The trial courts conclusions on matters of law relevant to the conviction may

The trial courts conclusions on matters of law

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trial as well as the factual findings made by the trial court upon which the conviction was based. The trial court's conclusions on matters of law relevant to the conviction may also be disputed. Page 13 of [2016] JOL 34806 (SCA) [22] However, in a case such as this, where effectively the State seeks to appeal against the acquittal of the accused (in this instance on the charge of murder) and the appeal is brought under the provisions of section 319 of the CPA, different considerations apply. Of course the State may well feel justifiably aggrieved by a trial court acquitting an accused person when, on the facts of the case, a conviction should have followed, but in such a case, as was observed by Corbett CJ in Magmoed 8 "the traditional policy and practice of our law" is that an acquittal by a competent court in a criminal case is final and conclusive and may not be questioned in any subsequent proceeding. [23] Consequently, as opposed to an accused who has the benefit of appealing against a conviction based on alleged incorrect factual findings, the State may not appeal against an acquittal based solely on findings of fact. And as Chaskalson CJ pointed out in Basson : 9 "Prior to 1948 [the State] could also not appeal against a finding of law made in a trial before a Judge which resulted in the acquittal of an accused person. In 1948 the Criminal Procedure Act then in force was amended to make provision for the reservation of questions of law at the instance of the State in terms substantially similar to s 319 of the present Act." [24] In the light of these decisions, the State has no right to appeal save where there is a statutory right bestowed on it to do so. In this instance its right is limited to the three questions of law reserved, quoted above. This Court cannot interfere, for example, with the factual decision made by the trial court rejecting the State's version that there had been a disagreement between the appellant and the deceased that led the deceased to hide herself in the toilet to escape from him, before being shot. The matter must therefore proceed, as was accepted by the State, on the basis both that its rejected version cannot be reconsidered and that it has not been shown that the Page 14 of [2016] JOL 34806 (SCA) accused had acted with the direct intention to kill the deceased. The State's case before this Court therefore revolved primarily on whether the trial court had erred in regard to the issue of dolus eventualis . [25] It is necessary to explain certain of the issues that arise for consideration in a murder case. Over the years jurists have developed what has been referred to as the "grammar of criminal liability". 10 As already mentioned, murder is the unlawful and intentional killing of another person. In order to prove the guilt of an accused on a charge of murder, the State must therefore establish that the perpetrator committed the act that led to the death of the deceased with the necessary intention to kill, known as dolus . Negligence, or culpa , on the part of the perpetrator is insufficient.
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  • Fall '18
  • Trial court, SCA

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