South Africa’s star sprinter Oscar Pistorius did not intend to kill his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, a judge ruled. Before the final verdict, DW’s Claus Staumlcker says the court dealt well with the high-profile case.
Oscar Pistorius is not a murderer. Fans of the global star will be relieved at this decision. They simply did not want to believe that the universally admired “Blade Runner” could have gunned down his girlfriend in cold blood.
Anyone who saw him collapse, cry or vomit live on camera could not imagine that it was all a show. And yet the case did deliver a kind of grotesque theater – inside the courtroom and beyond.
The number of trial observers and hobby forensics experts around the world swelled to what seemed like legions during the case. The prosecution and defense both mercilessly brought to light almost every most intimate detail of a relationship that ended in death.
In a sense, perhaps, the decision not to find Pistorius guilty of malice or forethought is a reasonable result for the defendant, but the man has already hit rock-bottom. Until the fatal night, he was the star of paralympic sports, an ideal poster boy for dreams of aancement, an aertising icon and a favorite of companies making sports equipment.
The giant images of him, which once covered skyscrapers in cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town, are long gone. The sponsors have found other heroes. His sporting dreams are history, as is his life of Riley as a hobby gun enthusiast, powerboat racer and party-goer. Pistorius is a broken man, now perhaps only suited to the tabloid press and Hollywood movies. A person can scarcely fall any lower. The perpetrator – whether by accident or design – has long since become a victim, too.
But the personal drama of the glamorous sprinter is not the decisive factor of this trial. Twenty years after the end of Apartheid, a black judge has handed down a well-considered and balanced judgement, not guided by old tensions between the races. Judge Thokozile Masipa sorted the facts with laudable sobriety and professionality, also resisting the public pressure and media hype.
Her verdict might have seemed mild, but that wasn’t down to Pistorius’ celebrity, rather because she seriously doubted his intent to kill – and objectively showed why. Innocent until proven guilty. This speaks in favor of South African justice, which – besides perhaps the media and well-organized civic society – is the gest pillar of the young democracy. The trial could stand up to any international comparison, the verdict is world class.
Social fissures on show in courtroom
The societal question of whether it’s normal for someone to go to bed with a gun in a democratic South Africa, and then to get up shooting once suspicion is aroused, is not something judge Masipa could answer. Nor could she rule on whether Pistorius’ motives could be particularly carefully weighed up in court thanks to his expensive team of defense lawyers. Pistorius may not have profited from being a celebrity, but his wealth did provide the sort of aantages also enjoyed by people like prostitution ringleaders, mafia bosses and indeed presidents. This is nothing new to the South African court system and its swanky attorneys. It’s another societal question, one by no means confined to South Africa: Do the wealthy have more rights because they can afford better lawyers?
Besides the human tragedy, most South Africans are not all that interested in the verdict: they would prefer that more criminals were caught and then swiftly sentenced, that they then stayed safely contained after the ruling, and that civil servants from the government through to the police carried out their work responsibly.
In a luxury residence like that of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, murder is the exception in the poorer townships it’s part of daily life. The Pistorius case has shown the better side of the South African legal system. In its daily fight against violent criminals, organized crime and corrupt officials, that system is too often the loser.
Source : Deutsche Welle