As Roux and Nel presented their closing arguments on sentencing, it was often hard to believe that they were involved with the same trial.
He couldn’t avoid the obligatory nod to the suffering of the Steenkamps, but Roux made it entirely clear that the only victim the court should be concerned with, was poor old Oscar. He reminded us that nothing could bring back Reeva, so let’s rather restore Oscar to his full glory.
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His arguments were highly repetitive, circular, and petulant, with the surliness of a loser – and peculiarly contradictory. For instance, the day before, he kept pushing the head of the prison service to guarantee that Oscar should be placed in the hospital section, but now he argued that this would be a terrible place for Oscar, who in some mysterious way might not get out of it.
Again, there were prissy and snobbish comments, about how Roux didn’t know “the condition” of other prisoners, implying that they are unwholesome and horribly infested with all kinds of things. He repeated the claim that there was only one doctor in the whole prison. The truth is that there is only one full-time doctor, but with others working on a sessional basis.
He complained bitterly that due to the televising of the trial, Oscar had been forced to expose his emotions and “feelings” to the world, yet he kept arguing that much more notice should be taken of exactly those feelings. Oscar is on trial for his actions, not his feelings.
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He reminded us that Oscar had been all set to earn many millions, before the shooting, and now he’s broke. Several times he mentioned that this even affected his ability to pay his legal fees (horror upon horror). He didn’t mention whether the defence team were sympathetic enough to offer Oscar a discount.
Like Oscar, he prefers to blame others for anything that goes wrong. He held that the charge of premeditated murder had in itself damaged Oscar, and kept repeating the phrase ”cold-blooded murderer”, which seemed unhelpful. And Oscar’s now “a compromised person”.
Blame the media!
But he blamed especially the media. Maybe it was Oscar who was on trial, but it was clear to Roux that it is the media, who are guilty. So long as the media were saying nice things about Oscar, they were splendid folks. Had the media previously not been so interested in him and indeed kind and forgiving towards him, he wouldn’t have become the profitable celebrity he was.
Stories are now starting to leak out about times when he was far from the iconic angel Roux has been describing, but which the beastly media chose not to report at the time. Now, anything short of adulation is apparently regarded as downright traitorous.
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He devoted much time to whining about the terrible fact that the media had not been universally kind to Oscar, and especially the social media. He seems not to realise that the social media are simply a part of the inevitable and universal social gossip circuit, whether it takes place in the office coffee room, in corridors and malls, or on smart phones.
Gossip always has and always will take place – modern technology just means that aspects of such tittle-tattle are more easily quantified by people who find this kind of thing unaccountably fascinating. And at least it enables him to find out what people are saying about him and his client. They’ll be saying it anyway. His criticisms were vicious but vague. He shrilly proclaimed that never in the history of law has he seen such unfair attacks on the accused – a grotesque exaggeration.
He complained that much of the media commentary had not been consistent with the judge’s findings. Huh? Most comments were made before the court announced any findings anyway. And where does it say we’re all bound to agree with the court’s findings?
He was adamant that Oscar has earned a large discount on whatever sentence he may otherwise deserve, due to the pain he felt on reading some unpleasant and inaccurate comments, not that he had any need to do so, especially as he has his own media team and lawyers to scan them and respond if necessary.
He must remember that people are allowed to say what they want to say on social media.
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Of course, online, there are nuts aplenty, eager to comment on all and sundry, and Oscar is far from the only one who attracts poisonous trolls. His avid and sometimes rabid supporters, the Pistorians, who viciously attack anyone who dares to breathe a word against their hero, have, however, been interestingly silent of late.
Hats off to the media
Actually, the mainstream media have behaved admirably throughout the trial, working hard to achieve accuracy while providing lively and informative comment.
Fortunately, Judge Masipa, in a brilliant and necessary comment, assured Nel that she would disregard everything Roux had said about the media.
There was something condescending and manipulative about Roux’s many references to “ubuntu” (not hitherto a major principle in Oscar’s life), as though he felt this would guarantee a black judge’s sympathy. He also repeated the term “restorative” justice ad nauseam, though never specifying what it would restore or to whom.
Destroying Oscar's legacy
Nel was unexpectedly tender, gentle and moving. His comments were clear, relevant, sincere and helpful. Valuably, he reminded the court and all of us both of Reeva herself, and of her family and friends, all of them damaged victims of Oscar’s behaviour. He reminded us of how the death would certainly have been prevented had Oscar taken any of a number of very simple precautions.
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Elegantly, he made some very relevant points. After all the fuss about how prison showers don’t have safety rails, he pointed out that Oscar’s own private shower at home didn’t have any rails either. Roux later pointed out that Oscar instead used a small wooden stool to sit on – which can easily be provided in any prison.
By painting Oscar as a hapless victim, Roux has managed to destroy what should have been his greatest legacy. For so long Pistorius represented how, with strength and determination, one can triumph over disability. In fact, he demanded to be treated the same as ordinary athletes and people. He stood for treating the disabled differently only when it was absolutely necessary.
However, from the start of this case, we’ve been peppered with demands for very special treatment for Oscar, entirely based on his exaggerated disability – and Roux has insistently depicted him as seriously damaged in mind and spirit by his disability almost since birth
Large civil claims?
I’m not clued up on matters of finance, but friends have raised interesting questions.
Roux testified about the payments made and/or offered to the Steenkamps. He tried to present these as acts of innocent grace and generosity by Oscar, though they were probably engendered by his advisors in an attempt to influence the sentencing. As Nel pointed out, the main payment (which was refused) was offered after the verdict and before sentencing, and was carefully leaked to the court at just the right time.
And is it possible that some of the manoeuvres in court may have been pure financial strategy? The constant claims that Oscar is totally broke may be in anticipation of a large civil claim against him, in order to divest himself of assets that could be claimed in such suits? I understand that these tactics are indeed often used.
Who’s on trial, Oscar or SA's prisons?
Is Oscar really a ‘broken man’?
Oscar has never shown any real remorse
Image: Gossip from Shutterstock
Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.