Thursday 11 September 2014

Oscar Pistorius Trial: Verdict and Reception

Another dead woman. Another instance of her killer escaping justice. Over the coming days there will be much more written about how Oscar Pistorius shot to death his partner, Reeva Steenkamp, particularly how in this open and shut case the celebrity millionaire athlete got away with it. Some points worth considering.

Firstly, it is strange that Pistorius was not tried before a jury of his peers, especially when you consider the close family relationship the South African legal system has to the English. But understandably, the not guilty verdicts handed down by Judge Thokozile Masipa are plainly bizarre. The circumstantial evidence surrounding the character of his relationship with his victim suggests it was controlling and abusive. That, of course, is not evidence in and of itself of intent to murder but it constitutes valuable context in which the shooting took place. She nevertheless determined that Pistorius didn't set out to kill Reeva or, rather, the prosecution was unable to prove he had the express intention of doing so. Proving intent is notoriously tricky, which is why the conduct of a defendant before and after the commission of a crime is important. His defence was that he believed a burglar was in his bathroom and so grabbed his gun and fired it four times through the door. Yet, again, the Judge believed this was not evidence of an intent to kill.

Excuse me? You blindly discharge a weapon four times into a closed, occupied space and expect the occupant to get off with light wounds or an unnerved disposition? It is palpable nonsense. The fact is Pistorius, regardless of an intent to kill his partner or not, conducted himself in such a way that you can reasonably expect death to be the outcome. His actions embodied an intent to kill. That much can be discerned without peering into the unreachable contents of his head. As a result, depending on what happens with the outstanding culpable homicide charge, Pistorius could well escape justice. Reeva Steemkamp, just another victim of an abusive partner.

There are a couple of wider points about the internet reception this has received on Twitter. Typically, whenever a high profile case ends there's always some who tweet along the lines of "they should've listened to the experts on Twitter", or "I'm sorry, I didn't realise Twitter was home to so many finely-tuned legal minds". How hilarious and original. Our tweeters, and I've seen people from all political backgrounds do this, might think they're being world weary and knowing but it's just plain elitism. First off, in our everyday lives we come to conclusions about matters in the absence of perfect information. Take the Scottish independence referendum, for example. How many on both sides properly understand all of the constitutional niceties and dimensions of economic risk. Very few. Are they then disqualified from having and arguing for a position? No. The outcomes of trials are no different. Second, and - I suspect - in spite of themselves, our snooty tweeters are providing arguments against trials by jury. People are quite capable of making up their minds about a case with the evidence put to them without formal training. The same is true of lay people, like me, and like the feminist comrades who've related this to the general lack of seriousness violence against women receives.

Who knew bloggers, tweeters, and the general public were required to pass a test set by a self-appointed twitterati on what can and cannot be said about matters legal. Provided nothing prejudicial is said during a trial, what's the problem?


Speedy said...

I still don't understand how you can supposedly be layi g next to someone, think there is an intruder, grab a gun, and not seek to alert them or check that they are there. Then fire in to a closed door without checking.

Er... And why would an intruder lock themself in the loo?

I think i missed the reasoning behind discreiditing the couple who heard her screaming. They sounded like credible witnesses to me.

It seems the judge must have tried as hard as the defendant to find a way out of acknowleding the bleeding obvious.

The question is why?

Chris said...

"Another dead woman. Another instance of her killer escaping justice."

You don't care about justice. You don't care about truth.

All you wanted was a show trial to advance your feminist agenda.

Phil said...

"Feminist agenda". Apart from the facts of the case, why are you so terrified of treating women like human beings?