Professor Jonathan Burchell, an eminent professor of criminal law at the University of Cape Town, has praised Justice Masipa’s decision to acquit Oscar Pistorius of murder and convict him of culpable homicide. He suggests that it is inappropriate to blame the judge who applied the law correctly to the facts and reached a justifiable and balanced result. Justice Masipa rightly ‘held that a reasonable person (with physical disabilities) would have foreseen the death of Steenkamp behind the toilet door (even though Pistorius himself did not foresee this possibility) and a reasonable person in Pistorius’s position would have taken steps to guard against this possibility (by calling security or communicating with Steenkamp, for instance)’. Such steps were not taken so he negligently killed Steenkamp and was rightly convicted of culpable homicide.
Read the full opinion, Masipa’s decision to acquit Oscar of murder justified first published in BDLive on 17 September 2014.
For a three-member bench comprising two women (one white and one black) and two blacks (one female and one male) to find a white Afrikaner man accused of murdering a woman guilty of the extremely serious offence of culpable homicide instead of premeditated murder, should be celebrated as the triumph of SA’s judicial independence and lack of race and gender bias over mass hysteria. As should other unpopular judgments, such as those on Winnie Mandela, accused of murdering Stompie Seipei, and Wouter Basson, accused of and waging drug and chemical warfare against blacks.
Leon Louw’s latest opinion piece Ignorance fuels feeding frenzy over Pistorius first appeared in BDLive on 17 September 2014 and his earlier column was referred to in the recent post No Oscar awarded for ‘slow’ thinking