March 6th, 2014
11:24 AM ET

Oscar Pistorius Trial: South Africa's Legal System in the Spotlight

South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his Pretoria home.

The Paralympic sprinter stands accused of the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp in his home on February 14, 2013. He also faces a gun charge related to the killing, along with two additional gun-related charges for two separate instances of firing a gun in a public space before the killing.

What's the difference between the rules of a trial in South Africa and those in the United States? CNN's Chris Cuomo explains in the video above.

South Africa abolished jury trials in 1969, while the country was under apartheid, due to fears of racial prejudice by white jurors. Pistorius will be tried in a high court in Pretoria by Thokozile Matilda Masipa - the second black woman appointed to the bench since apartheid ended

There's no hard timeline but it's expected to last about three weeks.

For premeditated murder, the mandatory sentence in South Africa is a life sentence, which in practice is 25 years unless someone can prove extraordinary circumstances.

Extraordinary circumstances could include a combination of number of factors: for example, that it was a first offense, the age of the person and in Pistorius' case, his disability and the impact this could have had on his actions.

However, legal expert James Grant said if the court accepted the prosecution's case - that Pistorius chased Steenkamp into the bathroom and "hunted" her down - the track star's defense team would be hard-pressed to convince the court that there should be any considerations that should override the repugnance that should be felt.

If Pistorius is found not guilty, he would face a "competent verdict" or lesser charge of culpable homicide, which is based on negligence.

Pistorius is not claiming self-defense; he is claiming to have been mistaken about his need for self-defense. He is denying that he intentionally unlawfully killed Steenkamp.

Grant said the defense boiled down to Pistorius saying "I made a mistake."

If the court were to rule that the mistake was unreasonable - based on what an objective, ordinary South African would do in the circumstances of the accused - he would be found guilty of culpable homicide.

Grant said he would expect a court to probably conclude that it is unreasonable to fire at anybody through a closed door regardless of whether they were an intruder, because of the value of human life.

"I'm expecting that if he beats the murder charge, he is in very grave jeopardy of being convicted of culpable homicide," he said.

What about appeals?

If Pistorius is convicted, he could potentially appeal to the supreme court and even eventually to South Africa's constitutional court.

If the initial court did not give him leave to appeal, he could petition South Africa's chief justice for permission.

The right to appeal depends on whether, based on the facts of the case, the initial judge or magistrate believes a different court could possibly reach a different verdict.

South Africa's highest court, the constitutional court, used to be only for cases regarding constitutional matters, but a recent act of parliament broadened its remit.

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November 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET

Monty Python Reuniting for Stage Shows

A series of cryptic tweets and the announcement of a news conference sparked speculation that the five surviving members of British comedy troupe Monty Python may be about to reunite.

And one of the members appears to have let the cat out of the bag, telling the BBC that a reunion is indeed happening.

CNN's Nischelle Turner reports.

"We're getting together and putting on a show - it's real," Terry Jones told the BBC, adding: "I'm quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!"

The news conference will be in London on Thursday.

Member Eric Idle tweeted Tuesday that there was a "Python meeting this morning," after tweeting Monday: "Only three days to go till the Python press conference. Make sure Python fans are alerted to the big forthcoming news event."

The public relations agency that sent out the invitations to the news conference declined to confirm it was to announce a reunion, saying: "All will be revealed on Thursday."

Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and the late Graham Chapman became comedic legends with the creation of Monty Python's Flying Circus in October 1969.

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