Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Gets Away with Murder

The Week

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide, after yesterday being cleared of murdering Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Reading from her written judgment, Judge Thokozile Masipa told the court that there was not enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the athlete was guilty of premeditated murder or murder. He was also found guilty on one firearms charge, but acquitted on two others. Pistorius could face up to 15 years in jail on the culpable homicide charge, but he will not be sentenced until next month.

Masipa recaps the four counts against Pistorius and her findings. She repeats again that the state did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius was guilty of premeditated murder or murder. Today, she is giving a detailed legal explanation of why she acquitted Pistorius of murder dolus eventualis – a decision which received some criticism from legal experts yesterday. Finally, Masipa asks Pistorius to stand and announces:
  • Count one: not guilty of murdering Reeva Steenkamp, but guilty of culpable homicide
  • Count two: not guilty of firearms charge relating to sunroof incident
  • Count three: guilty of negligence in regards to firearms charge relating to Tashas restaurant
  • Count four: not guilty of firearms charge relating to possession of illegal ammunition

The second firearms charge faced by Pistorius relates to an incident in January, before Steenkamp's death, when a Glock pistol went off while in his possession in a Johannesburg restaurant called Tashas. Masipa says Pistorius may not have intended to fire the gun, but this "does not absolve" him from the crime of negligence. Masipa says she accepts in full the evidence of state witness Kevin Lerena. Pistorius was trained in firearms, she says. "He should not have asked for a firearm in a restaurant full of patrons." The state has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty on this count, says the judge.

Like so many gun nuts in the United States, Oscar should have been disarmed long ago.  A simple one strike you're out policy would have seen to that. Any one of his several gun incidents or domestic abuse incidents should have seen to it.

But, also in typical form, he was not only not disarmed when he should have been, right up to the very end he was given the benefit of the every doubt, and then some. "Not enough evidence" to prove murder, sorta like O.J.  He "may not have intended to fire the gun" in Tashas restaurant. As for "firing a gun out of an open car sunroof in September 2012," no problem since Darren Fresco was "not an impressive witness at all."

A travesty of justice took place on the world stage. Another unfit and dangerous gun owner, whining and crying with self-pity was not held properly accountable for the death of another.

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment


  1. Ah yes. Got away with murder there--Scott Free even...

    Oh, wait, no, they just decided they weren't convinced, to the relevant standard, that it was murder, but were quite sure that it was reckless enough to be manslaughter and convicted him.

    You know, your telepathy is mighty useful--the rest of are stuck looking at incomplete evidence...heck, even judges and juries have an incomplete picture of events compared to you!

    1. I didn't say "scott free." But, for a guy who was a guilty as O.J., he caught a big break with the minor conviction.

  2. He was held accountable for the death of another person. You say it wasn't proper, because you knew his intentions that night- that he wanted to kill her. You know, it is quite socially irresponsible of you to withhold this special information you are privy to on all these cases, and takes some real gall to then whine about the outcome. Why didn't you testify for the prosecution?

    1. In seriousness, why are you convinced this was murder and not negligence driven by paranoia? You love to smear gun owners with the later, so it's not like it doesn't fit into your agenda.

    2. I followed the trial a little bit and came to think he was guilty of the graver offense. That's all. Either way, as you rightly point out, he's a beauty of an example from your side.

    3. And what evidence led you to think that?

      Also, South Africa is a beautiful example of "proper gun control".

    4. "Evidence?" Don't you know me by now?

    5. Sadly, we do. You love to convict without evidence. After all, using evidence is a sign of being a "other rights fanatic"--a type of person you've made your disdain for quite clear.

    6. That was a joke. The evidence and testimony in the trial led me to think he was guilty of premeditated murder. What did you think? Did you believe he really and truly thought there was an intruder in his bathroom?

    7. Didn't pay much attention to it as I had more pressing things to do, and it was a case in another country with a different system. All I know is the basics I picked up from the news:
      * He fired blindly into the bathroom
      * He claims to have been in fear because of a perceived intruder in the bathroom
      * He claims he didn't check if Steenkamp was in bed still, just assumed it.

      That story sounds plausible, though it's also plausible that it is just a story made up to cover a murder. I left it to the court to determine which it was. It sounds like they ruled out intentional murder as having not been proved, and therefore came to the appropriate conclusion that would follow such a determination: Even looking at his story in the best possible light, it looks like voluntary manslaughter due to his negligence. (In other words, with the little I know, I'd have been inclined to agree it was a miscarriage of justice if he got off scott free.)

      A final thought that I haven't heard raised here or elsewhere (though it may have been--like I said, not been following this closely)--at least on this side of the Atlantic, we tend to look at admissions against one's own interest as giving some weight to someone's credibility. South Africa's system is a mix of common law and other traditions, and I don't know much about the technical ins and outs of it, but it's possible that his admission to what amounted to manslaughter was was brought in enough doubt to find him not guilty of murder, but to simultaneously nail down a manslaughter conviction.

    8. C'mon, that wasn't much of an admission. What was he gonna say, someone else fired the gun?

    9. You're right, it's not much of an admission, so, as a prosecutor, I'd point out just what you said and press that it shouldn't add much or any to his credibility. As defense counsel, I'd have to make the other argument--that a guilty party making up a story would have tried to make up something more convincing or exculpatory.

      In the end, it's up to the judge or jury (whoever their system assigns to determine facts) to determine how much they believe him and how much weight it gives. They're only human(s) and may have gotten it wrong on the murder charge. At least they got it right, it appears, on manslaughter.