Analyzing the Oscar Pistorius verdict
First let your emotion go. The law has no place for it. Secondly lets remember that Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty and not acquited – so the Judge AND her assessors have done their bit, whether you agree with the outcome or not.
But Who really cares about justice other than the Steenkamp family? For Nel and Roux the case is about publicity. For the media the case is about sales and advertising revenue.
What a remarkable verdict our locally bred judge has made. However to the man in the street the judgement has been deeply puzzling; and demands further explanation.
THE WITNESSES: DID REEVA SCREAM (IN VAIN)?
Judge Masipa has basically assumed that all the witnesses who heard a woman screaming, was wrong. Actually she is quite certain that they are all wrong, it must have been Oscar screaming.
Those could have been the most credible witnesses one would wish to have. The state certainly had excellent witnesses. But our judge saw differently. In her mind, Reeva did not scream for her life prior to running to a bathroom and locking herself inside.
“You feel like you are being attacked personally. Your integrity is questioned. We felt that [we] were being attacked as liars.” Stipp said. Stipp, who lived nearby, testified about gunshots followed by female screams that she said she heard on the morning of the shooting.
The research paper by Karen Tewson, head of court preparation at the National Prosecuting Authority found that many witnesses and victims are traumatised and suffer victimisation on the witness stand, often during cross examination.
The fact that her body had partially undigested food, also meant nothing to Masipa, all based on the statement that food digestion is not an exact science.
This brings home the fact that we must all face: She can only make a judgement on the evidence provided in court.
Asking for a verdict of Premeditated Murder was a stretch too far, and highly unlikely to succeed, and she rightly rejected that option.
The Prosecution’s version may, of course, be true, but the State didn’t and couldn’t, prove it. There were just not enough hardcore evidence to find him guilty of murder. Even though one MIGHT think that he is guilty, there were unfortunately not enough facts te convict him. Culpable homicide made sense.
Disagree? If you want to blame someone, then blame the State for presenting a bad case.
Premeditated intent? Nell could not prove any premeditation. Therefore the accused remains innocent until proven guilty. Culpable Homicide is killing someone without premeditation. Pick the least one you like. We did not hear any firm proof that he wanted to shoot at her, that he wanted to kill her.
It was Valentines day. They were in bed together, a loving couple. Nothing was said about the fact that even though she had spent the previous day selecting a valentines day gift for him, there was no gift from his side for her at all? If you are so madly truly deeply in love with your new girlfriend (they were only dating for three months), why would you not bother getting your loved one a valentines day gift – you could certainly afford to buy almost anything you wanted… Unanswered questions remain.
Judge Masipa made some very important points clearly and helpfully. She set aside several issues that had used much court time, as of no real relevance.
What a relief when she rejected all those WhatsApp messages as irrelevant. She didn’t accept some ear-witness testimony, preferring the objective time-line provided by phone records, but was very polite towards these obviously sincere witnesses, seeing them as mistaken but not deliberately so.
NO SPECIAL TREATMENT
She justly and excellently nailed Roux’s argument for special treatment of Oscar on the basis that he was disabled and might feel vulnerable.
As she wisely pointed out, “he’s not unique in that respect”: women, children, old people, and all disabled folks share vulnerability, but this doesn’t entitle them to grab a gun when nervous.
She rejected the Defence explanation for Oscar’s dreadful performance as a witness, as due to the stress of testifying. She pointed out how he functioned splendidly in Evidence in Chief, crumbling on cross-examination, becoming evasive and contradictory.
Having recognised his evidence was highly unsatisfactory and unreliable, she then seemed to accept some of it, without making it entirely clear why some of his statements were credible?
Applying the same facts and arguments seemed to rule out murder and rule in Culpable Homicide.
Did she reward him for not settling on any coherent defence? Did she accept a defence he didn’t actually offer?
She decided he didn’t intend to kill Reeva, but, inexplicably, that this somehow meant he couldn’t have intended to kill the intruder he was certain was behind the door. (Or something confusing like that.)
Apart from the fact that it saved Oscar from a murder verdict, nobody seemed to understand it at all.