Oscar Pistorius and the Wages of Bad Police

I don't really know much about the South African justice system, but when the lead investigator for a high-profile murder case (or really any murder case) is himself "facing seven charges of attempted murder" it's safe to assume that it's a problem:


The decision by the national police commissioner to remove the investigator, Warrant Officer Detective Hilton Botha, was the latest in a series of abrupt twists and setbacks in the prosecution of Mr. Pistorius, the double amputee track star accused of murdering his girlfriend on Feb. 14 by firing four shots through a locked bathroom door while she was on the other side. 

Riah Phiyega, the commissioner, said at a news conference that a divisional police commissioner, Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo, would be assigned to preside over "this very important investigation." 

After widespread media reports about the charges against Detective Botha, Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, said at the start of the hearing on Thursday that he had just learned about them. The news only compounded questions about Detective Botha's work on the Pistorius case. Under cross-examination on Wednesday, he was forced to acknowledge several mistakes in the investigation and to concede that he could not rule out Mr. Pistorius's version of events based on the existing evidence.
Police misconduct is often discussed as a problem for potential suspects, and it is. But less noted is how it's also problem for victims of criminals--both actual and potential. I've said my piece on the reactionary lionization of Christopher Dorner. But it's worth noting that in their wild pursuit of Dorner the police shot two innocent women (ages 47 and 71) and then shot (but missed) another innocent dude. In each case, the only mistake was driving a pickup truck similar to Dorner's. Plenty of innocent folks were swept up in the Ramparts scandal. It's almost certain that plenty of actual criminals were also put back on the streets.

As I recall, we have some folks here with some familiarity with South Africa. I'd love here how it is that the prosecutor on a case like this, doesn't know that the lead investigator is facing seven charges of attempted murder.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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