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Statement Weighed in Biehl Trial : Law: Judge considers whether to admit it as evidence from one suspect in the killing of the Newport Beach scholar.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Proceedings stalled again Monday in the trial of three black men accused of killing scholar Amy Biehl of Newport Beach as the judge considered whether to admit a defendant’s statement as evidence.

Judge Gerald Friedman and two judicial assistants also hearing the case must rule if Mongezi Manqina, 21, gave the statement to police under duress, as alleged by Manqina’s lawyer.

Manqina, Mzikhona Nofemela, 22, and Vusumzi Ntamo, 22, have pleaded innocent to charges of murder, public violence and robbery in the death of Biehl, 26, a white Fulbright scholar.

She was beaten and stabbed to death Aug. 25 by a mob of black youths in a racially motivated attack in the Guguletu black township near Cape Town.

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Supporters of the accused men shouted the militant slogan “One settler, one bullet,” in reference to whites, outside the courthouse Monday.

Manqina’s statement was made hours after his arrest Aug. 26.

Under South African law, only information available from the open court session can be reported. Key portions of the defendant’s statement were not read in court in a procedural move to prevent the judges from knowing the nature of the statement before issuing the ruling.

Defense lawyer Justice Poswa said Manqina had been assaulted before giving the statement to police Maj. Desmond Segal.

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But Segal said Manqina denied having been assaulted or threatened, and that Manqina’s body lacked any signs of assault.

“Although the accused told you that he had not been assaulted, he did so for fear of further assault,” Poswa said.

Under questioning, Segal said he had previously been accused of assaulting suspects, but never charged, and that a suspect in a pending case had accused him of being present during an assault.

The trial has been dogged by delays since it began Nov. 22 with a witness refusing to testify, causing charges to be dropped against three other defendants.

A 15-year-old suspect, who was in his mother’s custody, has disappeared after failing to appear at a hearing Nov. 8, and one of the judicial assistants was asked to withdraw because of her political affiliation and friendship with one of Biehl’s colleagues.

Sindiswa Bevu, a friend of Biehl’s who witnessed the killing, changed her testimony identifying one of the defendants, after she said she had been threatened.


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