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Oscar Pistorius Trial: Did the state fail Reeva - and the millions who felt Pistorius was guilty

By Tai Chishakwe - Sep 12, 2014
Oscar Pistorius Trial: Did the state fail Reeva - and the millions who felt Pistorius was guilty

Did the state bungle its case against Pistorius or the truth just had its day in court?  

Pretoria – Judge Thokozile Masipa found Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide on Friday, which in South Africa means unintentionally - but unlawfully - killing a person. This was after she cleared Pistorius of murder in the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

On Friday, Judge Masipa also acquitted Pistorius of shooting through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein in 2012. He was acquitted on another charge of illegally possessing ammunition.  

While reactions across social media suggest disbelief and shock at the verdicts, according to the Judge, the State had simply failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Paralympian was guilty of premeditated murder and had also failed to prove some of the charges.

“The State has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” Judge Masipa told the North Gauteng High Court.

Pistorius's version was that he shot believing Steenkamp was an intruder hiding in the toilet.

The judge agreed with him.

“The question is, did the accused foresee the possibility of the result in death yet persisted in his deed recklessness whether death ensured or not?

“In the circumstances of this case, the answer has to be no. How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shots he fired would kill the deceased.

“Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he'd kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom at the time,” she said.

Judge Masipa also downplayed and later shot down the evidence of state witnesses who were Pistorius's neighbours.

By mid-morning on Thursday, she had chopped off most of the key theories the state relied on to prove that Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a fit of rage after they had had an argument.

The theories include that: *Pistorius shot Steenkamp in fit of rage so his version that he shot her believing she was intruder is a lie.

Masipa was not persuaded by the testimony of neighbors who said they heard shouting, screaming and shots.

The neighbors' stories do not match the timings on phone records the night of the killing, she concluded, saying: "Technology is more reliable than human perception and human memory."

She also said she believes media coverage contaminated testimonies, and that state witnesses were in and out of sleep the night of the killing.

She knocked down other key aspects of the state's case: the fact that Steenkamp took her phone and locked herself in the bathroom allegedly out of fear for her safety, phone messages between the couple that showed some rocky patches, and stomach contents that might suggest the victim ate later than Pistorius said.

On Friday, 12 September 2014, the Judge dismissed the illegal possession of ammunition charge arguing that the state had once again failed to introduce evidence contradicting Pistorius version.

"The state has failed to prove that the accused had the necessary animus (intent) to possess the ammunition," said Judge Masipa.

She also cut through the witnesses the state had regarding the incident where Pistorius allegedly fired through an open sunroof.  

“The state has to persuade this court that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The state witnesses contradicted each other in crucial aspects - the circumstances in which the shot was fired, when and where the shot was fired, the judge says,” Judge Masipa.

Regarding the witnesses, the judge noted that the relationship between Pistorius and the other witness, Samantha Taylor, did not end amicably – which does not mean she sought to implicate the accused, but evidence from both Taylor and Darren Fresco, the other witness, had to be approached with caution by the court.

"Fresco was not an impressive witness at all, when he gave evidence regarding this count. In fact he was proved to be a dishonest witness," Judge Masipa added.

She said the state witnesses contradicted each other in the dock on crucial aspects - the circumstances in which the shot was fired, when and where the shot was fired.

“The evidence falls short of the required standard for a criminal conviction on the first firearms charge,” Judge Masipa said.

In the course of her verdict, the judge emphasized and re-emphasized that the state had failed in its case. What are your thoughts? Do you think the state bungled this case or it was ill-prepared?

Image: Telegraph UK