State vs Oscar Pistorius: It's not over

2014-09-14 15:00

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Oscar Pistorius’ tears of relief might prove to be short-lived.

Pistorius wept openly after Judge Thokozile Masipa acquitted him on a charge of murder, instead finding him guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

City Press understands that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is highly likely to apply for leave to appeal Judge Masipa’s ruling.

The parents of Reeva Steenkamp are set to continue to pursue their multimillion-rand civil claim against Pistorius for loss of income and emotional distress.

It had been on hold until the case was finalised, but their lawyer, Dup de Bruyn, confirmed they would continue with it after the case was finalised.

A source close to the Pistorius family said defence advocate Barry Roux left a brief meeting with state prosecutor Gerrie Nel on Friday absolutely convinced that Nel would appeal the judgment.

Although no final decision to appeal will be made until after sentencing, a very senior NPA source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that there was definitely an appetite for an appeal on the basis of Masipa’s ruling regarding the legal principal of dolus eventualis.

“If they [the prosecuting team] let the ruling on dolus eventualis stand, it will remain on the law books, which is a problem,” the source said.

“The appetite for the appeal went all the way to the top,” the source said, referring to National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana, who was also in court to hear Masipa’s ruling.

Other sources close to the prosecution told City Press that when Nxasana heard the judge’s ruling “he was gobsmacked” and simply could not believe it.

It is understood that the prosecution has yet to receive a copy of the judgment and study it.

But the team would have to tread carefully in considering an appeal as the NPA is restricted to appealing only errors of law.

Another senior official in the NPA said Masipa’s finding was a “shocking judgment” that he believes very likely to be overturned on appeal.

A source close to the Steenkamp family said prosecutors had been fuming in the court corridors during breaks in the judgment, expressing their disbelief.

“From what I gather, it seems like the state will appeal the judgment,” said the source.

Pistorius family joy

However, Roux is understood to be very hesitant to appeal?–?even if Pistorius is sentenced to time in prison, said the family insider. But his family does not expect this to happen.

A close family source said his lawyers were convinced Pistorius might avoid jail time altogether and be handed a suspended sentence instead.

The insider said Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold, had told them it was a “very good judgment and they shouldn’t mess with it”.

“They realise they were lucky to get away with culpable homicide.”

Pistorius spent Friday night with his sister, Aimee, away from the home of uncle Arnold and aunt Lois Pistorius where he has been staying since the shooting.

Despite looks of relief on Friday, the family remain worried about the sentencing and the possibility of an appeal.

Sentencing procedures begin on October 13.

Police protect Masipa Police officers are keeping a close eye on Judge Masipa amid the growing furore around Pistorius’ acquittal on the murder charge.

Officers from the SA Police Service’s much-feared Tactical Response Team?–also known as the amaBerete?–?are stationed outside Masipa’s home. They check on her every hour and escort her wherever she goes.

Masipa has been heavily criticised for her judgment. The criticism has bordered on hate speech, defamation and contempt of court.

A source close to the unit said officers had been extra cautious since she had handed down her judgment.

Masipa asked for police protection at the start of the trial and officers have escorted her from her home in Ekurhuleni to the North Gauteng High Court in a convoy every day.

It is unclear if more officers have been assigned to protect her. Court staff told City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport that it was not uncommon for a judge in such a high-profile case to be given protection.

While Masipa was handing down her ruling, and it became clear that Pistorius was going to be acquitted of murder, public opinion swung dramatically against her.

A survey by research company ROi Africa showed that after Thursday, the first day of her judgment, 70.45% of South Africans on social media who spoke about the case suddenly became negative towards her.

Only 28.64% posted positive comments and a small percentage remained neutral.

Some were also threatening.

A photograph of a group of children armed with long knives went viral with a caption saying the group would wait for Masipa at her house to discuss the case.

In another widely distributed photograph, a picture of Masipa in court was changed to show a big pile of money in front of her.

Some distributed it with a comment that she had been bribed.

Demand for interviews

The source close to the Pistorius family said despite being offered millions of rands for an interview, Pistorius was not speaking to anyone.

Television networks and foreign newspapers have been prepared to pay whatever it took for an interview?– even “six figures in pounds”.

However, Pistorius is not interested. Neither is his sister, Aimee, who has also been offered lucrative media deals.

Pistorius’ ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor allegedly received about R250?000 for an exclusive interview detailing her relationship with Pistorius with British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, which was printed on Friday.

Taylor and her mother, Trish, were not immediately available for comment as they were in London conducting interviews. However, Taylor has previously refused to be interviewed without payment.

The Australian TV network which broadcast the re-enactment footage of Pistorius that was filmed by a US company as preparation for their forensic evidence allegedly paid $500?000 (R5.5?million) for the footage.

Don’t threaten the judge

Meanwhile, lawyers have cautioned passionate trial watchers to refrain from threatening Judge Masipa.

Lawyer Willem de Klerk, an expert on media law and freedom of speech, said it could land those who did this in serious trouble.

“Robust criticism of a judgment and court processes, even the conduct of a judge, is perfectly acceptable.

“But there is a line that one cannot cross. You cannot insult the judge in her personal capacity. Such caricatures of her border on hate speech.”

De Klerk said contempt of court was a criminal offence.

Professor Pierre de Vos, constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town, also called for social-media users to stop their criticism.

“Dear tweeps. By all means critique the #OscarTrial judgment and application of the law. Not cool to launch ad hominem attacks on the judge,” he tweeted.

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