Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial, beginning Monday, will feature some of South Africa’s top legal minds, including a judge known for her outspoken views on violence against women.
Here are the profiles of the main protagonists:
She was appointed a judge in 1998, becoming only the second black woman to be admitted to the bench at the time.
Masipa studied law in her 40s. Before that she reported on apartheid injustices as a crime journalist, and also was a social worker.
In a decade and a half on the bench, she has presided over criminal cases involving rape and murder, and has spoken out strongly about violence against women.
She handed down a 252-year prison sentence to a serial rapist last year, and has been outspoken against the government’s rights and responsibilities towards ordinary South Africans.
- Gerrie Nel will lead the prosecution. He is well known and has earned respect for fearlessly pursuing well-connected public officials in the face of strong political opposition.
He is most famous for sending to jail ex-Interpol president and South Africa’s former police chief Jackie Selebi, proving he had taken bribes from an organised crime network.
The prosecution won him an award from the International Association of Prosecutors, but he has not always emerged unscathed from his tangles with power .
In 2008, at the height of the Selebi controversy, Nel was arrested by armed police in front of his family.
Charges of fraud, perjury and “defeating the ends of justice” were eventually dropped, with commentators decrying an attempt to discredit him.
His elite investigations unit, the Scorpions, was later disbanded amid allegations it was pursuing graft and other charges against now President Jacob Zuma with politically motivated zeal.
It was then he joined the government prosecutor’s office.
- Defence advocate Barry Roux emerged as the star lawyer in Pistorius’s bail application last year.
His relentless questioning of police investigator Hilton Botha during the bail application punched serious holes in the state’s case against Pistorius.
Under Roux’s intense cross examination, the investigating officer was reduced to a bumbling amateur, as he struggled to provide sufficient forensic evidence on the circumstances of the shooting.
With 31 years experience in the legal fraternity, Roux, has taken on some of the most controversial cases in South Africa.
In the 1990s he defended apartheid-era general Lothar Neethling, who sued a newspaper over claims that he supplied poison used against anti-apartheid activists.
He also secured a much-reduced settlement in the tax evasion trial of Dave King, a Glasgow-born businessman. ------------------ fanatix