The Oscar Pistorius trial begins this week and it looks like it could be a long one. The opening and closing arguments will be live as well as expert testimony and the final judgement. This is a first in South Africa. The judge said he wanted the people to see that money and fame will not affect the outcome of this trial. The witness testimony (including Pistorius, should he decide to testify) will have audio only. The players include the following:
The judge is a woman: Thokozile Matilda Masipa, a former crime reporter who made headlines in 1998 when she became the second black woman to be appointed to the high court. She has a history of firm judgments in crimes against women. There are no jury trials in South Africa so the judge will render the final decision.
Pistorius has a strong legal team: Barry Roux is the primary lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience. He was able to destroy the police case at the bail hearing so that the man in charge of the investigation, Hilton Botha, was removed from the case. Roux charges about $6,000 a day.
Kenny Oldwageis another of his lawyers. He is famous in South Africa for defending Sizwe Mankazana, a man who drove the car that killed Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-granddaughter. That man was aquitted.
The defense also has many expert witnesses, they even spoke to Henry Lee (according to Lee), famous for defending OJ Simpson. An expert team from the U.S. will reconstruct the crime scene. There is also a geologist on board.
The lead prosecutor is Gerrie Nel, a very serious lawyer who won a corruption conviction against a South African police chief- Jackie Selebi. Selebi was also head of Interpol.
The lead detective is Vinesh Moonoo, a father of two who is the top cop in South Africa.
There are over 100 people on the witness list. Included are Pistorius’ former girlfriend, friends who support him and friends who do not support him, people he has verbally abused and threatened physically and many more. I am looking forward to the Security Guard who called Pistorius right after the shooting to ask if everything was alright and Pistorius said: “Yes.”
For premeditated murder the sentence is life (25 years) in South Africa. If found not guilty on this charge he could still get culpable homicide and face 15 years.
According to azcentral.com the defense attorneys filed another motion for mistrial on Sunday. They say the witness Patty Womack withdrew from testifying due to death threats. Kirk Nurmi wrote in the motion ‘After returning home Ms. Womack began receiving threats, threats that included threats on her life if she were to testify on Ms. Arias’ behalf. On May 19th, 2013, Ms. Womack contacted counsel for Ms. Arias that she is no longer willing to testify due to these threats. It should also be noted that theses threats follow those made to Alyce LaViolette, a record of which was made ex-parte and under seal.’
The article goes on to say whether a defense attorney presents mitigation evidence becomes an issue on appeal.
Tomorrow at 10:30 we will begin the Penalty phase. First up will be statements from Travis’ loved ones. They will be able to express how his loss has affected their lives. After that we have the mitigators. There are two types:
1. Statutory mitigators:
The age of the Defendant;
The Defendant’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct or to conform the Defendant’s conduct to the requirements of law was significantly impaired, but not so impaired as a constitute a defense to prosecution;
The Defendant was under unusual or substantial duress, although not such as to constitute a defense to prosecution;
The degree of the Defendant’s participation in the crime was minor, although not so minor as to constitute a defense to prosecution; and
Any other factor that the Court deems appropriate to the ends of justice.
2. Non-statutory mitigators:
Love of family/concern for parents;
Lack of criminal history;
Prior military service;
Disparity between sentences (as in between co-defendants); and
Prior sexual and/or emotional abuse.
The defendant will be able to bring on witnesses (I heard Alyce LaViolette may make an appearance) and she may also stand and address the jury herself.
Finally the jurors will deliberate for the last time on the Death Penalty or a Life Sentence.
I understand they can impanel a new jury if they are not agreed.