Plea and Admissions (Zimbabwe)
- The final stage of pre-trial consultation, apart from discussing the witnesses you should call, is to discuss with your client how he is going to plead to the charge.
- Regarding the plea and admissions in murder cases MC NALLY JA has this to say:
We have had some appalling mix-ups recently: Masibhere & Anor S-103-87 and Nyandoro 1987 (2) ZLR 66 (S).
I find it difficult to understand why defence counsel get involved in such mix-ups. If you have reached agreement with the prosecutor on a plea to a lesser charge, such as culpable homicide or assault, you will advise your client to plead guilty to that lesser offence, and the prosecutor will then indicate that he accepts the plea. In all other murder cases X should be advised to plead "not guilty". But be careful of problems of interpretation. The client should not be misled into thinking you are advising him to say: "I did not do it". The place for admissions of fact, if these are to be made, is in the defence outline, not in the plea: M'Kosi 1935 SR 96, Nangani 1982 (1) ZLR 150 (S) at 154B and Jokasi 1986 (2) ZLR 79 (S).
And counsel should consider carefully before they make far-reaching admissions of fact over such matters as their client's state of mind. For instance, if you want a witness called, so you can cross-examine him, the simplest way to do it is to decline to admit his evidence. The State has to call him. This is often useful with medical witnesses. Frankly I sometimes wonder on whose side defence counsel is.
- Before any admissions are made by the defence in a criminal case, they should be fully discussed with and explained to the client. The lawyer should find out the exact extent of any admission his client wishes to make and he should explain to his client the implications of making such admissions. All admissions should be carefully and precisely drafted. The client should be asked to confirm, preferably in writing, exactly what it is that he is being asked to admit to.