The Oscar Pistorius murder investigation in South Africa, which has the attention of much of the world, has quickly degenerated into amateur hour. And you thought the Los Angeles prosecutors and police were incompetent during the O.J. Simpson trial of 1995?
As bizarre as some of the twists in the Simpson murder trial of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, already the Pistorius case has been jumbled. Most recently comes word that Hilton Botha — the lead investigator in the case of the Valentine’s Day shooting of Reeva Steenkamp — has a May court trial on seven counts of attempted murder. Yes, the detective is not only still on the job despite serious charges against him, but he is the lead investigator in the most publicized case in South Africa in recent memory.
Police Brig. Neville Malila said Thursday that Botha and two other police officers fired shots while trying to stop a minivan in October 2011. The charges were initially dropped, but police said they learned Wednesday that the charges had been reinstated.
“The (Pistorius) prosecutors were not aware of those charges (against Botha),” Medupe Simasiku, of the National Prosecution Agency, said. “We are calling up the information so we can get the details of the case. From there we can take action and see if we remove him from the investigation or if he stays.”
That was Wednesday. Thursday Botha was, indeed, dismissed from the case and replaced by Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo, who will “gather a team of highly skilled and experience detectives,” according to officials. Moonoo is called South Africa’s “top detective.” But he will have to overcome some damage Botha and others left behind.
A checklist of police blunders helped the case against Pistorius unravel. Botha testified that authorities had no evidence to challenge the double-amputee Olympian’s claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally by shooting through the bathroom door because he thought a burglar was in his home in Pretoria, the South African capital.
Prosecutors were seen rubbing their temples while looking down at their notes in dismay as Botha said he misjudged distances of a witness who said he heard shouting coming from the Pistorius house. Botha acknowledged that a forensics team left in the toilet bowl one of the bullet slugs fired at Steenkamp. Police also allowed a Pistorius friend to take evidence out of the home: bullets that the accused had for the murder weapon.
It likely will be difficult to convict Pistorius, a national hero as it is. The police’s ineptitude so far has made it more difficult.
To wit: Botha said the witness who heard “nonstop talking, like shouting” in the early-morning hours was in a house more than 650 yards away from the murder scene, a distance equal to four city blocks, making it nearly impossible for someone to hear from that distance.
But when prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Botha, the veteran detective said the distance was much closer. Botha also said police found syringes and steroids in Pistorius’ bedroom. Nel cut off the officer and said the drugs actually were testosterone. Yes, much of the police investigation and testimony have been bungled, which may create doubt in the minds of the potential jurors.