© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated
If Oscar Pistorius is guilty of discharging a high-powered firearm into a closet-sized room four times and was also found guilty during that night of ending the life of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was justice served when Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced him to a maximum of five years to be served in a hospital wing? There is also the likelihood he will spend as little as eight months in there. Set against this horrifically violent crime we know he committed, is this really appropriate justice?
Do the semantics of law serve justice? In matters that may have influenced the fate accompli decision by Judge Masipa that have nothing to do with whether or not he pulled the trigger four times, with the intent to hit whoever was standing or sitting on the other side of that door, was she influenced by her own empathy for Pistorius and his lifestyle as a very high-profile athlete? Again, there is no doubt he pulled the trigger four times and there is no doubt that he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. So why is there doubt that he should serve a term representative of the crime that he committed? What influenced Masipa on convicting Pistorius of the lesser crime of Culpable Homicide and later sentencing him to a holiday?
Perhaps because of the semantics of law she had wiggle-room opportunities in dealing with the mess and justifying her decision with it. For example, like any other conviction Culpable Homicide has a specific framework with which to work and to sentence the defendant that allows for shorter terms than First Degree Murder. And while sentencing, to consider mitigating factors from a new, lesser-crime perspective, as well as considering what will happen to the defendant with said sentence; the defendant can become a sort of victim, if you will. Further to that very point, he has a history.
Pistorius, as it was reported by the Daily Mirror and other media in February 19, 2013, was found to be in possession of large quantities of performance enhancing drugs. The Mirror wrote:
“Boxes and boxes” of steroids were said to have been discovered in a drawer by cops investigating the gun death of Reeva Steenkamp. A stash of drugs found at the home of murder suspect Oscar Pistorius was being stored there for a friend, the athlete allegedly told police.
“Boxes and boxes” of steroids were said to have been discovered in a drawer by detectives investigating the gun death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The haul of unopened packages included “every form possible” such as capsules, ampoules and syringes, it is claimed.
It has yet to be proved that he was taking the PEDs, but “storing for a friend” is straight out of middle school when a teenage boy is caught with a condom or worse a cigarette in his knapsack; but a pathetic excuse for a grown man. If Pistorius was taking steroids that could cause ‘roid rage, was there empathy by Judge Masipa assuming that he may have been under the influence of ‘roid rage, coupled with the immense pressures to perform as well as potential paranoid jealousy? It is unlikely anyone will ever know; that moral dilemma, if it exists, lies within Masipa’s heart and mind.
Pistorius’s ruse was centred on his fear that someone had broken into the home and was hiding in the washroom. Parts of South Africa are known for having a high crime rate to do with home invasions. The shots were fired from a low position, meaning Pistorius did not have his prosthetics on at the time. It is unknown how fast he could move without prosthetics, in the middle of the night, while in bed. At some point a question remains regarding how he managed to not check the bed to see if Steenkamp was sleeping beside him. How could he make an error of that magnitude? If he was that distracted, how did he manage to get to his gun, hustle to the door of the washroom and in that time, not wonder why Steenkamp did not wake up – and for her safety, why didn’t he attempt to wake her? Were steroids or perhaps a potent cocktail of various drugs and perhaps alcohol causing raging paranoia? Or was it simply a case of jealousy fuelled by the former?
Pistorius apparently called an ex-girlfriend from his cell phone the night he shot and killed Steenkamp. Apparently neighbours heard a scream or screaming before the shots were fired. As long as the process that justice took to unravel this matter, was the discussion about jealous rage not the proverbial elephant in the courtroom? According the mass media interest it appears the focus was centred more-so on Pistorius protecting his girlfriend and himself from an intruder. The conviction of Culpable Homicide sort of removes the nasty, premeditated-jealous-boyfriend-scenario and centres on his carelessness; however, he did have to answer questions about his jealousy that he demonstrated one week before the murder in a situation where Steenkamp was talking to another male at a party they were attending.
Pistorius has a history. He has been charged with “accidentally” firing a gun in a restaurant. He has had his run-ins with the law and of course there is the revelation of the volumes of performance enhancing drugs that were stored in his house. Are all of these factors mitigating in terms of the potential empathy that may have influenced Masipa and the conviction that she handed down? A conviction, which gave her license to sentence Pistorius to a shorter-than-appropriate term? Were the pressures to perform on the track too much in Masipa’s eyes?
“I was dealing with a lot of things: from the media side, from my training staff and finances. I was purchasing a new home and there were a lot of external factors.”
He also said, “I felt a bit upset. I was being sensitive, insecure and jealous.” Both of these he stated in court, the latter regarding an argument the two had because Steenkamp didn’t introduce him to a friend, while at the aforementioned party.
The evidence is piling up on Judge Masipa.
Oddly, the IAAF sanctioned Pistorius from competing in his sport, the 400m sprint, until 2019 when he will be 33-years-of-age and one-year away from the 2020 Olympic Games. That’s a head-scratcher. He should never be able to compete again.
If Pistorius serves just eight months and begins training shortly after, not only will justice not be served, but Masipa will have insulted the Steenkamp family and will demonstrate to the people of South Africa that murder, whether it be careless or premeditated is somewhat acceptable, all because she felt a pang of empathy for a man who suffered from his fame.
“Having regard to the circumstances in the matter, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”
Her arrogant final statement upon sentencing, “What may appear to be justice to the general public may not be justice. Society cannot always get what they want.”
You got that right, Ms. Masipa.