A Centurion lawyer, who was accused of murder following a 2014 road rage incident, was acquitted in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Monday.
Meekahaefele Masooa’s trial had been dragging on for five years after he was alleged to have shot and killed motorcyclist Douglas Pearce in an apparent road rage incident during morning traffic rush hour on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
The State argued that Masooa allegedly shot and killed 39-year-old Pearce after they had an altercation on Malibongwe Drive in Randburg, Johannesburg.
While handing down judgment to a gallery full of Pearce’s family, Judge Brian Spilg said he was satisfied about the timing of the case, that what was seen and what was reconstructed became blurred in respect to what had actually transpired on the day of the incident.
Pearce had collapsed within minutes after he had been shot in the upper left arm, State pathologist Dr Simbarashe Chikwava testified, according to News24.
Chikwava explained Masooa had allegedly fired two shots on the day, and the first one was fatal.
Pearce was on his motorbike when he became involved in an argument with Masooa. After arguing on the road, both men had pulled over and continued their confrontation.
While arguing his case, Masooa claimed he had acted in self-defence after he was assaulted by Pearce. He claimed Pearce had been following him, swearing and shouting racial slurs at him before they both pulled over.
Masooa said he saw Pearce pull out a firearm resulting in him pulling out his too – out of fear. He argued the biker had shot first, and he only started firing when he realised his life was in danger, adding he had no intention to kill Pearce.
Spilg dismissed evidence given to the court by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, which had testified for the State.
He said because, according to Masooa, the scene was fluid, it was common cause, according to evidence given by the defence, he [Masooa] was panicking during the incident.
Spilg added whatever one’s doubts might be regarding the incident, the test remained whether the State had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt. He did not believe that that was the case.
He said it was clear that the evidence the court should accept was that Masooa did not exceed the bounds of self-defence, and there was nothing the State submitted refuting that Pearce was the aggressor and he had already taken out a firearm at some stage, as alleged by Masooa.
Spilg said more evidence about what had happened to the firearm the deceased allegedly had was evidence that would only be needed to be corroborated by the deceased, which was impossible.
“Having found that, the accused’s version cannot be rejected. It cannot be said the accused did not fear that the deceased was going to shoot him.
“It is for this reason that the court’s rule has come out. I am, however, satisfied the deceased was not shot in cold blood,” he ruled.
Spilg said the court found Masooa had reason and cause to fear for his life, adding there was sloppy field work done by those the State had relied on for its evidence.
I knew from day one that I was not guilty
Pearce’s family was shocked as Spilg concluded his judgment, with his mother, Mary Anne, bursting into tears. Masooa, meanwhile, walked out of court smiling.
Speaking to the media outside court, Masooa said he had always known he was not guilty and would win the case. He added he was merely acting out of self-defence, saying it was unfortunate the case had dragged on for so long.
“Justice was served that I am acquitted today, but it is painful because it messed up my life. I can only thank God, that after five years, I am vindicated,” Masooa said.
Pearce’s family declined to speak to the media.
– FOLLOW News24 on Twitter