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A Brutal, Incisive, Exploratory Post-Mortem Examination of the Pistorius Trial
This legal thriller is fast-paced and just as you thought you'd watched the trial on TV, this exposè rocks the very basis of your beliefs!Share Post on X Threads LinkedIn Embed
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To Kill A Fragile Rose: The State's Case Against Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius
By Brenda Wardle
OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK
To Kill a Fragile Rose: The State's Case Against Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, is a non-fictional legal thriller, based on what can safely be described, and what has already been described, as, the criminal trial of the century in South Africa. With the trial came a lot of confusion around even the most basic, universally accepted (and, in the case of South Africa), well-established legal
principles. The trial ended in the widely-criticised judgment of Judge Masipa, a ruling recently overturned by a unanimous full bench at the Supreme Court of Appeal, resulting in Oscar Pistorius being found guilty of murder and, setting aside the sentence imposed pursuant to the provisions of s276(1)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act.
SO, WHY WRITE A BOOK?
My background in law is one of the main reasons I decided to pen this book. I've always, in fact since high school, been passionate about writing. Besides, here I was, the only Black female (if not the only female) legal analyst in South Africa who was called upon by the likes of Arise News Networks London, ANN7, Sky News, BBC World, Channel 5 UK, SABC, Fox News, Reuters and numerous local and international radio stations, to analyse the trial. Of course it must be asked why I insist on mentioning the fact that I am Black (or even omit to mention that I am of mixed racial descent with a Great Grandfather who hailed from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne)? Well, we are in a post-apartheid South Africa, free in the legal sense with a magnificent constitution, however, the scales are not quite as balanced as they ought to be. It thus becomes quite an accomplishment to have one's knowledge and skills recognized by being called upon to provide input and expert legal analysis. And then there is the added dynamic that one ought not only to succeed in the task, but to excel at it. Photographs demonstrating some of my media interviews are attached.
Likewise this is the only book (to my knowledge at least), written by a legally qualified female South African. I have three law degrees being an Intermediary Degree Qualification in Criminal Justice Administration, a Bachelor of Laws Degree (12 modules passed cum laude), as well as a Master of Laws Degree in which I obtained a distinction in Forensic Medicine for Masters, also passing among others Media Law for Masters, as well as Advanced Constitutional Law and Fundamental Rights. I am currently registered towards a Doctor of Laws Degree researching 'The Presumption of Innocence and The Burden of Proof in Criminal Procedure in the South African Context'. The facts of this case fall squarely within my chosen topic despite this being by sheer coincidence as the research topic was influenced by the conviction (purely on circumstantial evidence) of a woman who had been accused of conspiring with her lover, to murder her husband. She was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.
SO, WHAT THEN, IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
The book itself deals extensively with some errors made by the State, the Defence and the Court and interrogates the judgment of the trial Court per Masipa J, asking pertinent questions about the role which was played by the two assessors, who, by implication, conferred with the erroneous reasoning of Judge Masipa. These errors are then examined against the backdrop of South Africa's criminal justice system, clearing up the many inaccuracies which made it onto the world stage through either the media, inaccurate analysis or even via social networks.
The evidence and some of the witness testimonies are re-evaluated and the time-line which the State ought to have suggested, is set out. The book is a page turner which, whilst not delving too deeply into legalese, gives both the lay reader and the legal scholar, an accurate assessment and an in-depth understanding of the South African criminal justice system.
The respective roles of Frank Chiziweni and Hilton Botha are then placed into perspective but not before real probing questions are asked about their actions and/or utterances. This provides a fresh angle and casts a new light on a case which has already been discussed ad nauseum, recreating as it does, the critical timeline which the State ought to have submitted, referred to above.
CHAPTER OUTLINE, SCOPE AND BENEFITS
The book spans the entire Pistorius trial but prior to delving into the merits of the State's case and the probability of the Defence's arguments, I examine in detail the advantages and disadvantages of the whole concept of open justice. The book delves somewhat into our criminal justice system, especially the legal principles which find applicability to the case from criminal procedure, the abolition of jury trials and replacement with lay and now legally qualified
assessors, inferential reasoning, as well as circumstantial evidence and its treatment by our courts. It would be beneficial to both the legal practitioner, the judge and magistrate and it will be of special interest to the millions around the globe who stay glued to their television screens. The book gives a holistic assessment, of the case. I intend writing a paper for publication in a legal journal on the concept of open justice and the chapter which deals with open
justice and rights of the cameras into our courts, is a good foundation.
Chapter One – The Charges and the Strengths and Weaknesses of both the State and the Defence cases.
Chapter Two – From the barbaric medieval ordeals by fire, water and combat, to jury trials and finally to Open Justice in an adversarial environment where the accused is spared no humiliation. A Possible Violation of Oscar Pistorius's Fair Trial Rights?
Chapter Three - The nature of criminal trials in South Africa and the role of a Court sitting with assessors. This chapter also has looks at the hierarchy of our court system. Was witness testimony diluted and swayed by public discourse?
Chapter Four – Only lambs are silent at slaughter. The improbability in the Defence's insistence that Reeva, on that fateful morning, didn't utter a word.
Chapter Five – Hilton Botha and the tampered evidence. Who stood to gain from the botching up of the crime scene?
Chapter Six – The other person at the Pistorius residence on the night of the murder, Frank Chiziweni and his heard-no-evil, saw-no-evil statement. The error of not calling him not testify.
Chapter Seven – The crucial minutes before and after Reeva's shooting. The Time Line which could have sealed dolus directus and the evidence of Captain Mangena.
Chapter Eight – The controversial verdict of the court and the reason for the possible pressure. How could the Court get it so wrong in the glare of the international media and did one of the assessors apply pressure on Judge Masipa?
Chapter Nine – The Arguments in Aggravation and mitigation of sentence and a possible clue to the type of person Oscar might have called first from the subsequently wiped phone.
Chapter Ten – s276(1)(i) and the unlawful deprivation of Oscar's liberty and his late placement on correctional supervision. Was Oscar being punished for the errors of Judge Masipa?
Chapter Eleven – The Supreme Court of Appeal decision and the unnecessary legal quandary around the impact of the setting aside of the s276(1))(i) sentence.
Chapter Twelve - The circus continues through to the Constitutional Court.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenda Wardle is a female South African citizen who was born in Parkridge, East London. She attended St John's Road Primary School followed by Buffalo Flats Primary School and later on, John Bisseker Senior Secondary School. Her first love was journalism but because she did not quite make the grade to be admitted to Rhodes University, she was compelled to train as a nurse. She was awarded the General Nursing and Midwifery Diploma cum laude in 1982. Around 1995 she became fascinated with law when a friend of hers was deeply engrossed in her studies. When Brenda intimated that she wanted to study law too, the friend dismissed her dream telling her that she was an ordinary nurse and that she would never pass law. Years later she listened to Advocate Potgieter and now Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, discussing a criminal trial in Port Elizabeth and she was bitten by the legal bug. However, her hopes were dashed when, having registered for the BProc Degree, she was prohibited from continuing with her studies as a consequence of her having failed Latin. She did however, pass Introduction to Legal Theory, English 1 as well as Afrikaans in her first year.
In December of 2001 Wardle received a letter from UNISA advising her that Latin was no longer compulsory and that the courses passed towards the BProc Degree could now be used as credits towards the new four-year Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree. Wardle registered and finished the said LLB degree in a record two years with distinctions in 12 modules. She then continued and registered for a Master of Laws Degree and passed among others Medical Law, Forensic Medicine for Masters (cum laude) as well advanced Constitutional Law and Fundamental Rights in one instead of the prescribed two years.
Wardle is Chief Operations at the Wardle College of Law and has been a legal consultant and analyst since 2005. She, together with her partner, hosted the National Conference on Selected Sentencing Provisions and their Impact on Correctional Services Release Policies. This conference was attended by amongst other erstwhile Judge President of Natal, Vuka Tshabalala, his deputy Judge Phillip Levinsohn, Regional Court Presidents, Magistrates, Members of the trade union POPCRU as well as Chairpersons and Members of Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards.
Wardle regularly publishes articles in Derebus and in newspapers and her recent article on the sub judice rule was cited in a speech on Open Justice delivered by Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke. Wardle was once Vice President Programs for the South African Women Lawyer's Association. She is a sought after facilitator of legal courses and is an assessor and moderator. She has written 12 modules on Contract Management for Public Sector Procurement and is regularly interviewed on television.
Wardle has been interviewed during both the Pistorius trial and other high profile casess like the trial against Radovan Krejcir and Shrien Dewani by the likes of Jeremy Thompson from Sky News, Paul Tilsley, an independent correspondent for Fox News, Karin Giannone from BBC World. She has also been interviewed by Channel 5UK, Arise News Networks London, ANN7, SABC and numerous regional radio stations in the United Kingdom and radio stations in South Africa. She has appeared on television alongside the likes of Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Advocate Michael Masutha.
Most importantly, Wardle is currently registered towards a Doctor of Laws Degree researching the Presumption of Innocence and the Burden of Proof in Criminal Procedure in the South African Context under the supervisions of Professor Basdeo from the University of South Africa. She is also currently producing The Verdict, a weekly television program which will analyse high profile cases from the around the world.
Wardle is a mother of four and a grandmother of three children and she is absolutely driven, aiming to become a Professor of law within a couple of years. She is also currently busy with an application to register the Wardle College of Law with the Council for Higher Education. She has written her soon-to-be-published memoir, Odyssey of a Woman, which details her struggles and travails.
Wardle has been called upon to give legal advice to many a high profile person in South Africa including at some stage, in an advisory capacity on a particular matter, the now-president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma.
OTHER COMPETING OR COMPLIMENTARY BOOKS
I pretty much doubt that there might be books with a similar perspectives given the qualifications obtained. The real test of the book will be in the reading and it is for this reason that I requested a high court judge to review the book. The book will go through three rigorous editing process for legal accuracy by two experienced advocates who were prosecutors prior to joining the Bar, and lastly, by someone who is has years of experience as an English lecturer. None of the criticisms levelled at the books listed below will thus be levelled against this book.
OTHERTITLES ON THIS SUBJECT AND HOW THEY DIFFER
1. Behind the Door - Mandy Weiner and Barry Bateman
According to the Amazon write up this book is described as below. This book is penned by journalists and it did come under some criticism for not dealing with the principles correctly.
'Written by Mandy Weiner and Barry Batemen, the go-to journalists on the case for the world's media, Behind the Door is a compelling narrative that meticulously unpacks the evidence that has been so heavily scrutinised on all sides. But more than that, this book seeks to go beyond the facts of the case in search of the wider context behind this shocking tragedy: the back story of the police investigation, the nature of the South African criminal justice system, the culture of violence in South Africa and the need of society to create flawed heroes who are destined to fail. Vivid and gripping, Behind the Door is the most authoritative and insightful account of what really happened behind closed doors that fateful Valentine's morning.'
2 Chase Your Shadows: the Trials of Oscar Pistorius – John Carlin
The book has been described as highlighted below. Again an account from a journalist but which
concentrates on the travails of Oscar Pistorius. My focus is on the evidence, the fatal flaws and the approach which ought to have been adopted by the Court.
'In Chase Your Shadow, journalist and author John Carlin tells the gripping story of Oscar Pistorius's tragic journey from sporting icon to accused murderer. Before Valentine's Day of 2013, Pistorius was best known as an extraordinary athlete, the 'Blade Runner' who
became the first amputee in history to compete in the Olympics. Everything changed after he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead in the early hours of 14 February. Overnight, the Olympian's status as a role model was replaced by tales of erratic behaviour and a violent dark side. His seven-month trial was broadcast live around theglobe, its twists and turns captivating millions. Carlin, who followed the drama inside the courtroom, provides a vivid first-hand account of Pistorius's wrenching emotional breakdowns, the merciless interrogation to which he was submitted by the prosecutor, and the highly controversial judgment. Carlin paints a portrait of a complex personality, a man whose life story reveals extremes of courage and insecurity, ambition and vulnerability, generosity and dangerous hot-headedness.'
3. Reeva: A Mother's Story - June Steenkamp
This is personal account from the mother of Reeva Steenkamp and is totally different from the angle of my book.
'Reeva's mother, June Steenkamp, has kept a dignified silence throughout the long months since she received the phone call every mother dreads. In this painfully honest and unflinching account of Reeva's life, she talks about what really went on in her mind as she sat in the packed Pretoria court room day after day and how she is coping in the aftermath of the verdict. Reeva is the only true insider's account of this tragic story.'
4. Oscar: an Accident Waiting to Happen – Melinda Ferguson
This book too delves into the more personal side with an analysis of the character of
Pistorius as seen through the eyes of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor.
'Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen is the all-exclusive inside story of ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's tumultuous romantic relationship with the gold-medal athlete which turned into every mother's nightmare'.
5 Pieces of the Puzzle: Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp: Part One – The Killing by Laurie A Claase
Again the focus is different and most of the comments above apply here.
'Through the eyes of the media; of family and friends; of the authorities, the sporting fraternity and the protagonists themselves, this book introduces the role-players, summarises the bail hearing evidence and illuminates the context of the tragedy. Written in real time as
events were unfolding, the book delivers a compelling overview of the violent death of a young woman, and the devastating fall of an international icon.'
The target audience and readership are all legal scholars both from South Africa and beyond as well as the millions of viewers around the globe who were glued to their screens watching the trial. They will definitely want to buy the book as it offers something new and exciting.
MARKETING AND PROMOTION
I intend marketing the book at all courts in South Africa by having pop-up book stores. We are currently producing a 5minute Book trailer since we live in a world which is highly visual. I also plan on publishing papers in international journals and launching the book both internationally and locally. My personal assistant is currently contacting universities to arrange for speaking engagements so that the book can be marketed to university staff and students. I am using Instagram, Twitter, Linked In, Google as well as Facebook and my author website goes live on Tuesday the 8th of December 2015. I will have a daily blog on which I will discuss different aspects of the trial which are covered in the book. The book was mentioned on Sky News by Jeremy Thompson during Prime Time to millions of viewers around the world and by Paul Tilsley on Fox News to millions of viewers predominantly from the United States. In South Africa I was interviewed on the book by Dumile Mateza on SABC and more interviews are beingplanned. I have already spoken to two newspaper editors and they have requested to be given copies of the book so that they may review these and publish.
Agora Publishing is a Canada-based not-for-profit organization, founded in 1997 with the aim of making book publishing accessible to all writers across Canada and internationally.
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