Anni Hindocha: Husband Shrien Dewani’s Cape Town Trial Commences

Nearly Four Years After Murder of Anni Hindocha, Shrien Dewani’s Trial Starts Monday, October 6, 2014

AnniAndShrienIn what has become known as the Honeymoon Murder, Shrien Dewani, a 34-year-old British citizen, will stand trial in the Western Cape High Court, South Africa.  Charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice, Dewani’s lawyers had fought a drawn-out legal battle to prevent his extradition from the UK to South Africa. In November, 2010, he and his bride, 28-year-old Anni Hindocha, a Swedish citizen, were honeymooning in Cape Town, staying at the five-star Cape Grace Hotel. Two weeks prior on October 27, the two had been married in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Mumbai (Bombay) India. Anni’s family states that a civil ceremony was planned the following March.

No Cameras Allowed in Court

Outside High Court Cape Town

Outside High Court Cape Town

Unlike the Oscar Pistorius trial in Pretoria, Dewani’s trial will not be televised. Personally, I’m disappointed. Gag orders could be issued restricting media commentary (opinions) while at least the public could view the proceedings. But presiding Judge Jeanette Traverso has spoken and I fully and completely respect that decision.

Dewani’s Mental Health, Good Lawyers, Extradition

CCTV captured Dewani numerous times in hotel hallway. Here he's seen making "gunslinger" gestture to Anni

CCTV captured Dewani numerous times in hotel hallway. Here he’s seen making “gunslinger” gesture to Anni

Extradited in April from the UK to South Africa, Dewani was immediately placed under the care of physicians at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital where he received a 30-day evaluation. I believe the process is similar to the Oscar Pistorius mental health review. Anyway, he was found competent to stand trial and that is what counts.

Also similar to Pistorius, Dewani is rich. His high-powered legal team successfully delayed his extradition for years, arguing that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. Diagnosed with depression and PTSD following Anni’s murder, his lawyers were prepared to take his appeal all the way to the High Court but ultimately a judge ruled that he was fit to stand trial in South Africa.

Following the initial stages of the extradition process, the court had to decide whether there was evidence which would be sufficient to make a case requiring an answer by the person if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against him.[63] The mere suspicion, reasonably justified, by the South African prosecuting authorities would be sufficient.

And off he went to South Africa upon order of a British judge before his appeal was even heard by the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Oscar Pistorius “Blade Runner” Trial Monday, March 3, 2014, Pretoria, South Africa

Reeva Steenkamp’s Sports-Icon Boyfriend Pistorius to Stand Trial for Her Murder – High Court, Pretoria

Reeva2On the evening before Valentine’s Day, 2013, law school graduate and model, 29-year old Reeva Steenkamp allegedly spent a quiet evening with boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, at his luxury estate in Pretoria, South Africa. That quiet evening ended tragically in the following early morning hours. Reeva is not alive to tell us what happened. The only witness is her suspected murderer.

OscarNext Monday commences the trial of Oscar Pistorius, South Africa’s golden boy athlete who rose to fame as the “Blade Runner,” a reference to his carbon-fiber running prosthetics. The indictment is for premeditated murder and separate firearms charges. Surmounting a congenital deficiency of fibula in his lower legs requiring double amputations below the knee as a toddler, Pistorius rose above his limitations to achieve fame and fortune as an Olympic and Paralympics sprinter. Despite the public recognition, countless awards and financial wealth, troubling behavior emerged. In 2009, there was a domestic violence arrest involving a girlfriend but no charges were filed. He has received two additional indictments on firearms charges. On one occasion in 2012, he shot his gun out of the open sunroof of a car. Just weeks before Reeva’s death, he discharged a gun at a restaurant resulting in a charge of reckless damages. Although the other charges are on the indictment, I believe that they may be heard separately.

ReevaOscar2Reeva Steenkamp was an accomplished woman. At 29, she was a law school graduate and a successful model.  She started dating Pistorius in November 2012. They appeared together at many exclusive events in South Africa, a seemingly well-matched and happy couple. According to Pistorius, they had planned to go out separately with friends that February 13, 2013, he with his friends, she with hers.

ReevaTweet His explanation for the change of plans? Reeva called him and asked if they could spend a quiet evening together. It would be interesting to hear what Reeva’s friends have to say about this and hopefully there will be testimony from them at the trial.

OscarAffidavitScreenshotPistorius wrote an affidavit to the court supporting his bail request. It reads more like a self-promoting marketing pitch  

The day after Reeva’s death, Pistorius engaged PR consultant Vuma Public Relations and his webpage was revamped within nanoseconds.  Early engagement of a PR firm is reminiscent of the Amanda Knox trial where her father hired a prominent Seattle PR firm within three days of her arrest. The difference is that Pistorius really is a celebrity.  Why is PR allowed in a murder trial?

OscarCrimeScenePistorius was granted bail. For those who read his affidavit linked above, let’s move on to his explanation as to how girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp ended up shot dead through a locked bathroom door in the master bedroom suite of his luxurious villa. Just as Amanda Knox provided an abundance of written material, Pistorius has also given us his best truth. Time will tell if it holds up under the scrutiny of his trial.

Oscar2Oscar offers a resume replete with references to his status as professional athlete, his frequent travel, a list of movable and immovable assets, income, personal income as an ATHLETE, and cash investments. At the bottom of the list we learn that he has never been convicted of a criminal offense. Pistorius denies the charge of premeditated murder. Then, way down under Item 16.4 of the Affidavit, he states “We [Reeva] were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way.

OscarBathroomThere are no denials of firing the shots that killed her.  As Oscar describes it, both fell blissfully asleep in his bed that evening. He arose in the early morning hours to bring in a fan from the balcony. He did this without his prosthetic legs. After hearing a noise in the ensuite bathroom, he felt a “sense of terror.” The neighborhood had experienced burglaries he claims, and he was terrified that someone had broken in via the bathroom window. What happens next is pivotal to his claims of an accidental shooting.

OscarCrimeScene5He was too “scared to switch a light on.” It was pitch dark. He heard noise in the toilet which was separated from the bathroom. The door was closed. He assumed Reeva was in bed but didn’t bother to as much as whisper to her before grabbing his 9 mm Parabellum from underneath his bed. Still on his stumps, he fired four shots through the toilet door, then called to Reeva to call police. Reeva didn’t answer. Reeva was not in their bed. Still afraid to turn the lights on (??), he returned to the balcony to shout for help. it is reported that Pistorius did not call police.

OscarEstateHe took time to put on his prosthetic legs, yet claimed to be unsure if the “burglar” was still in the toilet, grabbed his cricket bat and broke down the door. There was Reeva, slumped over, bleeding profusely Reeva had sustained three shots, one piercing her skull, one shattering her hip, another her elbow.  Oscar tried to staunch her bleeding with towels, then reported phoning the housing complex manager’s office to call an ambulance. This part is very confusing. Oscar took the time to call…his friend the security guard?…instead of calling immediately for an ambulance. Oscar said he himself called “Netcare,” presumably the local hospital.  

OscarCrimeScene2Running back up the stairs, he discovered Reeva near death. He carried her back down the stairs but it was too late. She died in his arms before help arrived. During this time, the friend arrived and so so did a neighboring doctor. At the end of this narrative, Oscar writes, “I am absolutely mortified by these events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva.” 

Words are important and so is their order in a sentence according to the science of Statement Analysis. Mortified suggests embarrassment, shame. Even a word such as devastated would have been more understandable. “Events” would not be how most people would refer to a senseless killing. The tone of this statement has PR written all over it. Acknowledge the problem but minimize it. The reckless behavior leading to the murder of Reeva Steenkamp thus becomes a mortifying event, language more suitable for apologizing to friends for getting drunk and ruining a party. 

The defendant has assembled an expensive and formidable legal and forensics team including a forensic geologist and an American forensic animation company called The Evidence Room.  Read here for more information on his team. Here’s a quote from the article addressing the power imbalance such a defense presents in South Africa: 

It’s the quality — and size — of the Pistorius legal and forensic team that makes the trial exceptional in the country, says Stephen Tuson, criminal law adjunct professor at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “South Africa doesn’t have a strong tradition of the use of forensic evidence simply because there’s a lack of resources,” says Tuson, a practicing attorney. What’s a problem for many South Africans — the average black household earns 60,613 rand ($5,400) a year, a sixth of what whites earn — is not one for Pistorius. “They [the Pistorius team] have taken the time and trouble, and spent the money, on obtaining good forensic experts,” says Tuson. “There’s going to be a large reliance placed on forensic evidence that will be dissected, by both sides, down to the last molecule.”

it’s reported that three top investigators have flown to California to meet with representatives at Apple to gain access to Pistorius’ iphone. He claims he can’t remember the pass code to the phone, and authorities are encountering bureaucratic difficulties obtaining access to examine the phone.  Key to the Prosecution would be any SMS communication between Oscar and Reeva.