The latest development in the South African authorities' case against Olympic competitor Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was released this morning when the South African judge presiding over the case granted the Pistorius bail despite how adamantly local authorities had argued against it. The bail hearing, which lasted a whole week, included arguments from prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defense attorney Barry Roux. Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair maintains that certain aspects of the defendant's account of the night the crime took place seem questionable but decided to set bail at one million rand, which is equivalent to $113,000.
There are two starkly different accounts of what led to the fatal shooting of reality TV star and model Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors claim that the shooting was premeditated and that Pistorius got out of bed in the middle of the night when he heard Steenkamp in the bathroom, took out his 9 mm pistol and released four bullets through the door, three of which hit Steenkamp. Police claim that this was in response to a disagreement the couple was engaged in the night before. Pistorius tells the story from a completely different perspective. He claims that when he woke up in the middle of the night, it was too dark to see that Steenkamp was not in the bed. When he heard noise in the bathroom, he feared the presence of an intruder. The defense insists that Pistorius was acting out of perceived self-defense and that the death of his girlfriend, who he claims to have loved dearly, was a tragic accident. The event took place in the early hours of February 14, 2012 and Pistorius was arrested by local police immediately.
The results of the bail hearing do not reflect the judge's opinion about the specific case, they only reflect whether the judge believes the defendant to be a flight risk or not. In Pistorius' case, the Chief Magistrate agreed with the defense which argued that Pistorius' fame from competing in the Olympics and his prosthetics make it impossible for him to successfully disappear. As an Olympic pioneer who's story was heard and witnessed by the entire world during last year's London games, too many people would recognize his face, and if not his face, his double below-knee amputations.
Being granted bail does not mean Pistorius can go back to living life normally while waiting for his trial to take place, which is set to begin on June 4. The affidavit submitted by the magistrate requires biweekly reports to a local police station and abstinence from alcohol by Pistorius. The 26-year-old was also compelled to hand over his passports and all firearms to local authorities and is not being allowed to return to his home, which is being held as a crime scene by police and investigators. Pistorius must get permission from a probation officer before he leaves his home district of Pretoria.
The news of Pistorius' arrest for such a tragic event took the public by surprise, to say the least. Oscar Pistorius was an Olympic Hero and a global legend after he made history by competing, and winning, in multiple Olympic cross country events despite his condition, which has left him with two prosthetic legs.
Many in the news media are comparing Pistorius' trial to that of O.J. Simpson's 1994 trial for the murder of his former wife and a friend. Despite the circumstances of the case against Simpson, the former athlete was granted bail, like Pistorius, because his fame and national recognition made him an unlikely flight risk.
While being granted bail may not affect the case verdict against the defendant, it does protect the accused from having to stay in a prison cell during the time leading up to the trial and as long as the trial lasts. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer who understands the system and has the skills to fight for a fair bail verdict is in the best interest of the defendant, regardless of the circumstances of their case. At the Law Offices of Richard Tendler, we are committed to presenting a serious case for every one of our clients. If you are facing a criminal charge, contact a criminal attorney in West Palm Beach who wants to be your advocate during this difficult time.