In South Africa the director of public prosecutions has this week filed papers with the Pretoria court to seek leave to appeal Judge Masipa decisions in Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial. That was not unexpected was it? Even to a non-legally trained observer there were some seemingly crass decisions involved didn’t you think? Basically the Judge’s rulings are rubbished as legally flawed through failings, errings, and incorrect application of legal principles.
For a start, on a basic simpler matter, the State is seeking to appeal against the so called ‘five year prison sentence’ imposed by Judge Masipa for the conviction for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp. In the application it is pointed out that Pistorius would be out in ten months, a sentence described as shockingly light, shockingly inappropriate, and unreasonable.
It is said that Pistorius acted with gross negligence; his actions bordered on murder; he fired four shots with a lethal weapon; the gun was loaded with special ‘stopping power’ ammunition; he fired into an inescapable cubicle; he was a trained firearms user. These were of course apparent matters that concerned many casual observers, but obviously not the Judge! Pistorius’ personal circumstances were over emphasised in determining his sentence, the nature of the horrendous death was insufficiently emphasised, and the sentence inadequately reflected the required element of ‘retribution’.
The ridiculous acquittal verdict by Judge Masipa of the charge of Pistorius being in illegal possession of ammunition is also the subject of the application. He got off because he, without proof, claimed it wasn’t his, though it was in HIS safe. It was an incredibly strange finding – to be in physical possession but not to be legally in possession; it is one that the firearms authorities can’t allow to stand, as it would drive a coach & horses through their gun control legislation, wouldn’t it?
Pistorius was even given a suspended sentence (three-years) for firing a gun in a restaurant, but this is not being appealed.
Of even greater significance of course is the Authorities’ legal challenge to Pistorius’ acquittal on the murder charge and the Judge’s decisions & actions on handling such matters.
The puzzling dismissal by the Court of circumstantial evidence in the trial is to be questioned, as it the acceptance and reliance of Pistorius’ version of events [both these issues were identified in previous posts on this blog].
The application notes that the Court found that Pistorius had presented a ‘plethora of defences’ (which they say were mutually destructive and irreconcilable) and says that the Court didn’t correctly deal with that issue.
The Court found that Pistorius was a very poor witness and that ‘if he never intended to shoot anybody’ he could not rely on a personal protection defence, and since the Court also found that he did intend to shoot somebody (but not to kill), that his defence against the murder charge fails (the Court found that the identity of the victim was immaterial). Also that the Court should have rejected Pistorius’ evidence on finding that he was untruthful and had more than one defence.
The National Prosecution Authority (MPA) court application goes to Judge Masipa herself to approve. Though she won’t love her judgements being challenged in such an aggressive way, it seems unlikely that she will refuse to grant it, isn’t it? The appeal would then be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. When is anybody’s guess?
We all suspect that killer Pistorius will do all his banged-up time in a cushy hospital jail unit anyway because he is disabled– some justice for Reeva Steenkamp, eh?
[In layman’s terms the application claims he was an evasive liar who used different excuses to escape justice for killing somebody, and the Judge was sympathetic to his disabilities and let him get away with it].