Friday 12th September: justice in the balance PART 2
Judge Masipa’s judgement continued in Court.
Two convictions – culpable homicide and firing a gun in a Restaurant [and not guilty of two other firearm offences; one concerned illegal possession of ammunition, which to all intents and purposes he surely DID have (in his safe?)].
Court adjurned (again) for ANOTHER month – to allow Pistorius a further opportunity to plead clemency?
Is he off to prison then? No – he has been given bail AGAIN (despite clearly being a flight risk when facing jail). Why is that then? Is it because in South Africa you can escape normal justice if you are white, rich & famous?
Sentence? We can see a slap on the wrist heading his way, perhaps? The signs are all there aren’t they?
Today Thursday 11th September, Judge Masipa announced her verdicts in the Pretoria High Court on Oscar Pistorius’ murder charge. The trial has been ongoing for six months because of substantial postponements and adjournments – even after a full year’s delayed start.
Judge Masipa’s spent the first hour in the delivery of her judgment outlining some of the evidence. Her biggest and first significant decision is that ALL the witnesses’ evidence should be treated as unreliable & fallible, because events happened in the middle of the night, and there had been inter-contamination of information from the outset. She said that therefore she would rely solely on provable ‘objective’ evidence (like cell phone records). [A bit of a surprise in a murder trial surely, when conjecture, together with any witness accounts & circumstantial evidence becomes crucial, because the admitted killer (with good reason to lie) is the ONLT eyewitness? Blew the State’s case away though didn’t it?].
She has though judged that Pistorius lied on oath about his firing intentions; a British judge would have found that a damming indictment in a criminal trial, but apparently not in South Africa (where telling porkies in your murder trial doesn’t imply guilt apparently –strange)? She also decreed that he had acted unlawfully in firing shots at the toilet door, but nevertheless didn’t intend to kill anybody – strange (particularly as he was an experienced gun user & firer).
Pistorius is given credit for being distraught immediately AFTER the slaughter of his girlfriend and seeking help (most observers probably don’t understand that latitude, as it is easily understandable that he was devastated when he realised to enormity of his actions surely?). Pistorius was a very poor witness the Judge said (wonder what she meant by that? Perhaps that he hid the truth about events?).
Oscar Pistorius is not completely off the hook yet though, is he? The Judge has also concluded, in reviewing negligence, that he had different options (and no explanation for the one he decided on), he knew SOMEONE was behind the door when he chose to fire, was an experienced competent & trained firearms user, acted hastily with excessive force, and was negligent. WHERE THE JUDGE IS GOING WITH THIS THOUGH GOODNESS ONLY KNOWS.
[The difference between a judge trial and a jury trial is that in the former it is all about legal issues and proof, while in the latter it ‘also’ includes an accused peers taking into account factors like who they actually ‘believe’!].
This was a fateful day for killer Oscar Pistorius, but it is also one for South African Justice, because the World has looked on in amazement at this most theatrical of murder trials, partly televised so was watched from far & wide throughout the World.
Irrespective of the Verdicts, the Justice System, in a beautiful but increasing violent & lawless Country, has been under critical criticism. In most democratic justice systems there is a presumption of Innocence until proved guilty; but this doesn’t normally mean a man or woman accused of a heinous crime is allowed to carry on the good life regardless, does it? No, they get banged up until the case goes to trial, or in ‘exceptional’ cases they are allowed limited freedom. This has NOT applied in the case of a rich, white, influential, celebrity sportsman, disabled of course who was allowed unbelievable freedom for eighteen months to party, get into scrapes & travel the World. WHY was that – there has never been any explanation has there? Most accused get remanded in custody – even the ones subsequently found ‘not guilty’ at trail.
In assessment of character from afar, Oscar Pistorius is been adjudged by many (whether fairly or not) as an egoistic, self obsessed, arrogant, selfish, clever liar, susceptible to rage, short tempered, with a panache for refusal to accept any responsibility whatsoever for his criminal acts.
Where does this leave ones opinion of South African justice? For many outside observers, with a bad taste in the mouth unfortunately. Immediately, it was declared by the learned Judge that she would be ignoring witnesses & circumstantial evidence and the indications of any row or known attitude, character deficiences and known behavioural traits of the Accused, it was obvious that Pistorius was not going to be convicted of ‘premeditation’ in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. However, in any other justice system, when a man who approaches a locked door with a fully loaded pistol (‘Zombie stopper’ illegal ammunition in place), with the weapon cocked & ready to fire (one ‘up the spout‘ as they say), and then without due warning fires four shots to blow a young woman’s brains out, it IS Murder isn’t it? In evidence when on oath he then lied, uttered enormous contradictions about his intentions at the time, which says it all surely?
[ONLY two people actually knew what happened that fateful night – Reeva moments before she was killed, and killer Pistorius, a poor & evasive witness, who in evidence offered enormous contradictions, and who has effectively got away with it through South Africa’s questionable criminal law system]