Maverick Life

Maverick Life

Pistorius Trial: Judgment Day (2)

Pistorius Trial: Judgment Day (2)

Bar some extremely unexpected circumstance, Oscar Pistorius should today definitively learn his fate from Judge Thokozile Masipa in the North Gauteng High Court. We know that he will not be found guilty of murder; we also know that he will almost certainly be found guilty of culpable homicide. Let's see if the court of popular opinion is any happier when today's court proceedings are done. REBECCA DAVIS will bring you updates from the courtroom.

13.00 No shock here: Judge Masipa has opted to extend Oscar Pistorius’s bail. So it’s back home to his uncle’s house for Oscar. Masipa indicated that she was “not so persuaded” by the state’s arguments that he should have his bail revoked.

Sentencing has been scheduled for 13th October. Masipa warned Roux that his client should be ready. She has a reputation as a harsh sentencer – let’s see if that’s justified in this case.

11.30 It’s lunch time at the North Gauteng High Court, and for the first occasion in this trial, Pistorius is spending it in police cells. That’s because he’s now officially been convicted, and has yet to hear whether his bail will be extended.

Before we broke, both sides were presenting arguments to do with Pistorius’s bail. If Judge Masipa extends his bail, Pistorius can walk out of the court this afternoon and return to Uncle Arnold’s house for a swim. If Masipa revokes bail, Pistorius goes to the clink.

For the defence, Barry Roux said that the onus was on the state to present facts to prove why Pistorius shouldn’t get bail. Roux pointed out that a magistrate had originally granted Pistorius bail with a premeditated murder charge hanging over his head, so now that he’s been convicted on a lesser charge, bail should still hold.

The state’s Gerrie Nel was on hand to remind the judge that culpable homicide was a “serious crime”, and that a “lengthy imprisonment” was “probable”. Nel said that Pistorius had recently sold his remaining SA property, making him more of a flight risk. He also brought up the incident in July when Pistorius allegedly got into an altercation at a Sandton nightclub, whereafter the Pistorius family said the episode was symptomatic of his “self-harming” behaviour. This suggested that Pistorius might harm himself when out on bail, Nel said.

Barry Roux responded that the reason Pistorius had sold off his properties was not to flee the country but to pay his legal fees. Nel countered that he (Nel) had no evidence of this. When we return, Masipa should give her ruling in this regard.

10.40 Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide and one minor firearms charge. He is not guilty of premeditated murder, murder, one charge of illegally firing a gun in public, and illegally storing ammunition.

Pistorius, asked by the judge to rise for the verdict, did not show visible emotion while his fate was read. Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin Kim Martin sobbed openly, as did Steenkamp’s best friend Gina Myers.

It took Masipa very little time this morning to dispose of the three minor charges with which Pistorius was faced. With regards to the charge that Pistorius fired a gun through the sunroof of a car while driving back from the Vaal River – testified to by Pistorius’s former friend Darren Fresco and his ex-girlfriend Sam Taylor – Masipa found that the two sets of testimony contradicted each other and the state had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

She found sufficient evidence to convict Pistorius for negligence in handling a firearm in the middle of a busy restaurant – the Tasha’s incident – saying that boxer Kevin Lerena, who gave evidence in this respect, was a “good witness”.

Masipa did not accept that the state had proved that Pistorius had intentionally illegally stored ammunition for his father at his house, so she acquitted him of this charge too.

In a brief summary of her findings, Masipa said she accepted that Pistorius had a genuine belief that there was an intruder in his bathroom – hence the finding that he was not guilty of murder dolus directus.

On the basis of his conduct after the shooting – tears, prayers to God to save Steenkamp, calling his estate manager etc – Masipa said that it could not be said that Pistorius foresaw that either Steenkamp or anyone else could be killed when he fired at the toilet door.

“It cannot be said that he accepted that possibility,” she said. For this reason, she found him not guilty of murder dolus eventualis.

However, because a reasonable person should have foreseen that death would have resulted from the shooting, Masipa found him guilty of culpable homicide.

All that remains now is to hear whether Masipa will extend Pistorius’s bail, and to set a date for sentencing. The judge is currently meeting with both sides in her chambers. During the break, Steenkamp’s mother June cradled cousin Kim in comfort, while father Barry spoke to family lawyer Dub de Bruyn.

It’s been a good day for Barry Roux and his team. For Gerrie Nel’s side, there is likely to be much disappointment, with Judge Masipa repeatedly stating that the prosecution had failed to prove their case.

09.00 It’s set to be another sweltering day in Pretoria, and this should be the final D-day for Oscar Pistorius in terms of verdict – although not, of course, in terms of sentence. Today Judge Masipa will be dealing not just with the culpable homicide issue, but also that of the three lesser charges the athlete faces: two counts of discharging a firearm in public and one of illegally storing ammunition.

When Pistorius receives the verdict – assuming he is found guilty of culpable homicide – it’s expected that his team will immediately apply for his bail to be extended, in order to keep him out of the cells pending sentencing. If Judge Masipa is in a tough mood she could opt to revoke his bail, taking into account the notion that he might be considered to be more of a flight risk now – taking into account not just his conviction but also recent reports that he has sold his South African property.

It should, in short, be an interesting day.

Debate continues to rage on social media and other media about the merits of what Judge Masipa has revealed about her decision-making thus far, with a number of daily newspapers carrying pieces today casting doubt on her interpretation of dolus eventualis. More than one South African daily chose to run as their front-page image today a large picture of Pistorius dripping mucous as Masipa read her judgment yesterday. It’s the kind of thing that can put you right off your cornflakes if you’re unprepared.

Further afield, meanwhile, the UK Mirror has run a ‘tell-all’ interview with Pistorius’s ex Sam Taylor today, in which she paints her relationship with Pistorius as deeply abusive. It’s a much more extreme version to that which Taylor presented in court. Then again, Taylor’s mother has a book to punt on her daughter’s relationship – which couldn’t be released before verdict in case it prejudiced the trial.

More interesting points from pundits: if Pistorius gets slapped with a stiff sentence for culpable homicide and his defence team gets leave to appeal, the risk would be if the Supreme Court overturned Masipa’s decision and convicted him of murder. They’ll have some tough decisions o make. DM

Photo: Oscar Pistorius arrives to court on Friday, 12 September 2014. (Greg Nicolson)

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