South Africa doesn’t do trial by jury. The republic abolished the system in 1969, over concerns black people would never get a fair trial. South Africa, along with most of continental Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, uses the Inquisitorial judge-only trial system.
I’m very relieved. Because Oscar Pistorius can play to the courtroom and the media about how he desperately tried to resuscitate his dying girlfriend after “shooting her by accident”, and weep uncontrollably about his “terrible mistake” until the cows come home. There’s no jury of his peers to sympathise with him.
I’m not saying Pistorius doesn’t deserve a fair trial. Quite the reverse. Rather unfortunately for him, that’s precisely what he’s going to get.
He’s going to have to explain to a sceptical judge just how he managed to get out of his bed after hearing a noise in the bathroom in the middle of the night, without checking to see if his girlfriend was lying beside him, shoot four rounds into the toilet door without once inquiring who was in there, before bashing the door down with a cricket bat.
He’ll have to explain why Reeva didn’t scream, the inconsistencies between his account and witness accounts of heated arguments and screams coming from the property leading up to the shooting, and the alleged 17-minute delay between the first shot and the final three.
And there will be no gullible jury to listen enthralled by their proximity to such a famous man, to be bamboozled by science and DNA evidence, or to take their own prejudices and stereotypes into the deliberation room.
Colin makes a strong case I have to say.
We’ve had our own fair share of controversial trials of late, and I’m not sure the jury system has been getting it right either. New Zealand, along with Britain and America, is in the minority in persisting with jury trials, and I reckon it’s time for a rethink.
It strikes me as odd that complex fraud and civil cases can be heard by a judge alone but that virtually any criminal trial for an offence punishable by more than three months’ jail has the option of trial by jury.
Off memory that is changing so that only offences punishable by two years or more will have the option.