So the trial originally intended three weeks, concludes with as much controversy as has bedevilled it throughout its whole journey. Some twenty months after the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius learned his fate, a five year for the killings of his girlfriend and a three-year suspended sentence for the Tasha’s incident.
There are three principle issues that hang over the aftermath of this marathon trial for me; one is, there is a worrying amount of trial data/submissions that never seemed to reach any kind of conclusion or analysis, especially by Judge Masipa. Two, the verdict itself is worrying in that it appears contradictory in its nature and three, it seems as though South African justice cannot shake off the notion of there being one rule for the rich and famous and another for those who haven’t reached stardom and fame.
Point number one –
The trial never really dealt with some key issues of substance, which has left a number of observers and commentators ‘in the dark’. Issues like, how did the Court rationalise that Reeva Steenkamp would, in the midst of the chaos that erupted that night, not utter a single sound? It was one of a number of questions that OP couldn’t answer. How did the Judge Masipa view this point? I, and many others, would love to know how she rationalised this.
What was the reason for a pair of Reeva’s jeans being found on the ground floor, outside and below the bathroom window? Journalists covering the trial mused that….’ There mustn’t have been anything the prosecution could do with the evidence so it didn’t register highly’. So what?. There must have been a reason for them being there and it seems strange this didn’t come out I Court.
Despite Judge Masipa being unimpressed with Oscar Pistorius as a witness, she firmly ‘came down on this side’ In respect of the key arguments. It appears that despite their best efforts, the State just didn’t have enough evidence to get past the ‘reasonable doubt’ legal test.
Point number Two –
The verdict was interesting in that it appears the Judge has ‘hedged her bets’. She found the accused to be a less than an impressive witness but leaned towards his version. She observed in her trial summary that OP left many questions unanswered yet still gave him a substantial portion of ‘ benefit of the doubt’, as she is required to do. However, she seemed to confuse the issue of how OP, irrespective of who was behind the toilet door, must have known the impact of firing four shots into the confined space, would result in. The trial proceedings covered this issue in great depth and it is difficult to fathom where Masipa was heading with her determination on this point. It appears to most people including South African Lawyers who have commented on this matter, that she got this wrong. It does not seem ‘reasonably, possibly true’ that he didn’t appreciate the full impact of his actions given that he was a gun enthusiast who had received the required training.
Point number three –
It is difficult to fathom how Judge Masipa met her own standard of finding a punishment that sent the right messages to society, that you cant shoot with impunity. However, the sentence is interesting in that it doesn’t appear, from the initial public and legal community reaction, to satisfy either camp. The Pistorius family will probably feel ‘their boy’ got a large measure of luck with the judgment.
The distaste that heralded the sentence demonstrates unease with the outcome from most observers. How can it be the case that an ‘unimpressive’ and ‘evasive witness’ got away with what is effectively, house arrest. It transpires that, after her boss, Barry Roux, allowed Roxanne Adams her moment in the spotlight to make the triumphant statement that ‘their client’ would only serve 10 months in jail followed by house arrest.
This was shocking! Adams had the demeanour of someone whom had been defeated in their conquest but yet revelled in the quiet satisfaction that, despite their clients conviction, they had ‘got him off lightly’.
Of course, he may not have ‘got off lightly’ as there is a fourteen day window in which the sentence is considered to see if any appeal (by the State) is possible. Many argue that the Judge made a fundamental error on her verdict which would in turn, limit her options on sentencing.
The Head of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, Mxolisi Nxasana, said on Tuesday that there was an appetite in the NPA to appeal the verdict as they believe there are grounds to challenge the ruling.
“There is an appetite to appeal and we have 14 days to consider the law, and ensure the facts and the law allow us to appeal,” NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube told reporters in court GD of the North Gauteng High Court after proceedings were adjourned.”
It seems there may be a long way to get yet in the trial that was originally scheduled for three weeks.
Have your say on the trial
So it seems to the wider world that Oscar Pistorius has got off lightly with his conviction of culpable homicide although we won’t know to what extent he ‘got away with it’ until we hear Judge Masipa’s sentence in October. However, the judgement handed down by Masipa is bound to raise more than a few eyebrows for a number of reasons.
The detailed judgement readout by the Judge was devoid of many material facts as she said at the outset, she was not going to rehash the evidence. By not going into detail about key planks of the evidence, she has left many legal professionals and lay observers wondering how she could have arrived at the judgement she did.
How can Judge Masipa determine that the accused was negligent in shooting through the toilet door and then find that he couldn’t possibly have appreciated that, in the act of shooting in such a confined space, there was a strong possibility that whoever was in the cubicle, could be killed?
She said in her ruling that, ‘he was a poor witness’, The athlete, who became emotional on Thursday after being described as an “evasive witness”, seemed to have been expecting this verdict.
The judge had already spoken of his negligence and use of “excessive force” when he fired through the door.
Although he was acquitted of the most serious charge, culpable homicide still carries a prison term of up to 15 years but, unlike murder, the judge may use her discretion and suspend the sentence or only impose a fine.
If the judge gives a fine or some sort of ‘house arrest’, one feels Masipa will come under heavy criticism. The global nature of this trial ensures a level of scrutiny, which will only reflect badly on the South African justice system. It seems strange that Masipa dismissed out of hand, the evidence of the majority of witnesses when it surely can’t be the case that every witness was confused or disorientated about the happenings that morning.
There is a long way to go on this case yet. I have a lawyer friend who says that Masipa has gone for the ‘safe option’ in dismissing witnesses, ignoring why Reeva made not a single noise in the face of events that night, why there was a light on in the bathroom, virtually ignoring the fact that the accused was defensive and unreliable as well as argumentative. It seems that Masipa has made her rulings on the more serious of the indictments, based on ‘technicalities’.
My lawyer buddy thought from the very start that OP would get convicted of culpable homicide and would get 7 to 10 years. How right he may yet prove to be!
Throughout the whole trial, Oscar Pistorius depicted himself as a ‘caring’ partner and ‘in love’ with his girl friend. This segment of the trial tends to highlight the opposite. Here, under questioning about what a ‘normal person’ would do, Nel highlights that witnesses to the sounds heard that night, all asked their respective partners, if they heard unusual noises etc… OP tries to brush this off by saying he ‘wasn’t next to Reeva’ so couldn’t ask her! Under further questioning, Nel exposes the real OP whilst trying to uncover if OP truly was concerned for Reeva.
OP admits he didn’t check if RS was scared or not. He says he went for his gun and that ‘many thoughts were going through my mind that night’. Perhaps he did have many thoughts going on in his head but what is plain to see is that, his immediate thought wasn’t for the one he argues he was trying to protect.
This is no doubt, one of the issues Judge Masipa and her assessors will have debated long and hard about.
Originally posted on Juror13:
Next on the witness stand is Sean Rens. He is the Manager of the International Firearm Training Academy. He met Oscar in May 2012, through their mutual friend, Justin Devaris. Oscar had a great “love and enthusiasm” for guns, per Rens, and was looking to acquire more guns which he would be able to assist him with.
There was a particular gun that Oscar wanted, a Smith & Wesson 500 revolver. In addition there were five other guns he had ordered from Mr. Rens: .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, civilian version of a Vector .223 caliber assault rifle and three shotguns – a Mossberg, a Maverick, and a Winchester.
Here is a copy of the invoice that was created for these weapons in June of 2012.
Oscar needed a special collector’s license to own this many weapons and applied for licenses to own these guns on January 22, 2013…
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The recent fur ore surrounding the Channel Seven video purported to have been made by the Oscar Pistorius Defence team, has died down very quickly. What is the reason for this? The febrile nature of this case usually ensures that the merest detail is picked apart for weeks. On the latest OP video release, this isn’t the case.
Apparently, Oscar’s uncle Arnold originally invited the production company to make the video in an attempt to show how unlikely it was that OP could have murdered Reeva Steenkamp. How the Defense team got involved is unclear but either way, the material was of such little value, it didn’t appear in the trial as evidence. Why did it not form part of the Defense case?
The video itself is clearly biased towards OP otherwise why would Arnold Pistorius have supported its making. The Principal protagonist is, Scott Roder with the grandiose title of, ‘Crime Scene Specialist’. In fact, Scott Roder is the Chief Executive of a company set up to recreate crime scenes, presumably to aid both Defense and Prosecution teams to establish ‘facts’ particularly in circumstantial cases.
Scott Roder’s company, The Evidence Room, were clearly hired by Oscar Pistorius family so were only ever going to focus on OP’s version of events. The vast majority of the programme was spent on sympathising with the Defense case with Roder having carried out his own tests. Roder highlights the ‘gunshots & Cricket bat test’ he did saying with full conviction (paid conviction) that the gunshots and the cricket bat sounds were identical and that ear witnesses were confused with what they heard. On the video, there was an obvious difference between the gunshots and the cricket bat sounds despite Roder’s best attempts to convince the audience they were the same.
On the subject of Oscar Pistorius and his disability, Scott Roder said, OP ‘was at a tremendous disadvantage’ because he was on his stumps at the time, then he goes on to show OP moving forwards and backwards with his arm outstretched mimicking carrying his weapon, with apparent ease. This is interesting as the Defense case is; he was vulnerable because he has limited mobility without his prosthetic legs on. I have written before about this and questioned this. Lifelong double amputees have remarkable abilities on their stumps and have useful functionality without prosthetics. Many OP supporters believe he couldn’t achieve what the Prosecution say he did because of limited mobility. The Channel Seven video has certainly put paid to that argument. Oscar Pistorius has useful functionally on his stumps and could have easily managed to get Reeva and himself out of the bedroom if he thought there really were intruders in the house.
The Evidence Room reenacted OP shouting from the balcony and shouting at the ‘intruder’. Roder says, ‘when you are screaming at an intruder, you are going to use the deepest, most angry most threatening voice you can’ – The programme actually used OPs voice to try to show he sounded like a girl. It didn’t sound very much like a female voice. In fact, OP’s reenactment sounded very much like a guy.
The stated position of the programme makers was that it supported Oscars version of events and it provided evidence to show this. It seems that on the substantive issues of the case, the video only confused OPs position further. Far from showing his version to be plausible, it probably supported the Prosecution case more, which is not what the Pistorius family wanted, from the exercise.
Are these the reasons why the Channel Seven video submerged below the waves very quickly?
Very interesting piece which has merit.
Originally posted on Juror13:
There are only two questions at the core of this trial. Did Oscar intend to kill a person and did he know that person was Reeva.
All of us collectively have spent over a year pontificating about the “whys” and “hows” of this case but at the end of the day, why he did it or what they may or may not have fought about, is actually not important to the verdict.
It’s very easy to get bogged down in those details, and that almost always plays in favor of the defense predominantly in a jury trial. However, a Judge knows that many questions in these types of cases are almost never resolved. Judges rely on the facts of the case, not the possible scenarios.
Does it feel more comfortable to know “why” when these murders happen? Of course it does. As humans, it’s our nature to want to know…
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As new footage emerges of Oscar Pistorius rein acting the events of Reeva SteenKamp’s death. The Defence team will be as mad as hell that the secret footage, commissioned by them in preparation for the trial, has hit the headlines. Despite the potential legal ramifications, the revealing of the footage begs some key questions;
– Will the State Prosecutor be able to make a case for it being viewed at the trial?
– Will the content of this video be sufficient to force OP to return to the stand?
– How will Judge Masipa include the revelation (if at all) in her estimation of OPs guilt or otherwise
Monday the 7th July promised to be an interesting day in the High Court with Professor Derman having to face Gerrie Nel once more. One can only imagine the tension that will surround the proceedings after this latest challenge to the level of ‘truth’ that has been offered in evidence by, not only Oscar Pistorius but also his Defense team.
Barry Roux, Kenny Oldwage and Ramsay Webber will face the obvious challenge – How can they, in all conscience, stand in Court on oath and peddle the lie that Oscar Pistorius was so limited in his mobility without his prosthetic legs, that his physical response on that evening was limited because of his disability? The Defence and OP would have us believe that he was ‘shaky’ on his stumps. Lacked confidence when he didn’t have his prosthetics on and couldn’t walk without having something to balance against/on.
What is staggering is that, the Defence team knew all along that Oscar had ‘useful’ physical function on his stumps yet they and other witnesses and ‘Experts’ peddled the same lie that he couldn’t have escaped the situation with Reeva (on his version that there were intruders in the house) because of his limited physical ability.
I had proposed, in an earlier blog piece, that as a lifelong double amputee, it would be unbelievable that Oscar Pistorius would not have had a fair measure of function on his stumps. Most double amputees have learned to manage remarkably well on their stumps. My suggestion was that it was disingenuous for Oscar and his Defence team to maintain that, the ‘flight’ response wasn’t an option. It clearly was an option and Oscar didn’t take it. The big question is, why didn’t he take it?
What is for certain is that the myriad of witnesses who have testified to Oscar Pistorius physical limitations will be having second thoughts after they see the Australian documentary tonight (if the Lawyers haven’t embargoed it but then) if they are rational. Many fans of OP bought the ‘I have limited mobility without my prosthetic legs so I couldn’t have got Reeva out and down the stairs to safety because I can’t manage very well on my stumps’
The promotional footage that could be viewed yesterday (interestingly, not so easily seen today) shows quite clearly that Oscar Pistorius can virtually RUN on his stumps. In fact, Kenny Oldwage in raising an objection on Thursday’s evidence corrected Gerrie Nel and announced in Court that ‘ the accused ran to the edge of the carpet’. It is abundantly clear now that the defence team know fine well that a key plank of the Defence case is flawed.
Perhaps more importantly, this serves to show that both the Defence team and Oscar Pistorius are playing a canny game in terms of their versions of the ‘truth’
How the Defence handle their knowing of OP’s ability on his stumps and how Gerrie Nel ‘works’ this latest revelation into the trial while Derman in on the stand will be fascinating.
In a previous post regarding Oscar Pistorius mobility http://wp.me/p3jRvD-3x I raised the question of the ability that most lifelong ‘double amps’ have on their stumps. Many OP fans came onto social networking sites saying he had no or limited mobility when he was without his prosthetic legs (because that’s what OP said)
I posted some Youtube clips of double amputees managing their mobility for those with no experience to be able to see just what is possible for those who have had to learn to mobilise without their natural legs. I offered from my own experience of working with double amputees, that life long amputees have a greater resourcefulness in combatting their disability than unilateral amputees who have had the misfortune of suffering a motorbike accident or some other traumatic situation.
See links below
I pointed out that in OP’s bail submission he said,
“I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps”
Here we see OP admitting he HAS mobility on his stumps. He goes on to say,
“It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps”
OP continues to explain what he did in those moments immediately prior to the shooting.
“When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help”
Here we have three references to his mobility and lack of it. OP’s defense team has clearly instructed him to play on his disability wherever possible so he backtracks somewhat in his second reference to limited mobility. His third reference to his mobility is contained in his explanation of how he “rushed back into the bedroom….”
In OP’s testimony on 10th April, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwzV3uB9UrI in an exchange with Gerrie Nel on the arrangements of the fans and the balcony curtains, Oscar slips up again and says on two different occasions, once at about 36:33 and again at 37:21, he discusses the fan having been moved, “I would have run out onto the balcony to shout for help”. Note he didn’t say, I shuffled out on the balcony or I crawled out. He said he would have “run out”!
So we have OP giving different explanations depending upon if he remembers to follow the Defense team instructions or not (play on your disability Oscar) Oscar Pistorius devotees accept this proposition without question because that’s what they want to hear. They simply point to Oscar’s testimony where he has remembered to follow instructions, and says he has “limited mobility on his stumps”
If you haven’t got this yet, this is the proposition. Oscar Pistorius had a choice that night. He wants the Court to believe that he acted out of his fear of crime (throw in GAD too) and that he wanted to protect Reeva. In this, he didn’t know where Reeva was at the critical point, yet he chose to confront the danger. He didn’t have to do this, he could have got Reeva and simply got out of the bedroom and downstairs. His lack of mobility is a cop out. If he wanted to, he would have ‘shuffled’ out like so many amputees do but it is likely that he could have walked out on his stumps.
This is a key point because it highlights Dr Vorsters point that OP told her that he ‘fired at the noise that he heard” demonstrating that he actively chose to approach the “intruder” and before he knew who or what was behind the door, delivered his ammunition with such devastating consequences.
Oscar Pistorius had choices. He could have got out of the situation had he really wanted to and he chose to confront the danger when he didn’t have to. It is likely that these factors will be pivotal in the final analysis. If he doesn’t get Murder he will certainly get a significant sentence as a result of this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onX7NJguuHc This is a recent amputee developing his walking ability on his stumps