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South Africa: Color-Blind Justice

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The trial in Grahamstown lasted 78 days, and there were emotional pleas for mercy. But after finding two white policemen guilty of murdering a black man, Justice N.W. Zietsman last week did not hesitate to apply harsh punishment. The sentence: death by hanging. The condemned men, Warrant Officer Leon de Villiers, 37, and Constable David Goosen, 27, were members of a ten-man antiriot unit in eastern Cape province that went on a “black-bashing” spree during disturbances in 1986. After concluding that one of the victims, Mlungisi Stuurman, had been too badly beaten to be let go, De Villiers ordered Goosen to shoot him.

De Villiers’ lawyer said his client was of “limited intelligence” and was drunk at the time of the shooting, while Goosen claimed he was a victim of “posttraumatic stress disorder” because of his exposure to violence in black townships. If the sentence survives the appeals process, the two will become the first white policemen ever executed for killing blacks during antiriot operations in the townships.

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