Five things you should know about the Oscar Pistorius case

By Mieke Vlok
30 June 2014

Oscar is due back in court today after a month of observation at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital. Here are five things you need to know about the days to come in court.

1. Where do we stand now?

For the past month Oscar has been undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Weskoppies psychiatric hospital in Pretoria so doctors can determine whether he suffers from general anxiety disorder. The doctors’ findings will then be used to determine whether his condition could have influenced the events of 14 February 2013. The defence still has to call its last three witnesses, after which the defence and state will present their closing arguments. After that Judge Masipa will deliver a verdict and sentencing will have to take place, depending on the nature of her verdict.

2. Who are the key figures in court?

Oscar’s sister Aimee Pistorius is in court every day, together with his uncle, Arnold and other family members such as his brother, Carl, who has also attended all the court proceedings. Reeva Steenakmp’s mother June is frequently accompanied by friends and members of the ANC Women’s League.

3. Exactly what has Oscar been charged with?

Murder. If he’s found guilty the minimum sentence is life imprisonment, unless he can convince the court there are valid reasons for a lighter sentence. Depending on how the trial goes, he could also be found guilty of culpable homicide. Illegal possession of ammunition without a licence (rounds found in his house, but not the same calibre as the murder weapon). Two additional charges relating to the discharge of firearms in public. In 2012 he’s alleged to have used Reeva’s murder weapon to fire through the sunroof of a car while driving with friends. In an incident early last year, he’s alleged to have accidentally discharged a friend’s weapon under a table in a Johannesburg restaurant.

4. How do you differentiate between the different types of murder?

The two types of murder are culpable homicide, without premeditation and with premeditation. Here is an explanation of each: Culpable homicide is manslaughter under duress, such as when someone is threatening your life. In Oscar’s case this duress may not be applicable because his life was apparently not under threat. Without premeditation is when a murder is committed on the spur of the moment, and in the case of a bail application, the judge can rule in the interests of justice the accused should be granted bail. The maximum sentence is 15 years’ imprisonment. With premeditation means the accused planned the murder a month, a week or even hour beforehand and took certain steps in the run-up to the killing. In a bail hearing such an accused will have to prove exceptional circumstances such as their need for specialised medical care to get bail. In Oscar’s case, it could be that his fame would make it difficult for him to flee. The fact there was no one else present during the shooting means he couldn’t have consulted with eye witnesses. This type of crime carries a life sentence.

5. What other high-profile cases have Gerrie Nel and Barry Roux been involved in?

Gerrie Nel

  • He was a junior prosecutor in the murder case following the killing of Chris Hani in 1993. Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz were found guilty of the assassination of the former South African Communist Party leader.
  • He was a prosecutor in the Glen Agliotti murder trial after the latter had been arrested in connection with the death of mining magnate Brett Kebble. Agliotti was acquitted in 2010.
  • He was head of the National Prosecuting Authority and was responsible for, among others, putting former police chief Jackie Selebi behind bars for corruption in 2010.

Barry Roux

  • He was involved in the 2002 prosecution of Roger Kebble, a mining magnate charged with tax evasion. Roger Kebble is the father of Brett Kebble, who was killed in 2005.
  • He defended Scottish businessman Dave King after King had been charged with tax evasion in 2005.
  • Roux came up against Nel in 2001 when the latter defended dentist Dr Casper Greeff. Greeff was found guilty of the murder of his wife Estelle and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Additional sources: ENCA, The Witness, The Week, Mail & Guardian, Moneyweb.

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