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Posts Tagged ‘O.J. SIMPSON’

WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR PISTORIUS–AND SOUTH AFRICA

In Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 6, 2014 at 12:25 am

He’s the O.J. Simpson of South Africa–a gifted athlete charged with cold-blooded murder.

For Oscar Pistorius, life began as a struggle, on November 22, 1986.  Born with fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs, at 11 months old, he was forced to undergo the amputation of both legs below the knee.

But still he persisted to lead an active–even an extraordinary–life.  As a child and teenager, he played rugby union, water polo and tennis, and took part in Olympic wrestling.

After a serious rugby knee injury, Pistorius was introduced to running in January, 2004, while undergoing rehabilitation at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.

Fitted with racing blades, he has been dubbed “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs.”   He took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came in third in the 100-metere event.

In summer, 2012, he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, winning  gold medals in the men’s 400-metre race and the 4 X 100 metres relay.

Oscar Pistorius

And then, having achieved so much against so much adversity, he found himself facing trial for a ghastly crime:

The February 14, 2013 murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, model and paralegal Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot three times through a locked bathroom door.

Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius claims he thought Steenkamp was a nighttime intruder. The state alleges that he and his girlfriend  argued before her death and he intentionally killed her.

His trial opened on March 3 in Pretoria, South Africa.  A conviction on the murder charge in South Africa would carry a mandatory life sentence.

Throughout South Africa, women believe the odds are high that Pistorius will escape justice for murder owing to his sports celebrity status.  And they may well turn out to be right.

Consider:

  • According to one study, South Africa has “the highest rate [of violence against women] ever reported in research anywhere in the world.”
  • Statistically, a woman gets raped in South Africa every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police in 2012 and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions.
  • The murder of Pistorius’ girlfriend happened one day before she planned to wear black in a “Black Friday” protest against the country’s disgracefully high number of rapes.
  • “If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year,” said Lerato Moloi of the South African Institute for Race Relations.
  • The real figure is considerably higher, she said, since most cases never are reported.

The rate of murders of women in South Africa is equally appalling:

  • A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa.
  • No perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study published by the South African Medical Research Council.
  • That is double the rate of such murders in the United States.

In assessing what’s at stake in the Pistorius trial, Niccolo Machiavelli sounds a warning:

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Discourses, his seminal work on how to preserve freedom within a republic, Machiavelli warns: “Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.”

The soldier, Horatious, he writes, had saved ancient Rome from the Curatti.  But when he murdered his sister, he was put on trial for his life.

While Rome might seem guilty of ingratitude, writes Machiavelli, “the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried.

“And the reason for this is, that no well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits….

“Having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for good conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits.”

A state that adheres to this principle will retain its liberty; a state that doesn’t will quickly be destroyed.

For if a citizen who has rendered eminent service to the nation becomes convinced that he can commit any wrong without fear of punishment, “he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law,” writes Machiavelli.

Americans learned the truth of this after the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the slasher-murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and a waiter-eyewitness, Ronald Goldman.

In September, 2007, he led a group of men into a hotel room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, at gunpoint, seized sports memorabilia which he claimed had been stolen from him.

He was arrested and eventually convicted for criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

On December 5, 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the chance of parole in  nine years, in 2017.

CNN BECOMES TNN: TRAYVON NEWS NETWORK

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2013 at 1:35 am

Since June 10, CNN has carried one story above all others: The trial of self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

On CNN, especially, the coverage of this trial has been overwhelming.

So much so that CNN–Cable News Network–could rightly be called TNN–Trayvon News Network.

There are several reasons for this, and they say as much–if not more–about the media as they do about the case itself.

First, there was a dead body in the story–the body of Travon Martin.  There’s a well-known saying in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads.”  And nothing bleeds like the body of a dead teenager.

Second, the victim was not only dead, he was black.

Third, he died at the hands of a nominally-white man–George Zimmerman, the offspring of a German father and a Peruvian mother.

Although the vast majority of blacks in the United States are murdered by other blacks, it’s Politically Incorrect to say so.  On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to create the impression that whites pose the greatest danger to blacks.

George Zimmerman

Fourth, the trial was televised.  There was absolutely no need for this.  It didn’t threaten to overturn existing law–as did Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” public schools for blacks and whites.

This case proved the opening legal salvo in the history of the civil rights movement and ushered in a decade of activism and bloodshed as blacks sought to de-segregate the South.

Nor did the Zimmerman case even carry the weight of the 1985-6 Mafia Commission trial.  There Federal prosecutors convicted the heads of the five most powerful Mafia “families” in the country and sent them to prison.

While individual Mafiosi had been sent to prison, this was the first time the top leadership of all major Mafia “families” had been virtually wiped out.

It signaled a turning point in the fight against organized crime, with Federal investigators and prosecutors finally learning how to use the 10-year-old Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to their advantage.

Fifth, televising the trial meant the networks–especially CNN–didn’t have to do anything.  They didn’t have to send reporters into the streets to dig up information.  All that was necessary was to let the camera show what was happening in the courtroom.

Sixth, when each day’s televised proceedings came to an end, CNN and other networks could easily round up a series of “talking heads” to pontificate on the meaning of it all. 

These people had no more idea than the average viewer of what impact–if any–that day’s events would have on the legal fate of George Zimmerman.

But it gave CNN a chance to use up airtime that could have otherwise gone on stories like the national debt, Detroit declaring bankruptcy and the Supreme Court rejecting an Arizona law requiring voters to prove their citizenship.

Seventh, the networks could count on a controversial outcome no matter what the verdict.

If Zimmerman were convicted, his white supporters would be outraged and his black detractors overjoyed.  And if Zimmerman were acquitted–which is what actually happened–then the opposite reactions would occur.

Either way, there was certain to be angry demonstrators in the street.  For the networks this would hopefully include a full replay of the race riots which shook the nation following the police beating of Rodney King in 1992 and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Eighth, if rioting erupted, CNN and other networks would rush news cameras to the scenes of carnage and claim they were doing this “in the finest traditions of journalism” to keep the public fully informed.

In reality, they would be doing it to keep their ratings up.

If any of this seems familiar, it’s because–unfortunately–it is.

The 1995 O.J. Simpson trial set the standard for televised murder trials.

It came complete with a weak-kneed judge (Lance Ito), incompetent prosecutors (Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark), bizarre witnesses (Kato Kaelin) and grandstanding defense attorneys (Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey and Robert Kardashian).

The case seemed to go on forever.  The primary jury was sworn in on November 2, 1994.  Opening statements began on January 24, 1995, and the trial dragged on until a “Not Guilty” verdict came on October 3, 1995

For those who enjoy wallowing in sensationalism, the case offered everything:

  • Interracial marriage;
  • A famous has-been football player;
  • Sexually-charged domestic abuse (in this case, black-on-white/male-on-female violence);
  • A dead, beautiful blonde;
  • Two grisly murders (those of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole, and a waiter-friend of hers, Ronald Goldman);
  • Allegations by Simpson’s lawyers that he was the target of white, racist police.

Since then, television networks have repeatedly sought stories that promise to deliver the thrills–if not actual news value–of the Simpson case.

The George Zimmerman trial didn’t offer the ratings voltage of the Simpson one.  But the networks did their best to make it happen.

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI VS. OSCAR PISTORIUS

In Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2013 at 12:00 am

He’s the O.J. Simpson of South Africa–a gifted athlete charged with cold-blooded murder.

For Oscar Pistorius, life began as a struggle, on November 22, 1986.  Born with fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs, at 11 months old, he was forced to undergo the amputation of both legs below the knee.

But still he persisted to lead an active–even an extraordinary–life.  As a child and teenager, he played rugby union, water polo and tennis, and took part in Olympic wrestling.

After a serious rugby knee injury, Pistorius was introduced to running in January, 2004, while undergoing rehabilitation at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.

Fitted with racing blades, he has been dubbed “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs.”   He took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came in third in the 100-metere event.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics.  He entered the men’s 400-meters and 4 x 400 meters relay races.

Oscar Pistorius

At the 2012 Summer Paralympics, he won gold medals in the men’s 400-metre race and the 4 X 100 metres relay.

And then, having achieved so much against so much adversity, he found himself facing trial for a ghastly crime: The February 14 murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, model and paralegal Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot three times through a locked bathroom door.

Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius claims he thought Steenkamp was a nighttime intruder. The state alleges that he and his girlfriend  argued before her death and he intentionally killed her.

The case has been postponed to August 19, 2013.

Throughout South Africa, women believe the odds are high that Pistorius will escape justice for murder owing to his sports celebrity status.  And those women may well turn out to be right.

According to one study, South Africa has “the highest rate [of violence against women] ever reported in research anywhere in the world.”

According to statistics, a woman gets raped in South Africa every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police in 2012 and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions.

In fact, the murder of Pistorius’ girlfriend happened one day before she planned to wear black in a “Black Friday” protest against the country’s disgracefully high number of rapes.

“If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year,” said Lerato Moloi of the South African Institute for Race Relations.

The real figure is considerably higher, she said, since most cases never are reported.

The rate of murders of women in South Africa is equally appalling:

  • A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa.
  • No perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study published by the South African Medical Research Council.
  • That is double the rate of such murders in the United States.

If Pistorius wins acquittal because of his status as a celebrity athlete, Niccolo Machiavelli will nce again be proven a relevant prophet for our time.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Discourses, his seminal work on how to preserve freedom within a republic, Machiavelli warns: “Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.”

Specifically:

“The services of Horatius had been of the highest importance to Rome, for by his bravery he had conquered the Curatii.  But the crime of killing his sister was atrocious, and the Romans were so outraged by this murder that he was put upon trial for his life, notwithstanding his recent great services to the state.”

While Rome might seem guilty of ingratitude, writes Machiavelli, “the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried.

“And the reason for this is, that no well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits….

“Having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for good conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits.

“And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty, but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin.

“For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.”

Americans learned the truth of this after the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the slasher-murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and a waiter-eyewitness, Ronald Goldman.

In September, 2007, he led a group of men into a hotel room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, at gunpoint, seized sports memorabilia which he claimed had been stolen from him.

He was arrested and eventually convicted for criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

On December 5, 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the chance of parole in  nine years, in 2017.

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