The peoples of South Africa are looking to restore their faith in their state’s justice system, so with many others around the World they are impatiently awaiting the outcome of the Prosecution’s appeal hearing on Oscar Pistorius’ lack of conviction, at trial earlier this year, on the murder charge of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp – he was instead only found guilty of her ‘culpable homicide’ in the High Court, so he has spent less than a year in a soft jail hospital unit (because of his physical disability), before being released to house arrest last month for another four years, but with substantial freedom (hence he now lives in his Uncle’s luxury mansion in Pretoria). He has though started his required community service.
The matter was dealt-with by five senior judges two weeks ago now, in the Supreme Court, Bloemfontein – one of SA’s 3 capital cities (and unlike in a similar British court, proceedings were broadcast on television!). Disappointingly though, the judge panel have reserved their judgement and have not yet set any date to announce it – so that means it could be many weeks away, doesn’t it?
The case is by nature legally quite technical, as it is all about the correct application of SA Law and constitution, with the Court not able to deal with evidential facts nor any dispute about them, or even take into account any new evidence (as can happen in England – indeed an aggrieved appellant may have a right to appeal on fresh evidence whether available at the original trial or not).
Chief Prosecutor, Gerrie Neil’s, application for a murder (carrying a minimum 15 years sentence) substitution upgraded for the original conviction, is therefore based on criticism of the decisions, purely on points of law, of the trial Judge Thokozile Masipa, as in SA there is no Jury and she alone ruled on the crimes.
He argued that she erred in her judgement, which indeed was met by incredulity by all and sundry, that Pistorius didn’t realise or foresee that his four ‘zombie-stopper’ shots into a tiny toilet cubicle would actually kill somebody inside – really? It is said that Masipa misinterpreted the SA law involving ‘dolus eventualis’ that covers that, and the legal intention present when a perpetrator objectively foresees the possibility of a direct act causing death but still carries on simply ignoring the consequences.
An appeal judge certainly voiced agreement with his other point that Masipa also got it wrong in excluding ‘dolus eventualis’ (a legal term for intention) in accepting that Pistorius believed Reeva was in bed, and he said therefore there was criminal intent to bring about the killing of someone inside the toilet.
Circumstantial evidence which showed that Pistorius’ account was impossible had been excluded by Masipa and that was also said to be mistaken.
Pistorius had at various times offered different defences for his actions but that these excluded each other, and that the one he chose to use in the trial was rejected by the Judge but she then provided him with ‘another one’, when his evidence should simply have been dismissed as impossible.
Lead defender Barry Roux’s job in representing Pistorius, was to keep his client Pistorius out of jail (where he will probably go back to under fresh sentencing if this barrister fails), by convincing the judges to uphold the ‘original’ verdict, so he blamed the homicidal shooting on the man’s ‘wrong state of mind’ at the time (he was scared and vulnerable) and insisted he had acted lawfully in shooting at a suspected intruder – really?
Unsurprisingly, Roux also insists that the state’s case is in fact based on issues of fact, rather than on points of law as claimed, so therefore it was not a matter that should be dealt with by the Court – really?
The Judges themselves raised questions about Pistorius’ ‘intentions’ when firing into the tiny space holding Reeva, as there was no place to hide in there – but however Roux maintained that Masipa had been correct in her judgement because she had accepted that Pistorius genuinely believed there was an intruder about, and that his girlfriend was still in bed – really?
Roux was though overheard subsequently commenting that he was going to lose, but no one has any idea what he was talking about (perhaps it was simply innocently conceding a minor point of law or another case?), but it is an overheard comment that is fascinating everyone in corridors everywhere – no wonder?
Apparently neither side wants to go towards a re-trial, so they are both relying on this Appeal Court to come to a big decision on whether or not to overturn the original High Court ruling on a murder acquittal. It seems to be agreed that the bench is entitled, if it so wishes, to provide its own substitute verdict. If it did in fact enact a murder verdict, then the matter would go back to the High Court for further sentencing (one assumes not under Judge Masipa?).
People in general, in addition to Reeva’s family (who thinks Pistorius had got-off lightly – after slaughtering Reeva he was allowed lax bail for a year, lived a life of luxury, was partying, clubbing, and even hitting on women, and then followed a derisory jail sentence), don’t want revenge as such, but they do want justice, punishment, and him to serve proper and adequate jail-time, so the justice system sets a deterrent to such endemic violence towards women in South Africa, don’t they?
[This playboy rich-man had an explosive temper, behaviour and actions that frightened his girlfriends for their own safety (not least Reeva), had an obsessional love of guns which he was particularly keen to fire even in public, was mesmerised by firearms’ killing power, and acted as if he was above the law because of his celebrity status and fame as an international disabled athlete – he deserves to be locked-up (however cushily) for his crimes, doesn’t he?]