What exactly happened on the night of when Oscar Pistorius' finance
was found dead in her bathroom and Mr. Pistorius was found with a loaded
pistol in his possession. The South African prosecutor claims that as
a result of a domestic dispute, Mr. Pistorius shot her with the intention
to kill. Mr. Pistorius denies these allegations and claims that he thought
an intruder had entered his home so he shot him though the bathroom door.
He claims that he believed his fiancé – the deceased –
was still in her bed when he fired the shots.
So now what? Here are two completely different accounts of what occurred.
One account makes him guilty of murder – the other completely innocent.
But indeed someone is dead as a result of a gunshot, so the South African
prosecutor's office investigated and felt a crime was committed.
But the critical question now is how can we get to the bottom of it? The
bathroom door was closed. No one else was present. There were no witnesses.
No confessions. The only other person present at the scene is dead. So,
what can be done? A criminal trial, that's what.
On a purely academic level, the Oscar Pistorius trial is a perfect example
of why we need the strong and fair justice system that will allow society
to search for the truth of what happened that night. It is phenomenal
how we take it for granted, but it is truly amazing how the justice system
and criminal process – which culminates with a criminal trial -
is the only logical and effective way of getting as close to the truth
Indeed, I know, this is South Africa, not the American justice system. But the
South African system of justice is very similar to ours. Most importantly the idea that the defendant is
presumed innocent and the burden of proof is on the government to prove
the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, when one steps back,
it is truly awesome to think how the justice system and rules of evidence
will accomplish the mission of determining the facts of the night in question.
We all know how the trial will generally go. We have seen it enough on
TV and in the movies. I read that the trial expects to see in excess of
200 witnesses with several exhibits as well. Experts, lay witnesses, police
officers, medical witnesses, character witness are all on deck.
The jury will have the job to sift through it all in order to determine
the credibility of each of the witnesses.; to compare their prior statements
to the ones at trial; to size them up and observe their demeanor on the
witness stand; to evaluate the logic of content of their testimony; to
evaluate the interest and biases of each witness; and to use their own
powers of common sense in their every-day affairs.
A tall order to say the least. Let's not forget that a woman is dead,
and an accused man's life is hanging the balance. But there is simply
no better way to get to the bottom of what happened on that night. And
one day this trial will end. And when it does, the jury will get all of
the evidence, all of the testimony and, of course, all of the law as explained
by the judge, in order to make that final determination of whether the
government has proven all of the elements of each crime charged against
Mr. Pistorius beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is easy to take for granted how remarkable the criminal process is.
It takes cases like these to show how there is no fairer and more effective way.