Monday, December 7, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Murder… Duh

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I must begin with a little rant about cable news networks. They do so much to annoy and dismay these days – with their beating-a-dead-horse coverage of any and everything – I invariably tune out after just a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 4.14.43 PMThis was the case on Friday when they began broadcasting reporters scavenging through the home of the husband and wife who perpetrated the San Bernardino massacre. Networks treated viewers to a feeding frenzy of two-legged hyenas reporting on this now dead couple’s junk mail, family photographs, refrigerated food, and children’s toys … as incriminating evidence.

This ghoulish farce masquerading as breaking news only vindicated my damning commentary, “Journalism Is Having a Very, Very, Pathetic Moment,” November 13, 2013.

But, perhaps for professional reasons, nothing annoys and dismays quite like cable news networks featuring legal pundits propagating partisan talking points as informed legal analyses. The watershed moment in this context came in 1995, when they made celebrities of lawyers who helped to turn coverage of the O.J. Simpson “trial of the century” into a farce.

simpson_verdict_reactionNo doubt you remember the way legal pundits (Black and White) proffered specious nonsense about the pendulum of racial justice finally swinging in favor of Black defendants. Even if unwittingly, they appeared to be justifying the unseemly way far too many Blacks reacted with jubilation to news of O.J. getting away with double murder.

Instead, these pundits should have limited their punditry to explaining why his (predominantly Black) jury should have found him guilty as sin.

This brings me to the Oscar Pistorius trial, which played out in similar fashion last year. In fact, comparisons with O.J. began as soon as news broke of his arrest for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It wasn’t long before the media were treating us to headlines variously hailing and damning Pistorius as the O.J. of South Africa.

judge-reads-pistorius-verdict-300x184The farce in this case, however, stemmed from legal pundits spending far too much time impugning the competence and ability of the judge, Thokozile Masipa. Instead, they should have limited their punditry to arguing the guilt or innocence of the defendant, Pistorius, and pleading for justice for his victim, Steenkamp.

Alas, Judge Masipa vindicated their blather when she acquitted Pistorius of murder, opting to find him guilty only of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Incidentally, Pistorius had a trial by judge because South Africa abolished trials by jury in 1969.

Here, in part, is how I commented – in “Oscar Gets Off on Murder…,” September 12, 2014 – on her verdict.


I object!

For, with all due respect to Milady, it defies logic to find that a reasonable person cannot foresee that firing four bullets into a toilet stall would probably kill whoever is inside. Not to mention that this conduct comports with the textbook definition of depraved indifference for human life. And that’s murder … even in South Africa!

Frankly, there’s no denying that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to warrant a guilty verdict on at least one of the murder charges. Except that, evidently, Judge Masipa gave Pistorius the benefit not just of a reasonable doubt but of any conceivable doubt. Only this explains her finding of not guilty on all charges related to murder.

But I shall leave it to legal pundits – who make a living prattling on about sensational cases and second-guessing rulings/verdicts – to elaborate on her judicial errors.


O.J. SimpsonContinuing the O.J. comparisons, I hereby note that it took fourteen years for justice to finally catch up with O.J. Specifically, when a judge in Las Vegas sentenced him to 33 years in prison for burglary in 2008, she was finally making him pay for murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, (and her friend, Ron Goldman) in 1994.

I duly heralded his poetic fate in “Justice Delayed, But Not Denied, for O.J. Simpson,” October 4, 2008.

But it has only taken fourteen months for justice to finally catch up with Oscar. Specifically, when the justices of South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal vacated Masipa’s manslaughter verdict last week, they were finally making him pay for murdering his girlfriend in 2013.

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’ conviction for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has been scaled up to murder from culpable homicide by South Africa’s top appeals court…

At the original trial in September last year, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the state had failed to prove intent or ‘dolus eventualis,’ a legal concept that centers on a person being held responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions.

‘In these circumstances, the accused must have foreseen and, therefore, did foresee that whoever was behind the toilet door might die but reconciled himself to that even occurring and gambled with that person’s life,’ said [Supreme Court Judge Eric Leach].

(Reuters, December 3, 2015)

136833_54_news_hub_126623_656x500It is noteworthy that the justices took pains to avoid impugning Masipa’s competence and ability. But it would take willful blindness not to see that their appellate opinion did just that … in black and white. In fact, the best example of Masipa’s judicial competence and ability in this case was herdecision to grant the prosecutor’s appeal to have the Supreme Court review her verdict.

Only six weeks ago, Pistorius won parole from the five-year sentence Masipa imposed for manslaughter. But he now faces a minimum of 15 years when she resentences him for murder early next year pursuant to order by the Supreme Court.

Here’s to Masipa seizing this opportunity to redeem what little is left of her judicial reputation.

Related commentaries:
O.J. simpson

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