Murder trial

Pistorius Trial: Overview

Today is the second day of South African Oscar Pistorius’ trial. Pistorius, a Paralympic Olympic Champion and an Olympic competitor, is on trial for the murder of the reality TV star, model and his former girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. BBC news outlined how the trial will likely proceed, what burdens the prosecution needs to meet, as well as any possible defenses for Pistorius.

The prosecution bears the burden of proving that Pistorius ” knowingly, intentionally, murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, during a heated row on Valentine’s Day last year.” There are three basic categories the state will draw from in trying to prove that Pistorius had intent. First, the state will present forensic evidence, such as the angle of the bullet and distance from the bathroom door. Knowing the angle and distance from the door will help illustrate how Pistorius had the intent or knowledge of murdering his girlfriend. Second, the state will likely use phone, text message evidence, witnesses, or a combination of all three to argue that the couple had a fight on the evening in question. The messages and witnesses are likely circumstantial, but they may show how relations between the former couple were sour at the time of death. Finally, if the state can use Pistorius’ character, a litany of “ex-girlfriends and acquaintances” may be introduced to display Pistorius’ poor character and propensity to murder his girlfriend. The ex-girlfriends and acquaintances may establish a violent and nasty character – one capable of murder.

On the defense side, Pistorius may rely on the lack of witnesses in the house (who are alive) to contradict his story. Moreover, it helps to have a high powered legal team at Pistorius’ side to fight to keep helpful evidence in and incriminating evidence out. There are some problematic areas for Pistorius, though. One problem hinges on the story Pistorius told about what happened the night she died. If the prosecution can prove that Pistorius lied about a crucial factor, his story will likely crumble to pieces, and the premeditated murder charge will likely stick.

Other problems crop up for Pistorius in what the article sees as the prosecution’s “second chance.” If the prosecution cannot disprove Pistorius’ story, they will throw doubt and question on Pistorius’ decision to fire shots off in defense. A possible defense story is that, due to Pistorius’ handicap, and the fact that violent intruders were common in the country, his decision to shoot was warranted. The state could counterattack this story by questioning whether Pistorius had reason to fear for his life. Pistorius lives in a home that is “heavily guarded and virtually crime-free” in comparison to the rest of his countrymen, meaning that he likely lacks the fear that others have in this context. The state may expose doubt as to why Pistorius failed to investigate who the person was and whether the unidentified person posed a threat to himself and Steenkamp based on the unlikelihood of an unknown intruder. The big question tossed around by the article is “how long will Pistorius remain imprisoned,” not whether or not he will escape liability all together. These, among many other questions and concerns Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa must deal with, and it cannot be easy to achieve this feat with the media swarming around. Unlike the U.S. system, the South African system does not rely on juries. Rather, the judge is responsible for hearing the evidence and ruling on the case.

in the Olympic bidding wars, Los Angeles has doubled its efforts to make itself look more attractive to gain a bid, while San Diego has redone its own bid to try and make the cut. Finally, Sochi is back to its old ways when a Putin Sochi critic was placed on house arrest with no access to the internet or the media for at least two months. 




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