Friday, March 27, 2015
And it didn't just overturn them. In fact, it also ruled that both should be acquitted, which effectively ends the case.
I must admit that I, for one, am astounded. This was already one of the most extraordinary legal cases of all time, and today's ruling emphatically underscores that.
We will, of course, have to wait a while to see what the court's reasoning has been, but whatever it is, it seems very difficult to see how it would fit in with the same court's earlier ruling of June 2013. After all, the Court of Cassation, at that time, overturned an earlier acquittal handed down by the Perugian Appeal Court. It did so in fairly clear terms, making it - at the time - an almost certainty that a guilty verdict would be required, something that the Florence Court of Appeal thereupon obligingly delivered.
Now, however, the Court of Cassation has decided to strike down that guilty verdict and, taking matters into its own own, has furthermore decided to acquit both Knox and Sollecito.
At first glance, that makes no sense whatsoever. After all, if, back in 2013, the Court of Cassation had agreed with the acquittal of both defendants but not with the reasoning of the Perugian Court, then it could, at that time, simply have confirmed the acquittal itself but amended the reasoning behind it. There would have been absolutely no need to refer the case to the court in Florence in the first place, and the whole trial could have ended two years earlier.
In other words: what the court decided today could as easily have been decided back in 2013. But the court didn't do that back then, so why now? To be frank, it's a total mystery. The only possible explanation I can currently think of is that the Court of Cassation has now discovered some huge and irreparable technical flaw - some statute of limitations, perhaps, or some such issue - of which it was blissfully unaware in 2013. Any other explanation would, I feel, point to an almost inconceivable ineptness on the part of Italy's highest court.
Back in January 2014, when the Florence court (acting upon the very guidelines the Court of Cassation itself gave it in 2013) convicted Knox and Sollecito, I stated that the end of a long, long battle had been reached. Well now, how wrong I was!
I somehow think that perhaps a lot of us may be writing about this for a long, long time to come.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
She first set out that when it comes to putative self defense, a subjective norm should be applied. The question is not whether a reasonable man in similar circumstances would have assumed that self defense was justified; the question is, on the contrary, what Pistorius himself assumed. The question is, phrased another way, whether Pistorius honestly believed that he was under (severe) threat.
- the bathroom window was indeed open, "so that it was not his imagination at work when he thought he heard the window slide open";
- Pistorius "armed himself with a loaded firearm and went to the direction of the noise";
- he "heard a door slam shut; the toilet door was, indeed, shut";
- he "heard a movement inside the toilet";
- and that, "in his version, he was scared because he thought the intruder was coming out to attack him".
Ultimately, however, it seems that we may perhaps forget all the above. Remarkably, you see, the judge doesn't give an answer to the question of whether or not the putative self defense claim is or is not justified.
Instead, it seems, she rejects the basic premiss of this argument altogether, by stating that she believes that, whilst Pistorius may have shot four times through the closed toilet door (thereby killing his girlfriend) he did not have any intent to kill anyone. As a result, whilst she starts to discuss the putative claim, she then veers off to a different aspect altogether. That aspect deals with the issue of "dolus eventualis", which has to do with the foreseeability of one's actions (i.e. if Pistorius did not have any real intenion to kill, could he nevertheless have the necessary indirect intent required for murder because he could and should have foreseen that shooting might cause someone's death).
I will give a few thoughts on this very odd way of dealing with things (and, indeed, on the concept of dolus eventualis in general and the lack of intent to kill) in a further post.
Once I get my head unbefuddled, that is....
(*) One might then point to the S v De Oliveira case. I'll not go into any detail here, but in that case a putative self defense claim failed, given that the defendant himself did not testify as to his state of mind. In this case, of course, Pistorius did testify, but the judge herself clearly considered him "untruthful".
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Is that the verdict that will be handed down? Well, of that I'm not at all certain. From the manner in which the case has dragged along, and, more importantly, from the manner in which the judge has acquitted herself, I would not be surprised if Pistorius actually manages to scrape by with a culpable homicide conviction.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I should note here that the situation in this case is different to the more or less classic example where a person (A) intends to shoot or stab another person (B). Just when he does so, however, a third person, C, jumps in, and it is C who ends up injured. In that example, there are two distinct potential victims, B and C, and therefore a distinction can be made between A's intent towards the one and his intent (or lack of it) towards the other.
In Pistorius' case, however, that distinction fails. As I said, there is only one person in the toilet, and Pistorius intent was to kill that person.
The reason for this lies in the fact that, obviously, a sentence for murder will generally tend to be higher than a sentence for culpable homicide. In the case of murder, there is, I believe, a minimum sentence of 15 years; in the case of homicide, I am not aware of a minimum sentence applying. However, this does not necessarily mean that a sentence in this case based on homicide will inevitably be milder than a sentence based on murder; all this will be up to the court, who will base its decision on facts and circumstances that not all known yet.
What would, however, make an immediate difference is if the prosecution gets their way. If they prove their case fully - if it is established that Pistorius intentionally and deliberately shot his girlfriend, acting with what can be labelled both legally and poetically as "malice aforethought" - Pistorius would face a mandatory sentence of 25 years. This is considerably higher than a sentence for "ordinary" murder or homicide would be.
To this it might be added that it is equally true that tragedy is tragedy. Whether Pistorius meant to kill his girlfriend or whether he actually believed himself shooting a burglar, the outcome is the same: a young woman died needlessly.
POSTSCRIPT: The above post was written on March 4th 2013; the trial of Oscar Pistorius had just commenced. It is now April 11th, and Pistorius has taken the stand. He has proven me wrong on one count at least: the intention to kill. I will be posting about this further in The Pistorius Case II: The Conundrum That Is.
(*) One of those facts may possibly be that Pistorius had good and clear reasons to believe his girlfriend was somewhere else in the house; reasons, in other words, that would reasonably exclude her presence in the toilet at that time. As far as I know, no such reasons exist.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
|A Perugian Aquaduct. No Meredith. No Amanda. No Raffaele.|
Could the Appeal Court have handled the case differently? Most certainly. Whilst the Court of Cassation's ruling was, in many ways, rather clear, it was by no means definitive. It allowed the appeal court sufficient room to manoeuvre. However, as the Florence court started to get to grips with its remit, it became clear that it would not steer the case away from the paths already set out by the original Perugian court (and, indeed, by the Court of Cassation itself). As, in other words, the case proceeded, it became more and more likely that the original ruling would be upheld.
The die is cast.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
|Your Typical Neighbourhood Watchman?|
And we don't know because Zimmerman himself never truly attempted to prove his version of events; his defence never got sufficiently close to this issue. They certainly presented evidence - rather a lot of evidence, in fact - to establish "reasonable doubt" - whereby they in effect established that there was a possibility that it was Martin who attacked Zimmerman - but they offered no real proof of this at all.