Cash-strapped Jason Rohde fires three of his four lawyers

Jason Rohde
Picture: Esa Alexander

Financial constraints have forced murder-accused millionaire Jason Rohde to trim his legal team.

Advocate Pete Mihalik told the High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday that on February 14 Rohde terminated his mandate and those of of Ross McKernan and Stacy Webb.

Mihalik said Rohde’s financial situation allowed him to retain only advocate Graham van der Spuy and to pay experts’ costs. “In fact‚ it means that we have no instruction to continue‚” he said.

“We find ourselves in a position where the interests of our client can no longer be served. If we proceed‚ we will be in breach of our duty towards our client. And as such we have no choice but to humbly submit to this court to [recuse us].

“We are advised that advocate Van der Spuy is ready to proceed with matter. There will be no delays.”

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe recused the three and they left court immediately. Rohde‚ who revealed during his bail application that he is worth R30-million‚ cut a lonely figure in the dock as his counsel walked out.

He is charged with murdering his wife‚ Susan‚ and obstructing the administration of justice by making her death look like a suicide. They have three daughters.

The former Lew Geffen/Sotheby’s International Realty chief executive was sharing a room with his wife at Spier wine estate‚ near Stellenbosch‚ in July 2016 when she was found dead with the cord of a hair iron around her neck behind the locked bathroom door.

The indictment against Rohde accuses him of placing the cord around Susan’s neck “in a double strand around the clothing/towel hook at the back of the bathroom door”. He then supplied false information to police‚ it said.

“The postmortem examination conducted on the body of the deceased shows the cause of death as consistent with asphyxia following manual strangulation and external airway obstruction‚” said the indictment.

“The features of the ligature imprint abrasion mark are consistent with postmortem application to the neck.”

Rohde was wheeled out of the Crescent Clinic‚ a private hospital in Kenilworth‚ Cape Town‚ to police cells in Stellenbosch after he failed to appear in court for the resumption of his trial earlier this month.

His psychiatrist‚ Dr Kevin Stoloff‚ testified that Rohde’s “severe‚ major depression episodes” could have been caused by his inability to maintain a strong façade for his children.

Salie-Hlophe reinstated Rohde’s bail but ordered him to remain in Stoloff’s care. Should he change hospitals‚ Rohde was ordered to inform the investigating officer.

Stoloff was ordered to inform the court about Rohde’s progress and on Wednesday his report‚ which said the businessman is fit to stand trial‚ was read into the record.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday to allow Van der Spuy to familiarise himself with the case‚and for the defence and prosecution to “have certain admissions made available”.

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