Oscar judge could reveal which way she is leaning - experts

Johannesburg – As the trial of murder accused Oscar Pistorius wraps-up, legal experts say that high court Judge Thokozile Masipa could reveal her insights into her thinking about the case during the final arguments.

Prosecutors and lawyers for Pistorius have one last chance to convince Masipa when they present closing arguments this week in the murder trial of the once-celebrated athlete who fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

On Thursday and Friday, both sides will summarise their versions of the shooting to Masipa, the red-robed judge, who will determine the fate of the Paralympian.

Masipa has sat impassively through most proceedings since the trial began four months ago in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, but legal experts say she may now, in this final stage, reveal insights into her thinking about the sensational case.

"The judge will show where her allegiance (sic) lies once she starts asking questions," said Marius du Toit, a former prosecutor and now defence lawyer who is not involved in the trial. "The party that gets hammered by the judge when arguing is the party that's got the short end of the stick when it comes to the ruling."

Masipa can interrogate prosecutor Gerrie Nel and chief defence lawyer Barry Roux on their explanations for the killing and evidence in the court record, which amounts to thousands of pages. The prosecution says Pistorius, 27, intentionally shot 29-year-old Steenkamp multiple times before dawn on 14 February 2013 in a fit of anger after a fight.

The defence counters that he fired by mistake, fearing for his life after thinking an intruder was in the toilet cubicle and Steenkamp was in the bedroom.

Masipa has maintained an air of neutrality while overlooking the courtroom from her chair on a dais through weeks of testimony by dozens of witnesses.

"Now the judge's true colours will in fact be shown," said John Welch, a former high-ranking lawyer with national prosecutors' office. "Many judges like to ask questions... things that have bugged them or bothered them during the trial."

Deciding Oscar’s fate

Masipa will decide with the help of two legal assistants if Pistorius committed murder, is guilty of a negligent killing, or if he made a tragic error and should be acquitted.

The runner faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder, and also would be sent to prison for years if guilty of murder without premeditation or culpable homicide.

He faces three separate firearm charges, and pleaded not guilty to all four counts.

The prosecution has accused Pistorius of being a hot-headed egotist who carried a gun everywhere he went, and alleges he twice shot a firearm in public before the Valentine's Day killing. Pistorius's defence has portrayed him as mentally fragile, a disabled man who lived in fear of crime and who was terrified when he stood on just his stumps in the dark and fired four shots into the toilet cubicle door.

Before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius was praised worldwide as a symbol of the triumph of determination over adversity, and he made history by running on his carbon-fibre running blades at the Olympics in 2012.

Trial witnesses included Pistorius's neighbours, friends, an ex-girlfriend, his agent and his physician, as well as a long list of forensic and ballistic specialists.

Reaction in court

At times, Pistorius vomited, wailed and sobbed in the courtroom, and a psychiatrist testified he was suffering from an anxiety disorder when he shot Steenkamp. The trial was postponed for a month while Pistorius was examined at a state mental facility.

Masipa will adjourn the trial after arguments to consider her judgment, a delay that could be a week or over a month, according to various analysts.

They say the burden is on the prosecution to leave no reasonable doubt in Masipa's mind that Pistorius was intent on killing when he opened fire.

Nel and Roux will have to summarise weeks of sometimes complex testimony into a convincing final explanation lasting just a few hours, according to former prosecutor Welch.

He said: "A true lawyer is measured during the arguments because this is now when we get to the nitty-gritty of the matter."

Finya Ngendololwane 2014/08/06 09:19:04 PM
I think it will help if young men could be asked to produce a marriage certificate before they could make a purchase a double bed. This will help cut down fornication and killings related to them. If there was such a law maybe the young lady could not have been in bed with the accused
Fluffy 2014/08/06 09:35:58 PM
According to the law that the judge must follow ,is it not entirely up to her to dermain Oscars fait - but the two counsils next to her aswell. She , the judge, can be vote out 2 to 1. So, it does not matter what way she swings, there is no indication as to where it will lead.
Colbern Mashego 2014/08/06 09:46:45 PM
If the goverment can create expiring dates for marriages maybe on yearly basis we can see less of this domestic violence knowing that if you encounter a problem with your spouse after signing you will have just to hold on for an expiring date then you don't have to renew it, simple! unlike stressing that you gonna stay with her/him for the rest of your life
Jimmy Mashabela 2014/08/06 09:47:03 PM
We know that he'll be sentenced may be up to 15 years in jail and after some few months he'll start vomitting in jail and get a medical parole...yes, it works, ask Schabir and Selebi. That's how it goes in Mzansi, but not for everyone hey.
Richmond Ndo 2014/08/06 09:51:01 PM
both sides will summarise their versions of the shooting to "Masipa". That sounds intentional bloody reporters!
On The Edge 2014/08/06 09:51:21 PM
I've heard it all now... Finya, my wife and I slept together on a single bed when we met, when we were young! We also made out where ever we could and most of the time it was not on a bed for that matter... Me thinks you are barking mad yet full of sincerity... still bonkers though... lol
Paul McIver 2014/08/06 09:58:39 PM
"....WHAT way she is leaning"??? WHAT creative use of the English language!
Marinella Fogli 2014/08/06 10:07:47 PM
In fact you're a man Finya Ngendololwane. keep up you pants more often and uncrossed her legs, that crushes your brain!
BatongaBoro 2014/08/06 10:28:59 PM
she "could" also turn up and whistle the national anthem out of her backside. what a rubbish story about nothing, especially using tacky and incorrect words like "allegiance" - here allegiance is not to the defence or prosecution, but to justice. i think these "experts" are "former" law employees with very good reason, but hey ho, if they are making some coins of the Oscar experience, good luck to them.
Emile Myburgh 2014/08/06 11:23:39 PM
Ah yes, married men never kill their wives.