Oscar Pistorius trial: No jury for athlete, just a single judge and 24-hour news

South African justice system will face trial by media

Pretoria

The media circus outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is fully formed. Satellite trucks, gazebos under which many of the world’s leading broadcast organisations have established temporary studios, and an entire set, on which construction was only finished yesterday, for the 24-hour channel that will start rolling today in South Africa, dedicated exclusively to the trial of Oscar Pistorius.

Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, who has become the family’s spokesman, said in a statement yesterday that the family would not be commenting on any more stories in the media. “The focus is now entirely on a very serious trial that is set to start this Monday,” he said. “We love Oscar, and believe in him, and will be standing by him throughout the coming trial.”

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has called Pistorius a man “willing and ready to fire and kill” as the state charged him with the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius gives a totally different story, saying he was terrified in the mistaken belief that there was a dangerous intruder in his home. “I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself,” Pistorius said in an 11-page affidavit, his only testimony so far.

The attention that the case has attracted has drawn the criticism that Pistorius is facing “trial by media”. He is, in fact, facing trial by Judge Thokozile Masipa. But it is not overly sensationalist to say that it is the South African justice system that will face trial by media.

Judge Masipa, only the second black woman to sit on the Transvaal High Court when she was called in 1998, understands this better than anyone. Under apartheid she worked as a crime reporter and did not pass her bar exams until the age of 43. She has a strong history of tough sentences for crimes against women. On handing down life sentences to two rapists she argued that the crime was on the rise to such an extent that it was undermining the fabric of society.

Judge Masipa will be assisted by two “assessors”, legal experts who can come from varying backgrounds, often solicitors. There will be no jurors. Trial by jury was abolished in South Africa under apartheid in 1969.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine