Oscar Pistorius is set to run his toughest race yet when his trial commences on Monday March 3 in the Pretoria High Court. He will run the race of survival, the race that will determine if he is a winner or a loser. This race will eventually decide on his future.
Oscar once a gold medal winner at the Paralympics, the golden boy of the track and the hero of the world, fallen from the stage, eagerly wants to regain his credibility. The trial will be a race that only Oscar Pistorius can run, he knows the truth and hopes that the truth will set him free.
A year has passed since the terrible killing of Reeva Steenkamp. February 14, 2013, Pistorius states that he thought an intruder was inside his home; he grabbed his gun, went to the bathroom and fired four shots through the door. He then broke down the door and was horrified to realize he had shot is model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, according to his account.
What exactly happened that night is pure speculation in the media. Only Oscar knows the truth. The defense will argue that he was walking on his stumps and fired from a low down position. The prosecutors will argue that he was wearing his stumps when he fired the shots after an argument ensued between the couple. They will suggest that Reeva ran to the bathroom, fearing for her life, locked herself in the toilet and that Pistorius deliberately shot her through the door.
Last year, the legal team for Oscar Pistorius applied to the courts for bail. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutors claimed at the time that he fired the shots that killed his model girlfriend, and that he was wearing his prosthesis at the time. According to them, this would have shown that Pistorius was acting in a calculated manner. His legal team argued that Pistorius was not wearing his prosthesis at the time of the shooting, and thereafter the Court granted Pistorius bail. Recently, it has surfaced that the NPA forensic witnesses, who were not introduced in court, believe that Pistorius’s version is correct, and that he did not wear his prosthesis at the time of the shooting. The state’s own witnesses had allegedly come to the same conclusion, suggesting that the prosecutor had to have been aware of this. The confusion and dilemma regarding this has raised the question of integrity from the state in many minds.
After he was granted bail in the North High Gauteng Court, photos of the bloody murder scene emerged in the media. Investigating Officer, Hilton Botha, was one of the first officers on the scene after the fatal shooting. Although removed from the investigating team, he commented on the photos and said that it was likely that the photos were taken a few days after the bloody incident. He also admitted to giving instructions for the door to be removed and sent away for analysis a full day after the shooting incident. He went on to say that the door was a critical part of the prosecuting team’s evidence. Botha also admitted that the photos were taken from a mobile phone. These admissions may serve to hinder the use of some of the evidence the prosecuting team would need to win the case. Botha admitted that the police manipulated evidence before presenting it to the defense and court. He also admitted that the pictures of the door were not the same as the State’s team intended to present to his knowledge. Some have taken this to show that there was tampering of evidence.
Oscar starts to run his toughest race on Monday, and his defense team will have to prove he did not intentionally kill Reeva Steenkamp, while the State’s prosecuting team will have to prove, credibly, that he killed his girlfriend in a cold and calculating manner. The leak of the photos and the incriminating statement by Botha, may well give Pistorius the edge he needs to win his tough race.
Pistorius, the blade runner who showed so much potential on the track will start his race with confidence. He has a new girlfriend, Leah Skye, a nineteen-year-old paramedic student at the University of Johannesburg. Oscar is a man with self-assurance, and high hopes for his future and the possibility of a technicality setting him free.
Law experts believe the State will have a hard time proving that Oscar intended to kill Reeva. Only Oscar knows the truth, and the state will not easily find planned or pre-mediated murder. It is anticipated the State will try to establish forensic evidence of a plan beforehand, but it may prove difficult to prove pre-meditated murder with just circumstantial evidence and no witnesses to the actual shooting.
One significant question which is being repeated in relation to this case is whether or not there was a competent investigating team assigned to the case, and if forensic evidence may have been destroyed. If the defense is able to argue contamination of the murder scene due to the clumsiness of the people initially involved with the investigation, the impact of the initial forensics may be called into question. Proving a pre-mediated murder on circumstantial evidence may be difficult, but it is not impossible. It might yet be the downfall of the fallen hero, Pistorius.
Huge crowds are expected to descend at the Pretoria High Court on Monday for the first day of the trial. The trial is expected to take up to three weeks, but the Judge President Dunstan Mlambo has indicated that the trial will continue until it is concluded.
Justice and court officials have been rushing in and out of the courts to ensure the set up work was completed. Foreign media familiarized themselves with the buildings, as they intend to stay close to the action over the next few weeks. Many advocates, judges and staff have admitted to hoping to get a glimpse of Oscar during the next week. Broadcast vans have begun to line the streets outside the court building, and the hype around the streets is frenzied, akin to a Hollywood event like the Academy Awards.
This is, in the end, an ordinary murder trial. Despite that, the anxiety of officials involved remains high. The difference is that this is a world-famous figure, Oscar Pistorius: darling of the track, who now runs his race for survival, and he will do it as has been his custom; with the whole world watching.
By Laura Oneale