Barely a month after the world commemorated the World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, the Court of Appeal on Thursday added to the list of inmates queuing for a date with the hangman. Three CoA judges unanimously rejected an appeal by one Joseph Poni Tselayarona and confirmed the death sentence imposed by the high court for the murder of his girlfriend's three year old child. "On the murder of Miguel Keikanne (3), the appeal is dismissed and the conviction and the death sentence confirmed," said the judge as family members of the young killer brokedown in tears in the public gallery. It would probably be the last time they catch a glimpse of him in full health. Such was the pronouncement by Court of Appeal judge Lakhvinder Singh Walia on Thursday morning condemning Tselayarona to the gallows following a gruesome murder of his girlfriend and her three year old son in Molepolole. Shortly before then Justice Walia, whose decision is supported by Judges Isaac Lesetedi and Zibani Makhwade, had also confirmed conviction and sentence of 20 years for the murder of Miguel's mother -Ngwanyanaotsile Keikanne. The young Tselayarona stood motionless betraying any emotions, frozen inside the wooden dock like a lifeless pillar while Justice Walia -in an uncharacteristic loud voice- condemned him to hang until the hangman's noose chokes the last breath from his small body frame. It now remains for President Ian Khama to sign off on the dotted line to send Tselayarona to meet his maker or exercise powers bestowed on him by the prerogative of mercy to spare the life of the ruthless killer, an unlikely occurence by precedent. In declining to invoke such powers, former Presidents have expressed confidence in the justice system and that judges of the high court and the court of appeal perform a thorough scrutiny and apply themselves before imposing capital punishment prescribed in statute. The high court convicted Tselayarona largely on the basis of a confession statement he made in November 2010 before a judicial officer. Although infidelity on the part of the girlfriend was found to have caused emotional stress which qualified as an extenuating circumstance, none was found in the case of the little child. In his appeal Tselayarona had argued that the high court erred in convicting him on the basis of a confession statement, which was not voluntarily done by him. He also submitted that the high court erred in convicting him based on one report submitted by a single doctor without seeking a second opinion of another doctor to ascertain validity. Further, he posited that the court erred in convicting him by disregarding his anti-social personality disorder (AsPD) and psychotics' disorder which caused him to kill mercilessly. He also accused the lower court of disregarding externuating circumstances of substance abuse as stated by Dr Sreekanth Davu -a specialist psychiatrists at Sbrana hospital- during cross examination, and on his report that Tselayarona uses dagga. Tselayarona had chosen to remain silent when put on defence during trial. Dr Davu had concluded in his assessment that although Tselayarona suffers from AsPD, his clinical history does not suggest that at the time of the murders he was suffering from any psychiatric symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations or disorganised behaviour, lack of judgment or any symptoms of drug intoxication. Justice Walia then cited a raft of judgments wherein it was judges have repeatedly pointed out that the presence of a health defect does not automatically qualify as an externuating circumstances, which reduces responsibility of the convict. He then dismissed the appeal and confirmed the death penalty in the murder of three year old Miguel after Tselayarona contradicted himself and in most cases was found to be lying to court.
In a chilling confession the double murderer narrates:
"Before I decided to kill my girlfriend I called my sister Mpho and requested her to come to Molepolole as I have problems. She requested that I tell her about my problems over the phone as she cannot manage to come to Molepolole. I indicated that I cannot tell her my problem through the phone so I will decide what to do. I then called and told my girlfriend's elder sister Diteko who promised to meet and talk to us (myself and my girlfriend) on Tuesday to ask her about my complaint. Unfortunately Diteko did not manage to meet with us on Tuesday as promised. I spent Sunday 6th November with my girlfriend at her place. I left around 1400hrs and at around 7 pm her sister called and asked me about her whereabouts. I told her sister that I left her at their place around 2 pm. I then decided to go over to their place only to find her sister alone. We both called her but her number was unavailable, I then called her friends who said they were with her at her auntie's place. One of his brothers came and suggested I go with them to get her as they wanted her home. We found her drunk with some boys that she claimed were her friends. I remained in the car when her brothers went to call her but after some time I went out to her. I asked her to take me half way as I wanted to go home and she agreed. On the way she told me she wanted to go back but I refused to allow her to go back. She insisted but then I slapped her and that's when she agreed to go home with me. By then I was very angry and during the night I had a strong urge to kill her. So I woke up and fetched a trimer/ slasher and a screw driver from another room which I used to stab her. She begged me not to kill her and that she will show me the boy she is cheating me with. I just couldn't control myself to stop so I kept on stabbing her until I killed her. In the morning (Monday) I killed her three year old child who was sleeping with us, by suffocating him with a pillow. I could not imagine his life without the mother. On Tuesday, I woke up and bathed for the first time since Sunday and visited some friends in Newtown. They asked me if I was OK and I told them everything was fine. I stayed with my friends until Friday when I saw my cousin coming with police officers. I dodged them before they saw me. I took a vehicle from my friend's home and drove to Mahetlwe where I took a friend and asked him to go to Mochudi with me. Along the way the vehicle stopped as the fuel was finished. I sent my friend to go and buy fuel but he was caught by the police before he arrived back with the fuel. They arrived with him and found me still waiting in the vehicle and arrested me that Saturday. When I killed the girl, I also tried to kill myself with a screw driver and by cutting my neck veins with a glass but I did not die."