Judge Thokozile Masipa: Damned by duty

Matthew Hoy

Matthew Hoy is currently studying to become a Chartered Accountant. Despite the popular belief that accountants lack creativity, he has a creative side and is passionate about writing and inspiring people. He has a love-affair with music and weird novels. @Matthew_Hoy

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Last week social media was ablaze with mixed reactions to the ruling by Judge Thokozile Masipa on the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa. In the famous words of Barry Roux, ‘I put it to you’ that Judge Thokozile Masipa was going to be damned either way. In a sense, she was damned by duty.

You see had she ruled in favour of the prosecution, her position and title would have been jeopardised. Any high profile court case is reviewed to ensure the correct legal procedures have been followed. The Pistorius legal team would have most definitely appealed her decision and this would have instigated further legal battles.

In her ruling she stated that she had come to her findings due to the prosecution’s failure to provide the necessary proof for a guilty verdict. As the code of her profession demands, she could not declare Pistorius guilty because she had a ‘feeling’ he had done it – like all judges, she required proof. Proof, I might add, beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution was not able to prove this, and within the South African legal system the onus rests on the prosecution to prove the allegation.

Had she instead declared Pistorius guilty, people would have been up in arms naming the entire case a sham. Her integrity as a judge would have been called into question and the Pistorius fan-club we have seen throughout the trial would have tearfully told journalists outside the courthouse how disgusting this was.

Judge Masipa did not declare him guilty of murder but of a lesser crime of manslaughter, and suprise suprise she’s being criticised from left, right and centre. The legal fraternity here in South Africa are gladly talking to every journalist they can pin down to give their 5 cents’ worth as to why her ruling was in fact flawed.

These ‘experts’, who claim to be amazingly versed in law, neither consulted on nor were asked to advise on South Africa’s most high profile court case in years. Forgive me, but surely the National Prosecutor and the Pistorius legal team would have insisted on a ‘better’ judge if they truly questioned Judge Thokozile Masipa’s ability to rule in such a case?

Another issue I would like to just bring to your attention is, if you remember the trial (perhaps you have a few of your favourite bits recorded) it was not merely Judge Thokozile Masipa ruling. She had two associate judges who were there to follow the proceedings to help ensure no facts were left out or forgotten.

Isn’t it amazing how suddenly the ruling of guilty on the count of Manslaughter is deemed a ‘disgrace’, yet in South Africa on average there are 45 murders per day. Explain to me why we don’t have dedicated channels publicly shaming the perpetrators of these crimes?

Whilst a normal court case is done behind closed doors and the judge’s ruling is respected (I don’t see people tweeting about how much they disagree with the 45 murders per day) Judge Masipa had her place of work almost violated by the cameras. I am sure we all know how it feels to be watched doing your job – it’s not a nice feeling. Not because you are incapable of doing it well but because your every move is being judged and discussed. It’s enough to make even the most experienced of people squirm.

Whilst the verdict about Pistorius was reached by means of legal analysis and interpretation of various pieces of the law, the judgment the legal fraternity and others have handed down to Judge Thokozile Masipa are based solely on their ‘gut feeling’ that Pistorius was guilty. They didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt – their only ‘proof’ was that they had declared him guilty from day one and as such any ruling to the contrary would have been deemed invalid or wrong.

So I put it to you that Judge Thokozile Masipa was damned by duty. I hereby declare the media’s evidence of ‘expert analysis’ nothing more than hearsay. I find them guilty of defamation of character and sentence them to growing a spine and perhaps some integrity.

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