Initial botched police investigations, media frenzy and an unparalleled level of international interest will make the murder trial of para-olympian Oscar Pistorius that opens today March 3 2014 in Gauteng Pretoria, South Africa’s own version of the OJ Simpson trial. Former professional black footballer OJ Simpson was famously acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Pistorius and his defense team will need to prove his theory advanced in pre-trial hearings that the four shots that killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on the early hours of Valentine’s Day (February 14 2013) was a tragic mistake. He claims he thought she was an intruder. The prosecution however alleges that the shooting was well planned and executed by the double amputee who ran his way into athletic history using prosthetic legs and is known around the world as the “blade runner”. The 27 year old Pistorius is charged with one count of murder and three charges in relation to firearms. If convicted, he could spend up to 25 years in prison. His athletics career o a scratching halt following he shooting. All his sponsors also deserted him.
Analyst believe judge Dunstan Mlambo effectively ruled the case will be a media circus after agreeing most of the trial will be televised, the first time this will happen in South African legal history. To allow some sort of balance and a fair trial, testimonies from Pistorius (if he decides to take the witness stand) witnesses for the defence and anyone who objects to being televised will not be on TV. The judge reserves the right to turn off any live feed of the trial that he thinks cannot be might compromise the case. Pistorius defense team protested against plans to televise the trial.
The glare of television cameras around the world will not be the only novelty of the trial that will run for the next couple of weeks and months. Social media has been buzzing with the upcoming trial with a special hash tag animated mostly by women supporting the suspect known as the Pistorians. Reeva’s family and friends have created another twitter account @justiceForReeva
However, hundreds of others sympathize with the family of the murdered model and reality TV star. “Really hope justice is done for Reeva, the least we can do is show our respect”, Theresa Lozier posted on twitter.
Irish online betting site Paddypower Sport has caused outrage by placing advertisements promoting bets on the outcome of the trial prompting complains to the advertisement watchdog in the UK. They are promising to pay punters if Pistorius is found not guilty.
“Singles Only. Applies to the verdict of Oscar Pistorius’ first trial for the charge of premeditated murder. Bets void should charge be changed from ‘premeditated murder’ before verdict. Bets void should mistrial be declared” the betting site announced on its website.
There are media reports the double amputee is now dating 19 year old Leah Skyye Malan, a Mozambican paramedic student. He reportedly met her last December and has met members of her family. She is the first known girlfriend Pistorius has had since February last year following he death of Reeva..
Reeva’s grieving father Barry Steenkamp is now reported to have suffered two strokes this year, the first in January in the run-up to the trial. The family lawyer Dup de Bruyan confirmed the news. He is not believed to be in any immediate danger and it is still not clear if he will attend the trial.
Her mother June Steenkamp will attend the trial that opens in Pretoria today. “I will be at the trial. For me, for us and for Reeva, but it will not bring back our beautiful baby. It never gets easier. In fact, it only gets worst”, she is quoted as saying to a South African newspaper.
The Pistorius trial has all the elements of a Hollywood drama and there are fears the “blade runner”” cannot receive a fair trial under these circumstances. The South African justice system will also be scrutinized during the court proceedings.