The eyes of the world are once again focussing on that trial in South Africa. On the one hand we have an internationally renowned world class superstar who is used to winning at all costs, and on the other we have…….Oscar Pistorius. The ‘paralympian’ Pistorius has spent several years running on blades; state prosecutor Gerrie Nel has spent several months sharpening his own blades, with a view to sliding them into a defendant who has spent most of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp with his face either in Kleenex or a deep bucket.
I am always slightly uncomfortable with the idea of a lawyer, particularly a state prosecutor, winning ‘awards’ for his work, as Nel did from the International Association of Prosecutors in relation to his prosecution of Jackie Selebi, the former national commissioner of the South African Police Service. It’s a bit like the Oscars, only for state prosecutors. It also makes me wonder if Nel’s opponent in the Selebi trial won the award for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role’. I can hear Nel’s acceptance speech now: “Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, I would firstly like to say that winning this award was only possible because of Mr Selebi’s unwavering devotion to large-scale corruption and, of course, his total ineptitude in being able to cover it up, and my heartfelt thanks go out to him.”
I am also uncomfortable with the idea of trials being televised. Look, if you want to see some courtroom ‘action’, why not pop down to your local Combined Court Centre? Okay, you aren’t likely to see world-famous athletes being sick all day long, but at least it would give you an idea of how justice actually works (or doesn’t), rather than this tragically over-hyped circus. What you have to remember is that nobody is going to be interested in watching a domestic burglary trial involving the local heroin addict ‘live and exclusive from Mold Crown Court’; but offer up a murder allegation involving someone the public has heard about, pumped up nicely by the media, of course, and then everyone wants to tune in. And for these kind of ‘show trials’ you need protagonists who know how to ham it up large.
Which brings me back to Gerrie Nel. Now, I’m no expert (at least, not any more, if indeed I ever was) but I found his opening gambit with Pistorius in the witness box a little staged, demanding he look at a photograph of the gunshot wound to Ms Steenkamp’s head. Pistorius has spent most of the trial with his head in a bucket every time a photo has been shown. What reaction did Nel expect to get by pushing a graphic photo into his face and demanding he look at it? A confession? I think most people by now would have suspected that the most likely response would be another two litres of vomit, an uncontrollable and hysterical breakdown and potentially further hiatus in the proceedings for several years while Pistorius tries to pull himself together. Maybe Nel had another awards ceremony to go to and needed an early finish.
One way or another, Nel seems to be very keen to get another Oscar.