March 31, 2014

Game of Thrones - Epic Return April 6th!

On the edge of my seat, I am!  On HBO, 9pm, April 6, 2014 - can't arrive soon enough.  The return of Game of Thrones - a epic season 4 will be bestowed upon us all!

The greatest series of our time thanks to amazing author George R.R. Martin.

You can read an excerpt from his next novel in the series here excerpt-from-the-winds-of-winter.

His fantasy driven, historic period based stories with intense sexuality and savage, brutal murderous plots make for great television viewing.  That's what people want - SEX, HATE, MURDER,  BETRAYAL, LOVE, FANTASY.
With amazing costumes, sets and filming locations, you can't not love Game of Thrones!


March 27, 2014

Oscar Pistorius From the Courtroom Week 4

The State's case is completed. Prosecutor Nel put forth the facts to the best of his ability. It will be interesting to see what type of cross-examiner he is when he gets that opportunity beginning on Monday, March 28, 2014. 

The defence for Oscar Pistorius will lay out his case in great detail. In South Africa if the accused is going to take the stand in their own defence they must be first in the line-up of witnesses. 

This week Mrs. Stipp gave her version of events. You'll recall that her husband Dr. Johan Stipp was an earlier witness for the state. She was a credible witness. Educated and highly intelligent. What stood out was she indicated there were two sets of shots with a pause in between when she heard the screams of a female. She was caught in a lie on the stand regarding whether she was present when the photographs of her smaller balcony door/window were taken. The defence brought to the court's attention that there was a hand visible holding back the curtain in the photo. The wrist of the hand clearly showing a woman's watch. Well, Mrs. Stipp was asked to show the watch she was wearing in court and it was the same watch in the photo. Mrs. Stipp said, she wasn't present for all the sets of pictures, but yes, for that photo in particular, she was. This is not significant in my opinion. 

Next on the stand was the cellular expert, Captain Francois Moller.  He had carriage of the technology evidence: iPads, cellular phones, Blackberries, Mac computer. The state had him read out certain WhatsApp chat/text messages between the deceased and the accused. Four messages were read into the court record that basically brought attention to the fact that the couple had some arguments. The gist was that Oscar treated Reeva with disrespect in public and he acted like a sulking child. He was jealous when she spoke to another male. He picked on her for her accent and chewing gum. 

In my opinion, he portrayed some control issues, typical jealous - they were only four months into their relationship, so minor spats getting to know each other and being threatened of other men speaking to your gorgeous model girlfriend is not unusual. Being disrespectful and a tad controlling though is a red flag. As is apologizing and making excuses after i.e. Oscar said he behaved inappropriately because he was sick, had a headache and was hungry. Reeva in her text message was honest about how the accused made her feel, she stood up to him and stated that she was scared of him and didn't like the way he snapped at her. I personally once was in a two-year relationship with a man that was similar to this in the early stages of dating. I'll tell you, just from these text conversations alone, my feeling is Oscar and Reeva would not have lasted. It's unfortunate that she didn't end this doomed relationship straightaway after he treated her like shit these few number of times. Reeva gave Oscar one too many chances and she ended up killed. 

Whether her death is proved accidental or not, this union had verbal abuse and potential for physical violence written all over it eventually in some form or another. Oscar was definitely a jerk boyfriend to her by belittling and embarrassing her in public more than once. His behaviour would have just continually progressed to different levels of a**hole. 

I don't believe the text messages were that damning to the accused as there were over 1060 conversations between the two of them that portrayed a loving and kind nature. Which the defence took no time in pointing out in cross-examination. Some weight will go towards the fact that the deceased stated in writing that she was scared of him though. Women don't say they are scared of their boyfriends normally. That's a great concern. I know I have never felt or said that I'm scared of my husband. I was very scared of my prior boyfriend hence why I have no regrets of the demise of that relationship! Women don't say they are scared without good reason. 

I continue to reserve judgment until the defence rest their case and final submissions are in from both counsel, which could be quite sometime before that happens. I predict the latter of May, perhaps the beginning of June before all of this is said and done. 

The defence requested and was granted by the court the chance to recall forensic expert, police Colonel Johan Vermeulen who gave evidence regarding the cricket bat and the damage on the commode closet door. I didn't gather any thing significant from this recall of this witness. 

The defence requested the court's indulgence to be given an opportunity to consult with those state witnesses that were not called. Court reconvenes on Monday. 


March 24, 2014

Oscar Pistorius From the Courtroom Week 3

In week three we heard from the Firearms Academy where Oscar took a course on gun safety and wrote an exam in order to be able to own guns.  Sean Rens gave evidence that Oscar passed this exam and was educated in safety practices i.e. knowing your target visually before firing.  I'd say an epic fail on that one since he could not see who was behind the commode closet door.  The witness gave the impression though that there was no excuse for Oscar's choices when it came to firearm practices.

Also, the police photographer, Warrant Officer Berand van Staden, went through the albums in evidence tediously with the prosecutor.  Items that stood out were the fact that the accused had washed his hands prior to a sample being taken of gunshot residue and blood.  The defense inquired why he chose certain particular photos of Oscar mostly bloody.  

The defence in my opinion has proved that the crime scene was contaminated by police and that some credibility is in question due to the missing watch, footprints, evidence handling without gloves etc.  Is it enough though?  No, as I believe the scene was also disturbed by the accused by moving the body, and when he went back upstairs to put a shirt on.  This would explain the blood on the bedroom wall, simply blood transfer.  He had blood on his hands and in moving his hands around blood was transferred to the wall.  I don't believe anything occurred in the bedroom.

Ballistics expert, Captain Christian Magena, was an excellent witness.  He knew his stuff and rarely had to refer to his notes.  It was very clear that:

  • Oscar was on his stumps at the time of the shooting.
  • He shot tap - pause - tap, tap, tap.
  • Reeva was in a standing position by the toilet bowl facing the door when the first shot impacted her right hip.  This bullet caused her to give out and became seated or slumped on the magazine rack.
  • The second bullet did not hit her, but hit the wall and ricocheted, which caused fragments of the bullet to spray hitting her in the back causing bruising.
  • The witness demonstrated how she was in a defensive position bringing her hands to her head with her arms bent upwards when the third bullet went through her upper left arm.
  • The fourth bullet hit the victim's head through her fingers when she slumped completely over at the waist and her head came to rest on the seat of the open toilet.  The blood from her head wound pooled into the bowl and the blood from her arm wound pooled on the floor below.   

The defence tried to rattle Officer Magena, but he wasn't having it.  It stood to his analysis and version of what transpired.

Blood spatter expert, Colonel Ian van der Nest, was a straightforward witness explaining the transfer of blood on the sitting room chair downstairs was simply cast off while the victim was carried down the stairs.  As was the blood on the cricket bat, simply transfer, the bat was not used in an blunt force trauma scenario on the victim.

Now that I've heard the ballistics expert where he describes the pause between the first and second shots and that there was no way it was a double tap because that second shot would have happened so fast it would have impacted Reeva's hip region a second time, I'm thinking she had time to scream out in pain and this is the female scream that the neighbour heard.  This would show intent to kill because the accused would hear and identify with the female scream.  Up until this evidence I hadn't heard the prosecution lay any groundwork for 'intent'.  

I remain reserved in my judgments until I have heard all the evidence from the defence.


March 15, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Trial From the Courtroom Week 2

I continue to follow the Oscar Pistorius trial very closely.  I have watched all ten days of the court proceedings in their entirety.  That's what you do when you're on disability and not working.  The viewing is bringing back many memories of my own days sitting in court day after day listening to all the facts, marking exhibits, swearing in witnesses, passing documents to the judge, etc.

I find it amusing how people who comment on YouTube are so oblivious to the court process.  Well, I shouldn't say that because that is a good thing because one the commenter has never been to court before for either a criminal, divorce, small claims, family court matter whatsoever and/or they have never worked in the legal field.  This would explain the comments related to why does defence counsel go around in circles with his questioning, he's so irritating, ugh, shut-up already, why doesn't he move on...and so on.

I will tell you this, Mr. Roux is extremely talented and knows exactly what he is doing.  In the same breath, so is Mr. Nel, the prosecutor.  They are both doing a good job.  Witnesses have all been considerable articulate and have answer all questions put to them to the best of their ability.

The accused is behaving as he should in a courtroom.  Keeping his composure when possible and being human when he is overcome with his emotions.  I don't see an actor in anyway, shape or form in Mr. Pistorius' demeanour.  He is a living person who smiles when he feels it, smirks when he disagrees with a witness in that "oh my God that's not what happened" sort of way, which is typical.  He retched and vomited during Professor Gert Saayman's testimony of the autopsy as horrific still photographs of the victim's body were on the visual aids in the courtroom.  The professor gave disturbing details in a scientific manner that to any person hearing them would be cringing, so I imagine if I were the person who inflicted all of this damage to a person I cared about and how it would impact me, yes, I may vomit as well and cry.

It's not that I feel sorry for the accused.  I feel empathy for this entire situation that has changed many lives. Lives that were not being wasted.  Reeva was just coming into her career as a model and television personality, a law graduate and advocate for charity.  Oscar a champion runner, supporting amputees, with an education.  Reeva's parents surviving the death of their only child.  Oscar's siblings doing their best to support him during this trial.  No one wins.  There is no satisfaction in the end.  When all of these matters are said and done, these people will move on with their lives and all of this trauma will be clung to their brains and hearts like adhesive that will never come off.  Not unlike all of us survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  

In week two of the trial details I found interesting were:

  • Reeva's stomach contents indicated she had eaten two hours prior, meaning she would have had to have eaten at 1:00 a.m.
  • Oscar did was on his stumps when he shot at the toilet door.
  • Two cellphones were located on the floor in the toilet room, one white, one black.  It will be interesting to see what the phone records show.
  • The gun was lying on a mat still cocked.
  • There is contradicting statements by police on who had gone upstairs and when.  Former South African Police Services colonel Schoombie van Rensburg testified that he was the first officer on the scene at 3:55 a.m. on February 14, 2013, and that he and former lead investigator Hilton Botha followed the blood trail to the first floor.
  • Mishandling of evidence and police competence in issue.
  • Oscar Pistorius a gun hobbyist and aggressive/immature in nature with the handling of such.
I still wonder if the couple was having an argument in the early morning hours, whether domestic violence is a factor, when was the last call made from Reeva's cell phone, how tainted is the physical evidence, the issues with officer's lying in their statements, did Oscar disturb anything upstairs when Dr. Stipp was present at 3:17 a.m., was the ex-boyfriend a factor, why did Reeva lock the toilet door (they had been only dating four months), were the curtains drawn...

I do have reasonable doubt towards certain facts, but so far none of the evidence proves whether the accused had intention or was the killing accidental.  

I for one from what I've heard so far about South Africa would not want to reside there. I'm surprised that Mr. Pistorius hadn't applied for citizenship elsewhere and with his celebrity like others of the same stature move to Los Angeles or the US in general.  Check out the crime statistics here. Pretoria Crime Stats  They are mindblowing.  

Read an article of a different view of living in South Africa.  Living in South Africa

I'll catch you up next week with details of week three.


March 7, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Trial - From the Courtroom Not the Youtube Comments Courtroom - Week 1

The Blade Runner's first week of trial has come to a weekend adjournment and will resume on Monday, March 10, 2014, at 9:30 a.m.

Oscar Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. On February 13, 2013, in the early morning hours of February 14, 2013, Oscar Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times through a closed bathroom door at his residence in South Africa.  He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and states that he thought a burglar was in his home and that he and Reeva's safety was his concern and that he mistakenly caused the death of Steenkamp.

I have been following the trial on YouTube sabcdigitalnews channel.  South Africa Digital News

Day 1, Session 1

Day 1, Session 2

All witnesses are under a protection order that they cannot be shown on camera or are any still photos to be posted of them by the media.  You simply view the courtroom staff, judge, lawyers, audience, and Mr. Pistorius sits alone in the holding dock.  My observations of the accused are that he appears somber and wishes that this had never happened.  The trial days are long and monotonous and you see Oscar rubbing his eyes and forehead in exhaustion.  On day 4 when radiologist witness is on the stand and he is asked what did you see when you arrived at the accused house and is shown a photograph of the deceased victim, I clearly saw Oscar emotional and remorseful, but that was the single time this wee, otherwise his composure is calm.

I personally sat for seven years behind the bench in court exactly where you see the presiding judges' clerk, Suzette sitting.  That was my job for seven years.  I've heard many cases, handled huge amounts of disturbing exhibits and have first-hand experience observing prosecutors and defence tactics in court.  The trial is in the very early stages, but both sides are clearly doing their jobs.  Witnesses so far are very well spoken, in control of their answers and not easily riled by Mr. Roux, Oscar's lead defence lawyer ( mini Roux CV ).  He's obviously talented and working very diligently for his client.  For the prosecution, Mr. Gerrie Nel.  The judge is Her Lady Thokozile Masipa pistorius murder trial key people.

The witnesses testimony summarized so far is:
  • neighbours were awaken by screams (bloodcurdling, loud)
  • the screams sounded like a female
  • the screams were of a nature that something terrible was happening, life threatening terrible, a family tragedy was occurring
  • then there were a loud sound, like bang, bang, bang
  • four shots were heard (it's confirmed)
  • the radiologist heard cries for help three times, he called estate security and he attended the scene to help
  • he observed Reeva's body at the bottom of the stairs with Oscar kneeled beside her with one of his hands covering the wound in her groin and he had his fingers in her mouth trying to sweep or open her airway
  • the doctor stated that Oscar was crying and praying to God to let Reeva live, he was inconsolable, begging to devote his life to God if He would not let her die
  • the doctor saw no signs of life, he check her pupils, neck pulse and noted there was blood and brain matter mixed in her hair that it was too late
It's unfortunate that people make up their minds before hearing all the facts and evidence and have determined an accused persons guilt or innocence based on just their own opinion.  Did Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp?  Yes, he did.  That's not what's in question.  Did he kill her with premeditation, with plan, with intention.  Perhaps they did have an argument (that hasn't come out yet in testimony), even if they were arguing and in a fit of rage still doesn't prove premeditation.difference-between-murder-culpable-homicide

I'm not sure why South Africa hasn't had jury trials since 1969, and I'm not comfortable with one not having the option to choose judge and jury or judge alone.

Perhaps it is from my experience the weight I put on reserving my personal judgments until after I've heard all of the facts in the environment of the judicial system, but I also give credit to myself for the person that I just am - one who believes in fairness and justice for all persons.  

I will continue to follow this trial and we will see whether I agree with the Judges' decision in the end based on what I heard from the courtroom.


March 4, 2014

Won a Battle - War Results TBD

Good news!  Read all about it!

It's true, I have achieved a successful outcome worthy of mentioning.  I continue to jump the hurdles and weather on through the roadblocks that continuously come my way regarding my return to work.  As mentioned, in previous post Up Hill Battle Return to Work my employer was seeking a IME, which I was not pleased about for all sorts of reasons.  Today, several weeks later, I have been advised that my insurance is sending me to a Functional Abilities Examination/Evaluation (FAE).  This test will be carried out over a two-day period and will be conducted locally, so I don't have to drive for hours.  I`m very happy about not having to sit in a car all day because this would only increase my back pain and set me up for failure.

The physiotherapy/occupational department at my local hospital will do the FAE utilizing tests to measure my abilities.  I was advised that some tests will be job specific and some will not.  The reason for this is to determine whether you can do 'any' types of jobs and not just your own or not.  

Once the two days of testing are complete a report will be prepared and sent only to my insurance provider, who in turn will either summarize the information because the employer is not entitled to any information regarding diagnosis, and if the document is restricted to only my limitations/restrictions and abilities the report in its entirety would be forwarded.  I will be able to obtain a copy through my GP.

I feel this is a win for me because this individual is not giving a independent medical opinion as a third party practitioner, therefore, my doctor's opinion is not in question here.  Also, I'm not required to sign some absurd consent form, which was not applicable to my case as my employer prior was requesting such.

Anyone out there who may have experience to share with me about an FAE, please share in the comments.

Wish me luck,


January 28, 2014

Up Hill Battle to Return to Work

A new experience has begun.  I have been trying to return to work since July 2013.  I'm having no success.  Please share your stories with returning to work after/with an injury/illness/condition.

I was assigned a Rehabilitation Consultant (RC) by my long-term income protection provider (disability insurance) back in July.  She met with me in person on July 4th.  This was her initial assessment of me.  She asked me questions about what my restriction/limitations were.  Whether I could return to my same job and what accommodations I may need.  Do need.  She wrote a report, made a plan and what came of that was my employer requesting that my medical information be more specific.  The RC designed a questionnaire she called it for my doctor and sent it directly to him.  Once this completed questionnaire was provided to my employer on Sep 11th, it took until Nov 26, for my employer to advise the RC that they wanted a Independent Medical Exam (IME).

I've done my research and IMEs are not a good thing for employees.  Here's how an IME works.  Firstly, to say the exam is "independent" is a joke.  The choice of doctor to carryout this IME is no choice at all, the medical practitioner is dictated to you.  You are not the client.  Your employer is the doctor's client.  So, in that case any report that is done by this doctor is going to be written in favour of whatever your employer is looking for the report to indicate for them.  These reports are very costly; upwards of $4000 that your employer is paying.  The employee does not get a draft of the report prior to your employer because you are not the client.  So if there are any inaccuracies or items that you do not agree with, tough luck.  Your employer has already absorbed what the report says.  What if there are contradictions with what your own doctor has provided.  What opinion do you think the employer is going to rely on?  Oh yes, don't kid yourself.  The report that they paid thousands of dollars for.

So, yes I'm freaking out!  I simply require a type of chair that has a feature to recline and elevate my legs, with a laptop table to work.
Has your employer ever put you through extreme measures when you felt it unnecessary?  Have you ever fought for your Human Rights?  I feel punished for having a disability.  I never asked for this life, but you must fight for a life to have!


April 30, 2013

Second Back Surgery

On February 8th, 2013, I underwent my second back surgery.  I had to travel 1.5 hours West because there are no neurosurgeons in my city of 56,000.  My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 a.m.  There were no delays.  The next thing I knew was I was waking up in the recovery room with about eight other patients.  These new blow-in hot air blanket gadgets they have now are wonderful.  I was nice and warm, but that was about all that was nice.  I have never experienced so much pain in all my life.  I have had a vaginal home birth with no drugs and that was a 5 compared to this ordeal.

I was given pain medication that had no purpose as it did not help.  I have had a similar surgery to this and this felt in no way similar!

Recovery was difficult.  The meds make me feel sick.  Eating a chore.  BMs a nightmare.  I felt like a brick was left in my back, never mind a scaple.  Gradually, I healed, but the numbness in my thigh, calf and foot remain the same. 

I am thankful I can do most things: walk, climb stairs, stand.  My limitations are basically lifting, bending and sitting and standing too long.


The Keyhole to My Mind's Closet

The Keyhole to My Mind's Closet
Blogging = cleaning = healing.