I see that the general public are very interested in criminal law as a subject. We see that with every murder / rape / theft trial where a famous person is involved. The media goes overboard (bezerk even) to report it and then we have the countless opinions on the trial from social media experts. Every single website has those for and against, and each with an opinion on how stupid the participants are. They are very brave people to be honest.
I am not alone amongst my colleagues in reading such comments. We do so only for the hilarious contents in it - it makes my day and keeps me smiling. As said in my book Tricks of Trade - Memories of a Rogue Lawyer - rather keep quiet about a trial, for you have no idea what you talking about. For the professionals your comments show naivety and an astonishing lack of legal knowledge. In fact I am beginning to understand why the legal profession is able to milk their clients to the last penny - your lack of knowledge and willingness to display it for the world to read.
It is also a crime, or it could be, if you call the Judge a fool as one American builder with notions of being the next president did. Worse is that the trial is far from over and yes, I have sunk to the depths of referring to the Pistorius trial. But I do speak with more knowledge than most other commentators. Not that I followed it closely. I find criminal law as a subject intellectually boring. It is what you do when you start off, either as a state prosecutor (DA Office) or as a defense attorney trying to make your name (the official excuse) and more likely because it is bread and butter work until you can find decent clients in the commercial world.
When I studied law after six years in the Police I already knew all there is to know about criminal law. I found it boring, but scored highly in it which is rather ironic. I also soon realised it is not an important subject at university. If you take a wall of say 150 feet long and ten feet high and imagine bricks in it - only about 3 or 4 bricks in it will have anything to do with criminal law. The rest is only private law in its various forms. Simply, it is the subject you pass as quickly as possible and then forget about it.
There is also an unofficial ranking system between lawyers. The lowest in this rank is criminal defense lawyers, and the highest would be the clever lads, the merger & acquisition fellows who set up corporate structures worth billions. State Prosecutors, and I say this with respect for they are specialists, needed and doing better work than what you may think, do not even qualify since very few of them passed their bar exams. Most did not and let me tell you, that is like day and night in legal knowledge. Hence they don't count, though they may have the title of "advocate" the first question we ask is at what bar council did you practise? He may even be a Senior State Advocate and the same question would be asked - at which bar council did you practise and obviously, being snobs, the answer must be Sandton or the ranking goes rapidly down.
Why Sandton then? It is in the middle of Johannesburg and where the money is in Africa. That is where all the big deals are made and the serious competition is. To stand out there (I would say just to survive in any way shape or form) you need to be the biggest shark in a tank full of sharks. The rest are seen as plattelanders (rural area people) and not up to scratch. Of course, it is nonsense; you get some pretty clever lads in small towns also and I would prefer the generalists above the specialists anyway. My dream in law was never in Johannesburg where I ended but in the rural area. It is not to be wondered that I got ceremoniously kicked out.
Then I read something even more disturbing...the fact that a black woman judged a white man. It is very sad that we have not moved on from such nonsense either and worse, it was in the BBC where this was mentioned. It shows to me irresponsible reporting. No one down here even mentioned that though many seem to think the Judge is incompetent. Legally speaking she is not - that she made a comment to say that the trial should have lasted only a week shows to me she is a lot shrewder than what you may think. Whether I agree with her verdict or not, is beside the point - my opinion means nothing. I do believe though that if the convicted one is not sentenced to jail (and I mean actual jail time) the State will appeal. SO this is long not over yet. Be ready to smile even more every day.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.