Justice Delayed Is Still Welcome 19


In general I am not a fan of the power of the state, and take a Rumpolesque view of the justice system. But I think nevertheless that justice has been well served by today’s Supreme Court verdict in the Pistorius case. Plainly, at the very least, he intended murderous violence towards whoever was locked in the toilet, and that person could not in any rational sense be said to have been posing an immediate threat to him.

I happened to watch the entire original trial – I cannot recall what on earth was going on in my own life then that I could find the time to do that. Today’s Supreme Court judgement was not allowed to query the finding that Pistorius did bot know it was Steenkamp in the toilet, but I must say I had thought that finding to be astonishing given the evidence. The Supreme Court’s ruling that in any event Pistorius murderously was aware he was killing someone, could be reached without questioning that.

I have no doubt the original Judge Maripa acted conscientiously and was motivated by consideration of making every possible allowance for Pistorius’ disability and its effect on his state of mind. I would much rather judges are too susceptible to compassion than the opposite. But the signals sent – about violence towards women and about the implied right of the wealthy to shoot to defend their property even when obviously not threatened – were awful. This was a much needed correction.


19 thoughts on “Justice Delayed Is Still Welcome

  • AAMVN

    There was also a tacit validation of a male right to become uncontrollably angry when dealing with a challenging female. I too am glad the verdict has been overturned and hope Pistorious gets a fair sentence.

  • eddie-g

    Just one point of clarification – it was the Supreme Court of Appeals which heard this case. There’s one court above that, the Constitutional Court, to which this case could be appealed again.

    But I agree entirely with this ruling too. As my SA lawyer friends have explained it to me, and a number of them predicted this outcome, the law basically holds the user of a firearm responsible for his or her actions. You fire four shots through a door into a confined space, you’re probably killing someone. If that someone’s an innocent person, you’re guilty of murder. With extremely limited exceptions, that’s how the law is supposed to be applied.

    I am still just about inclined to think that Pistorius did not believe Reeva Steenkamp was behind the door, that he did not intend to kill her. But he is a dangerous gun nut, and regardless of the police mis-steps in investigating the crime (and they were serious enough that they nearly screwed up the entire case), he should be in jail for what he did.

  • Techno

    I don’t know, South Africa is infamous for its casual violence and general inhumanity, that its citizens live in constant fear of crime, so that he feared that there was a violent intruder in the house seems reasonable to me.

    But he also knew that his partner was in the house too so it is weird that he wasn’t more careful.

  • glenn_uk

    It seems incredible that he didn’t wonder where his girlfriend was. Whip out the “freedom protector” and start blasting away, before even demanding to know what the supposed intruder wanted? A likely story. Would a supposedly dangerous, armed intruder hide in a locked toilet? The entire story is implausible in the extreme, and his only defence would be that he’s a dangerous lunatic who should never have been armed in the first place.

  • eddie-g

    @Techno

    You don’t know South Africa at all. God knows we have far more violent crime than is acceptable, but citizens don’t live life cowering in fear of it. Quite a few do carry guns however, but hardly any use them how Pistorius used his.

  • Republicofscotland

    I agree didn’t he fire Black Talon bullets at Reeva through the bathroom door, Black Talon bullets are a form of dum dum bullets they expand on impact, she didn’t stand a chance.

  • Mary

    Where is the command centre for the bombing operation?

    Some say Baghdad. Others including Sky News’ Alistair Bunkall say Qatar.

    I see Brookings are installed in Doha.

    ‘About Us – Brookings Doha Center

    Established in 2008, the Brookings Doha Center (BDC) is an overseas center of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. As a hub for Brookings scholarship in the region, the BDC advances high-quality, independent research and policy analysis on the Middle East and North Africa.

    The Brookings Doha Center International Advisory Council is co-chaired by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the State of Qatar, and Brookings President Strobe Talbott. Members include: Madeleine Albright, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Edward Djerejian, Wajahat Habibullah, Musa Hitam, Pervez Hoodhboy, Nemir Kirdar, Rami Khouri, Atta-ur-Rahman, Ismail Serageldin, and Fareed Zakaria.

    The Center was formally inaugurated by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani on February 17, 2008. Others present included Carlos Pascual, former vice president and director of the Brookings Foreign Policy Program, Martin Indyk, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution, and Hady Amr, founding director of the Brookings Doha Center. The center is funded by the State of Qatar.’

    /..
    http://www.brookings.edu/about/centers/doha/about

  • lysias

    A judge’s first duty in a country with the common law legal system is to dispense impartial justice, operating in criminal cases under the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

    I don’t know enough about the case to have a firm opinion about where that presumption ought to lead here. But the presumption should certainly take precedence over any ideological consideration.

  • Techno

    Just realised that it was Valentine’s Day which swings it even further against Pistorius as this is an occasion that may have caused tension and an argument, in the same way that people often argue more at Christmas, and divorces increase in New Year.

  • MerkinScot

    “I have no doubt the original Judge Maripa acted conscientiously and was motivated by consideration of making every possible allowance for Pistorius’ disability and its effect on his state of mind.”
    .
    I don’t think that is the job of a judge to mitigate in advance.
    It is the job of a defence lawyer who makes a plea in mitigation after verdict.
    The original verdict was perverse in the extreme.

  • lwtc247

    Murder requires motive. What motive would he have for “murdering” someone in his toilet?
    (predicting crass ‘humour’)

  • philw

    Pistorius’ defence was taking the piss.

    But from the snippets I saw the prosecuting lawyer was so awful that I had a feeling he’d get off. Did you not have that impression, Craig? Shades of OJ, except the defence lawyers didn’t have to be particularly good

  • Richard Gadsden

    @lwtc247 “Murder requires motive”

    This is not true. It requires intent to kill. That doesn’t mean you have to prove why they wanted to kill them, just that you to prove that they did.

    @Philw – criminal prosecutors mostly deal with very straightforward cases or are prosecuting people who can’t afford a proper defence. The number of cases where a rich person is accused of a violent crime is so few that experienced, competent prosecutors often don’t exist, especially in violent crime. The best prosecutors tend to gravitate to fraud and tax evasion, because that’s where the best (funded) defenses tend to be.

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