Oscar Pistorius sentencing hearing starts tomorrow

October 12, 2014

Sunday, October, 12, 2014

Good morning:

The Oscar Pistorius sentencing hearing starts tomorrow in Pretoria at 3:30 am EDT. I say ‘starts’ tomorrow because prosecution and defense may each take up to a day or more to present evidence and argument in support of their respective recommendations.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who found Pistorius guilty last month of culpable homicide for killing Reeva Steenkamp by mistaking her for an intruder and shooting through the door of the toilet cubicle in the bathroom of his upstairs master bedroom suite, can sentence him up to 15 years in prison.

Culpable homicide under South African law is similar to our negligent homicide or manslaughter statutes. Basically, the mental state for this offense is gross negligence, which is committing an act that creates a substantial risk of harm to another person where the failure to be aware of that risk is a gross deviation from the legal duty to exercise due care to avoid harming other people.

Shooting at someone through the closed door of a small enclosed area with no place to hide, such as toilet cubicle in your bathroom, is at least a grossly negligent act, regardless if the person on the other side of the door is an intruder or someone you know. Difficult to imagine that someone who squeezed off four shots through the door did not intend to kill the person on the other side of the door; yet, that is exactly what Judge Masipa decided when she acquitted Pistorius of murder.

Her decision was and continues to be controversial. No doubt the controversy will flare up, if she sentences Pistorius to prison for some number of years but suspends the sentence on condition that he satisfactorily complete a term of supervised probation. Terms of probation typically include no law violations and an obligation to perform community service. Counseling may also be required, if needed. In the United States, judges also can impose up to a year of confinement in a county jail.

If the defendant violates a condition of probation, the judge can revoke probation and impose the prison sentence that she suspended.

In determining what sentence to impose on Oscar Pistorius, Judge Masipa also will consider a presentence report and recommendation by an official of the court based on a review of the police investigation file and research of his past, including any prior convictions and contacts with law enforcement. In the United States, the presentence division of the probation department prepares that report and recommendation.

Only Judge Masipa knows what she is likely to do, but I imagine she will impose an 8 to 12 year prison sentence. Whether she admits it or not, she must be concerned about public criticism of her decision to acquit Pistorius, and as a black person, no one should be more aware than she of the disparity in punishment for blacks compared to privileged whites.

Tell us what sentence would you impose and why you would impose it.

Do you believe he has an alcohol and/or anger management problem?

Why or why not?

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A tale of two psychopaths: Castro and Zimmerman

August 1, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good evening to all of our friends:

Ariel Castro was sentenced today in Cleveland to life without possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years, a $100,000 fine, and court costs.

He will never be released from prison.

Crane and I liveblogged the 4.5 hour sentencing hearing via livestream. If you missed it, please go here.

Michelle Knight spoke at the sentencing and you can watch her here.

Amanda Berry, her young daughter and Gena de Jesus, the other three victims did not attend the hearing. Family members spoke for them.

Castro’s full statement to the court is here.

He denied being a monster or a violent man and insisted that they were a family and harmony prevailed.

About as fine an example of a psychopath denying responsibility for and minimizing his criminal conduct as you are likely to find.

Which brings me to another man without a conscience, George Zimmerman.

Unlike Ariel Castro, who will never be released from prison, Zimmerman is out and about packing a gun and was last seen in Texas where he was stopped for speeding and warned not to load his gun and to put it away in his glove compartment.

He didn’t get a ticket.

Ohio law enforcement did its job in Cleveland. The Sanford Police Department in Sanford did not.

These two cases offer a great illustration of the difference between honest cops who knew what they were doing and corrupt cops who knowingly and intentionally freed a remorseless killer just because he killed a black kid.

Finally, I was pleased to see two defense attorneys who did the right thing. As Crane just said, Mark O’Mara probably would have put the victims on trial claiming they were responsible because they were whores and they wanted to be enslaved.

What’s on your mind tonight?

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