Jason Rohde's mother expected to beg judge for light sentence
After 74 nights in Pollsmoor prison, wife killer Jason Rohde returns to the Cape Town high court on Monday for the resumption of his sentencing proceedings.
The former property company CEO has been convicted of murdering his wife, Susan, at Spier in Stellenbosch in 2016.
Sentencing proceedings were adjourned on December 6, and Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe denied his application for bail so he could spend one final Christmas in Plettenberg Bay with his three daughters.
As he returns to the dock on Monday, defence advocate Graham van der Spuy is expected to call two friends of Rohde, Craig Fleischer and Craig Livingstone, as well as Rohde’s mother, Brenda Rohde, to give evidence in mitigation of sentence.
During his last court appearance, Rohde had a day of setbacks. First, Van der Spuy had a row with the judge, resulting in a sudden adjournment.
Then, no sooner had his eldest daughter reached the witness box than she changed her mind about testifying in mitigation of sentence. Finally, he was denied bail.
Rohde will have spent the last 10 weeks contemplating a minimum sentence of at least 15 years for murdering his wife.
Less than three years ago he was living in a R10m house in Bryanston, enjoying holidays in Plett with his wife and children, and embroiled in a secret love affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alterskye.
Then he killed Susan during a company conference and tried to make it look like a suicide. He was arrested at his Johannesburg home a month later.
Rohde became suicidal in February this year, psychiatrist Kevin Stoloff told Salie-Hlophe before the case was adjourned.
Van der Spuy’s clash with the judge came when he asked Stoloff to testify in detail about Rohde’s admission to the Crescent Clinic in Kenilworth. Salie-Hlophe told him this was not a bail application and asked him to move on with his examination of Stoloff.
When Van der Spuy requested clarification on whether he could continue with his line of questioning, an argument developed and the judge left the bench after accusing Van der Spuy of “taking your finger and throwing it in the air”.
When court resumed several hours later, Salie-Hlophe admonished Van der Spuy for being “disrespectful” and said she hoped he had calmed down.
After Stoloff’s evidence was completed, Van der Spuy said he intended to call Rohde’s eldest daughter, Katie, 20, but asked that she be allowed to testify in camera, without the press and public present. Salie-Hlophe ruled that the press could remain in court, that audio of Katie’s testimony could be broadcast, but that cameras should not focus on her.
The judge said: “[She] finds herself in an unimaginably difficult and painful situation. Though she is an adult, the court acknowledges that her testimony will be on matters that are sensitive and traumatic to her.”
However, she said, justice must be seen to be done, and her ruling struck a balance between the interests of justice and a reasonable measure of protection for the young woman.
As Katie made her way to the witness box, her father’s attorney, Tony Mostert, explained the ruling to her, and after she had been sworn in Van der Spuy said she had changed her mind about testifying.
“She’s too frightened,” said Van der Spuy. “May I ask for an adjournment to get clarity and instructions.”
Katie’s decision remained the same, at which point Van der Spuy made his fresh application for bail, pointing out that there was “an extraordinarily lengthy period of time” until the case would resume. Salie-Hlophe rejected his arguments.