There was a history of bail in the South African legal system dating back to the 17th century and a reference to the impact of the Boer War.
There was a detailed rehearsal of the arguments of defence and prosecution that seemed not to want to end. There was even an abrupt bathroom break at a moment of excruciating tension that provoked groans from the hardy patrons of Court C. The red-robed magistrate, Desmond Nair, was acutely aware of his global audience as he delivered his ruling in Oscar Pistorius’s bail hearing. He took his 15 minutes of fame and stretched them out to 105.
When the moment finally came it found the fallen hero, whose sobbing has been testimony to his stamina as well as his inner turmoil, becalmed. His grey-suited shoulders shook, his head dropped and he said nothing. His family, who have sat within touching distance of him during proceedings, showed relief rather than joy. It was left to the hulking frame of Fubes Danor, a family friend acting as bodyguard to the Pistorius clan, to shout, “Yes”.
The mixture of raw emotion, slow-paced procedural law and extraordinary tension that marked the rest of the week was given its fullest expression in the closing hours. Defence counsel Barry Roux, the top-dollar attorney who was the star turn of the bail hearings, captured the feelings of people all over the world when he said: “I’m just glad it’s over.”
From the reporters whose voluminous Tweets have fed the global appetite for forensic detail to the haunted court clerks who fought losing battles to bring order to the court, no one had experienced anything quite like it. Each day had begun with a battle to make it beyond the scrum of bystanders and cameras, under the striped tape, past the exhausted security men and through the heavy wooden doors of Court C.
In the gallery, among the Pistorius women in the best of their wardrobes were the green-swathed ladies of ANC women’s league, and the gangster chic of Kenny Kunene, Johannesburg’s “Mr Sushi”, an ex-convict turned impresario. In the claustrophobic heat, the effect was something between a television reality show and a Bikram yoga studio.
Mr Nair, by turns teased and indulged the media desperate for fresh pictures of the accused. No images were allowed while the magistrate was in court but at dramatic moments in proceedings when the Paralympian wept openly the canny magistrate would up and leave the court before Mr Pistorius, thereby exposing him to a barrage of flash photography. It was a stationary equivalent of what is known in the United States as the “perp walk”.
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