Judge Thokozile Masipa is wrapping up the most famous trial of her career, that of athlete Oscar Pistorius for shooting and killing his then girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day 2013.
Masipa has been repeatedly threatened for her findings in the trial and now, she's under police protection. She controversially found Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, charging him only with culpable homicide. Steenkamp's family said this charge was "not justice" and many South Africans agree. Fear of a potential attack on Masipa has increased, especially as she is set to read her sentence for the athlete on October 13th.
This week, a division of South Africa's police squadron, the Tactical Response Team, has been stationed outside of the judge's home. The team checks in on her once an hour and joins her on any travels outside of the home.
Three legal groups, Section27, the Legal Resources Center and the Center for Child Law, have issued a joint statement defending Masipa, they told The Telegraph, "People may disagree with the judgment. However, attacking and threatening Judge Masipa because she is black or because she is female is simply unacceptable. Some of the remarks may even border on hate speech, defamation and contempt of court."
In South Africa, a judge decides a case, rather than a jury. The sentence is a maximum 15 years in prison, but there is no minimum so Masipa will have a great deal of control over the punishment. There is always the chance that the verdict could be overturned in an appeal, which can only come after the sentence is given. Associate law professor at the University of the Witwatersrand James Grant told CBS, "The effect is that, if the state does appeal, and one may well expect that it will, Pistorius continues to face the prospect of a murder conviction."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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