Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down her judgment in a South African high court on Friday. She found Oscar Pistorius guilty of “culpable homicide,” similar to American “manslaughter.” But whether it’s the equivalent of American voluntary or involuntary manslaughter may be resolved when she sentences him. Judge Masipa felt prosecutors didn’t make a strong enough case for premeditation which would’ve meant Pistorius was guilty of first degree murder.
During the sentencing trial Oct. 13, the paralympian faces a maximum sentence of 15 years for the culpable homicide charge and 5 years for one of the three firearms charges against him. However, according to journalist Stephanie Findlay , he might walk free since he’s a first time offender.
Fallen, disabled hero?
As I noted in my last blog, Judge Masipa’s conclusions might help me decide whether Pistorius deserves the psychopath label (also called sociopath). Here are the judge’s remarks—
The judge called Pistorius “evasive” on the stand and a “very poor witness” who often contradicted himself.
“During his evidence, he seemed composed and logical … (but) under cross-examination he lost his composure.
And on Friday:
Judge Masipa said evidential material before the court showed that Pistorius acted negligently when he fired into the toilet door, knowing there was someone behind it, but “[it cannot be said that the accused did not entertain a genuine belief that there was an intruder in the toilet who posed a threat to him.”
Judge Masipa* is extraordinary (like disabled star Pistorius**) in her own right, and so her opinions lead part of me to conclude that Pistorius may not be a psychopath like O.J. See the 6 criteria —including my discussion of lying—in my prior blog about Pistorius.
However, Masipa’s use of the label “evasive”—and a lot of other information about Pistorius being a trigger happy hothead—leads another part of me to say, he’s a psychopath.
Call him O.J. Pistorius? Call him a psychopath?
Facts that bear on whether or not Pistorius is a psychopath:
—He had a very hard emotional life growing up besides his disabled legs. His single mother—to whom he credits his drive—died when he was 15. She’d divorced his dad.
—He seems to have “lied” or been a big talker about many things, according the mother of his former girlfriend, Sammy Taylor. Her book about Pistorius is called Oscar – An Accident Waiting To Happen. “He would often say things like: “I’m shopping for your Christmas present” or “I am going to get you this or that.” “There were always promises, but then nothing would come of them.”
Many South Africans believe Pistorius is a liar and deceitful. They don’t sugarcoat their feelings like the Judge who called him “evasive.” Just one of many assertions:
“He is lying, he should be (found) just guilty,” said Thapelo Seilane, a 28 year old assistant administrator in Capetown. “So [the Judge] got it wrong — it shows that our legal system is bad in South Africa.”
—There’s also the psychopaths’ inability to feel guilt which stems from not being able to walk in another’s shoes. In a 2012 e-mail which was subpoenaed by State prosecutors but never offered as evidence, Pistorius wrote: ‘I’m not used to having to think and consider others’ feelings,’ and he confessed to an affair with Russian model Anastassia Khozissova.
‘I should never have done that,’ he wrote, ‘and I know it would have broken me if the roles were reversed.’
—As for criteria #4 (low frustration tolerance, anger) in the psychopathology check list, Pistorius’ ex girlfriend has said she feared the ‘angry and possessive’ Pistorius would kill her and revealed she once hid his gun after he flew into a rage.
Witnesses to a brawl in a South African nightclub say Oscar Pistorius was “drunk and aggressive” a couple of months ago while out on bail. The Daily Telegraph says Pistorius got into a fight in the VIP room of a Johannesburg nightclub. A spokesman for the 27-year-old athlete confirmed that the altercation took place but said the other party was the aggressor.
In sum, is it illegal to be a psychopath? No. But what science knows about the disorder helps us understand criminal suspects and defendants better.
*Black female judges are an extraordinary rarity in South Africa. Even though the country’s population is 80% black, only 44% of superior court judges are. And out of the country’s 239 judges, only 76 are women.
**”He was born without a fibula in either leg, and both were amputated below the knee before he reached his first birthday. Using prosthetics, Pistorius went on to play able-bodied sports at Pretoria Boys High School, one of the country’s most prestigious private schools, before a knee injury left him on the sidelines. Advised to run for his recovery, he began clocking astonishing times using carbon-fiber blades that copied the action of a cheetah.” (Time)To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.