South Africa

High Court Awaits for Oscar

By Khadija Patel 19 August 2013

On Monday, Magistrate Desmond Nair officially transferred the state’s case of premeditated murder against Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius to the North Gauteng High Court. Even though Monday’s hearing lasted all of 12 minutes and the outcome was expected, public attention remained intense. By KHADIJA PATEL.

Oscar Pistorius returned to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday to the usual flurry of camera shutters and fevered scribblings from the assembled media contingent. Although Pistorius was forced to face cameras for longer than he has during previous court appearances, he had no sooner entered the courtroom before he turned his back to the cameramen gathered in front of him, exchanging a faint smile with his family and friends in the front rows of the gallery.

The ANC Women’s League was represented by three of its members in court on Monday. While they explained to reporters that they were there to stand in solidarity with the victim, Reeva Steenkamp, they too could not resist photographing a sombre looking Pistorius wiping a tear from his sister Aimee’s face.

The attention this case has received from particularly the popular British press has surprised South Africans. But it’s not the British press alone who have thronged to this story with unbridled enthusiasm. The South African media have also been riveted to the case, expending great resources in the coverage of Pistorius’ dramatic fall from grace.

To illustrate, Monday’s proceedings were delayed slightly by an application from the SABC to record the hearing. Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled against this, pointing out that Monday’s proceedings served only to transfer the case to the High Court.

Pistorius was then served the indictment and the case was transferred to the North Gauteng High Court and the trial set for 3 – 20 March 2014.

The indictment served on him has revealed more details of the state’s case against him. The eight page indictment contains the names of 107 witnesses the state may call, among them neighbors, ex-girlfriends, retired soccer player Mark Batchelor and his sister Aimee. Crucially, the state will look to prove that Steenkamp locked herself in the toilet cubicle before she was shot by Pistorius. The indictment against Pistorius claims “some of the state witnesses heard a woman scream followed by a silence then heard gunshots”.

Ahead of the indictment being served, analysts believed the most telling evidence to be in the records of the cellphones found at Pistorius’ home and the forensic examination of the toilet cubicle door through which Pistorius shot four bullets.

But last week the London based Daily Star reported that Pistorius had claimed he could not recall the password to help the detectives see the encrypted messages on his iPhone.

While these leaks remain to be substantiated, the State has now officially completed its investigation into the death of Reeva Steenkamp.

Come next March, the State will look to prove that Pistorius shot through his bathroom door with the direct intention to kill – no matter who it is he believed was behind that door.

Last week, prosecutors told The Associated Press that it was “possible” that additional charges, related to Pistorius use of firearms, could be added to the indictment. There were however no additional charges made to the indictment on Monday, but it is widely believed that the firearms-related charges may be added later.

On Sunday, City Press reported that the State’s case against Pistorius show that Steenkamp was hiding from Pistorius, fearing for her life, when he shot her through the toilet door.

For now, Pistorius resumes the more subdued life he’s lived since being released on bail in February.

He has successfully stayed out of the headlines in the last few months, with scant revelations of him hitting the clubs, or the track. Public scrutiny of his behaviour will not subside, however. For those of you (and us) frustrated with the attention the case has so far received, prepare to be further agitated.

It’s only going to get worse. DM.

Read more:

Oscar and the sanctity of SA’s courts in Daily Maverick.

Photo by Greg Nicolson.

Gallery

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