While many Americans were settling into bed after a night of viewing the Academy Awards, elsewhere in the world people were preparing for an altogether different Oscar-related spectacle.
The much talked about trial for South African athlete and celebrity Oscar Pistorius got underway on Monday. The 27-year-old is on trial for the fatal Valentine’s Day shooting of then girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.
The athlete admits to shooting 29-year-old Steenkamp through the door of his bathroom, but says it was an accident. His version of events up until now has been that he mistook her for a nighttime intruder and fired out of fear for his life. As far as Pistorius knew, Steenkamp was in bed sleeping.
With self-defense and accidental homicide as the story, Pistorius’s plea of not guilty isn’t surprising.
Also not surprising is the countering version of events offered by the prosecution: Pistorius is not a falsely convicted hero; he is a cold calculating killer.
Prosecutors have claimed that not only will they be using the victim’s clothes to prove Pistorius’s guilt, but that there are witnesses who heard Steenkamp’s terrified screams before and after the shooting began.
These persons are said to be neighbors, security workers, etc. who were in the surrounding area of the home. Because of their alleged proximity, it is claimed that the prosecution will show through these witnesses a corroborating narrative that shatters Pistorius’s defense.
While there have been repeated parallels observed between this and the O.J. Simpson trial of the 1990s, the Oscar Pistorius case is a different beast altogether. For one thing, we know Pistorius killed Steenkamp: He has admitted from his own mouth that he’s responsible for her death.
Now the task at hand is proving her death was due to premeditated murder. This is not as easy to do as one would initially assume. Despite the prosecution’s claim of witnesses, no one was present aside from Pistorius and Steenkamp to declare what happened.
It is going to take strong witness testimony from multiple, believable parties that emphatically counter what Pistorius claims happened over a year ago. In addition, evidence gathered from the scene of the crime will have to show that Pistorius was not firing from inside the bathroom as he said. The prosecution must successfully demonstrate that Pistorius was the aggressor firing into the bathroom at his helpless girlfriend.
Pistorius has presented a plausible version of events, and with no eyewitnesses to the crime there is room for doubt as to his guilt. Just enough doubt to make for a controversial acquittal. To avoid this outcome, the prosecution must make sure its case is as strong as it has led members of the public to believe.
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