Oscar trial won’t be dysfunction of justice

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iol news pic Oscar trial day 6 1

REUTERS

Pistorius listens to a witness testifying at the North Gauteng High Court. Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

So far we’ve scrubbed up okay on the trial in terms of global perceptions, says Mike Wills.

Cape Town - Much to my mystification, the Oscar Pistorius trial remains a global phenomenon.

Friends out from England to ride the Cycle Tour were full of theories and legal nuances that had completely passed me by.

“Sod the Ukraine, all we care about is Oscar,” said one of them – and the presence of Sky News’ lugubrious star anchor Jeremy Thompson outside the Pretoria court house indicated that this was the story of the moment rather than the disturbing complexities of the Crimea.

Most English news websites are running a “Live: As It Happens” blog on the trial and even the über-serious New York Times had a curious piece linking the Nelson Mandela memorial service in London with Pistorius.

I couldn’t spot a valid connection but I suspect the writer, respected former Joburg correspondent Alan Cowell, thought no one would read his column unless he somehow mentioned Pistorius. Mandela is clearly passé now.

So far we’ve scrubbed up okay on the trial in terms of global perceptions because the proceedings have carried all the theatre of the classic court construct – panelled walls, robed figures, solemn tones and overpaid lawyers intimidating witnesses with pedantic relentlessness.

The case is moving at glacial speed (to coin an oxymoron) but that applies to trials everywhere – judges and lawyers are alarmingly quick to take tea in mid-morning or to adjourn for the day at 3pm.

While we often bemoan the grindingly slow wheels of our justice system, and the never-ending processes, clearly the Brits are no better off as the Dewani case demonstrates.

Anni Dewani was murdered in Gugulethu in November 2010 and three people had been convicted here by November 2012.

Shrien Dewani’s extradition order from the UK was approved in September 2011 and yet he is still wringing every desperate drop of appeals juice out of the British and European legal systems.

If and when Dewani finally arrives, I have no doubt that Jeremy Thompson and the rest of the London media circus will be here to pontificate, this time in front of the Western Cape High Court.

Maybe a smart tour operator will put together a special Crime Scene package for eager foreign visitors to visit the key sites of both the Dewani and Pistorius cases – such macabre things still exist in Los Angeles for the OJ Simpson obsessives almost 20 years since his controversial acquittal.

Whatever happens with Pistorius, at least we know we will not match that eight-month display of dysfunctional justice.

Pistorius admits the shooting and the only questions are motive and pre-meditation, but in Simpson’s case a guilty man got away scot-free thanks to the amoral legal work of the likes of the late Johnnie Cochran, aided and abetted by a clumsy policing and prosecution team.

The Simpson and Pistorius cases were linked this week by the rantings of famous American lawyer and loudmouth Alan Dershowitz, who was part of OJ’s “Dream Team” and who described South Africa as a “failed and lawless country” during a CNN interview with Piers Morgan in which he also said the Pistorius case involved white fear and was “racial and factual and not about the law”.

But the latter could also be said for two recent Florida cases in which the prosecution failed to nail down first-degree murder verdicts in the seemingly clear cut and racially-charged killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.

The record suggests that getting a high-profile criminal conviction in the glare of the TV spotlights and in the face of a high-powered defence team, expert in sowing some “reasonable doubt”, is a very tough task anywhere in the world.

*Mike Wills’ column Open Mike appears in the Cape Agus every Wednesday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus


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