Nkeane going in the opposite direction.
The vehicle driven by Nkeane then hit Mpatluoa’s car, damaging the side mirror.
Crown witness ’Mamokone Seboka, who was with Mpatluoa when the incident happened, told the court she heard a sound of two cars hitting each other.
When they got out to assess the damage, Mpatluoa and Nkeane began exchanging harsh words.
It was at that point that Nkeane returned to his car while still talking on his cell phone, she said.
When Nkeane returned he charged towards Mpatluoa and began shooting him.
“The deceased (Mpatluoa) fell down and the accused (Nkeane) continued shooting while holding him with one hand,” Seboka said.
Seboka said she then got a lift from another motorist and reported the incident at Mabote Police Station.
The court said it was later found that the shell which was found at the crime scene came from one of the 9mm pistols that belonged to Nkeane.
“In my view the accused had intention to kill and he shot many times,” Justice Monaphathi said.
“He got out of his car, returned to it and fetched a gun.”
The judge said Mpatluoa posed no danger to Nkeane.
“I conclude that this long, long, shooting by the accused while the deceased was lying next to his car can only show the intention of the accused to shoot the deceased to death,” the judge said.
Justice Monaphathi said murder without extenuating circumstances carries a death sentence.
“Hanging is on the books in the laws of Lesotho and it does not matter how other countries and lawyers feel, which is why I say counsel should address me on the extenuation,” he said.
Justice Monaphathi said Nkeane was facing a serious case adding this was the reason he had asked his lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, to address the court on extenuating circumstances and mitigation.
He however said there appeared to be uncertainty about the existence of capital punishment in Lesotho due to some lawyers and judges who attend international conferences on human rights.
He said some lawyers have a serious misconception about the existence of the death sentence when they should be petitioning the government about abolishing it.
At the same time they are wondering what the perceptions of people would be, he said.
“That is not our business. We use the law in the statutes,” he said.
Nkeane’s lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati should prepare and submit the reasons before the sentencing day.