Thursday, June 25, 2009

Light at the end of a very long tunnel!

So today was the day. The day we would get to hear whether or not the Pretoria High Court judge accused of driving drunk and then crashing his Jaguar through somebody's garden wall was going to get his way.
This whole saga goes back to January 2007! He allegedly had a few toots and accidentally drove backwards through a wall. It was a bit of bad luck story because the guy who owned the wall happened to be quite sharp and immediately called his lawyer who told him to photograph the scene and record what the alleged potted driver had to say for himself. Unluckily for the judge, the wall owner is an IT whizz skilled in the safe and correct storage of digital information - so what sounds like a whole bunch of drunken ramblings, colourful language, slurring, swearing and all the rest got accepted as evidence.
One would think that in the face of such evidence the accused would perhaps back down. Not this guy. For one year and 10 months precisely to the day, he has insisted on his innocence and claimed victimisation. He was simply lost, that night, and accidentally reversed through the wall (as happens when one gets lost and does a u-turn that takes you a few metres off the road). Hey - it could happen to anyone.
The story has captured media attention and those of us assigned to cover it have become like a big old jolly family. We have followed the trial together, yawned together and listened to scientific explanations back-extrapolation calculations with regard to blood alcohol levels. And then the judge asked for the case to be thrown out because the state had failed to prove anything.
So there we all gathered this morning. Huddled in the gallery of what must be one of the smallest courtrooms in the entire Joburg Magistrate Court building. TV, radio, wire services, news agencies and us hacks from the print media were all there. At the ready. FabulousShoes (tan leather ankle boots with the most delicately pretty gold buckles gleaming on the side), QuirkyOlderWoman, the prosecution, the defence, the accused - everybody was there waiting to hear if the trial would continue or if it was all over. A quick tally and we worked out that we were split down the middle on our predictions of the outcome.
FabulousShoes was convinced the judge was about to walk free. TVreporter figured he had no chance.
The magistrate walked in, and began delivering his verdict. It took a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g time.
And then suddenly it was finished. The state had given enough evidence to for a case which the judge needs to answer to.
The defence said the judge was most certainly not going to answer to anyone and would not be testifying. They ended their case on the spot.
Postponed for a month for final arguments.
Hurray - light at the end of the tunnel. The torturous trial is almost over!

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